Knitting Group Brings Love and Joy to Victims of Human Trafficking


St John Fisher parish in Harrow North has been supporting Caritas Bakhita House ever since it ran Caritas Westminster’s Love in Action programme in 2016. Love in Action is an engagement programme which introduces parishes to the principles of Catholic Social Teaching and equips them to start social outreach projects.

Caritas Bakhita House is a refuge for women escaping human trafficking and slavery. The community of St John Fisher decided to especially support the therapeutic art sessions run by Sr Doreen, who lives nearby. The parish subsidised the sessions for three years, and has also collected toiletries and other items. 

At the same time a parishioner, Teresa Arrigo, inspired by a friend in Italy who sells her knitted items to raise money for Caritas, started the St JF Knitting Team. This has been running for almost four years, with about 20 members, who, until lockdown, gathered regularly to knit for Bakhita House. Sr Doreen joined them, and at an early meeting spoke about how the guests often feel the cold, and generally wear second-hand clothes. Thus, the group began knitting clothes especially for the guests and their babies. Other items have been sold with the proceeds given to support Sr Doreen. 

Although the aim of the team is to knit, their meetings became a community event, with parishioners dropping in for a cup of tea, and friendships being formed amid laughter and chatter. Group members would organise movie nights, meet for coffee, or work together sorting through the toiletries donated for Bakhita House. Lockdown and isolation therefore hit them very hard, especially the ones living alone. Meanwhile, Teresa attended two virtual get-togethers for Caritas volunteers, where Karen Anstiss, Bakhita House Service Manager assured her that the knitted baby clothes were still being worn.

As lockdown restrictions eased and the weather settled, an outdoor gathering became possible. In early August, after almost five months apart, ten knitters converged on an empty summerhouse in a local park for a joyous, though socially-distanced reunion. A few had brought their knitting; others came simply to spend time with friends. Sr Doreen and the West London Caritas Development Worker, Sr Silvana, also came along. As summer progresses the group continues to meet in this way, and of course, to knit. 

According to Karen: ‘123 Guests have been supported, and 11 babies born to women at Bakhita House. Many come with no belongings. It’s heart-warming to see their faces when bags arrive filled with colourful blankets, scarves, hats and gloves – often the first brand-new item they have ever owned. They are in awe that complete strangers will provide such beautiful clothes for them: people they don’t know giving from their hearts is a hard concept for them to take in, having been treated so badly by strangers in the past.

We see what joy this knitting group brings time and time again. Every item means so much, but I have to confess I adore the beautiful baby clothes. Recently, a guest dressed her one-month old baby in a pink knitted dress and said simply “Now she is a princess”. That just sums it up, you can bring love and joy through knitting. We can never say “Thank you” enough times!’ 

Find out more about Sr Doreen’s art therapy on the Conference of Religious website 

Follow this link to donate to Caritas Bakhita House

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