Vatican praise for Scottish charity work
An Innovative project working with some of Scotland’s poorest people has been praised in the Vatican—and it is now seeking to replicate its unique model.
Margo Uprichard runs The Space in Govanhill, a Daughters of Charity programme that works with the Roma Community in Glasgow. Earlier this month she addressed a special conference at the Vatican about her work.
The British Ambassador to the Vatican, Sally Axworthy, said Mrs Uprichard spoke brilliantly. “She was informative, moving and inspiring,” she said. “Many of the participants were surprised that there were Roma in the UK, and very interested to hear about how The Space raises aspirations.”
Mrs Uprichard said: “I loved every minute. It was a real honour to present the work of the Daughters of Charity.”
A message from Pope Francis to the Vatican conference urged participants to ‘consider the many ways that the Roma community is excluded from participating in and benefitting from society, so that solutions may be found to overcoming the barriers that prevent them from enjoying their fundamental rights and fulfilling their duties.’ Mrs Uprichard said that her work in Govanhill was doing just that.
“There are 5,000 Roma in Govanhill,” she said. “As many as 1,000 may have arrived since the Brexit vote and some of them are living in levels of poverty that we haven’t seen in this country for generations.”
She said that it had taken 18 months to build trusting relationships with the Roma but that it helped that they are a Christian charity. “Because it’s Daughters of Charity work and everything is underpinned by Vincentian values that gives us tremendous authority,” she said. “Authority a lot of projects wouldn’t have. This is sanctuary, it’s the Lord’s house of truth and honesty—so don’t come here and lie.”
The work of The Space is now having a real impact, she said.
“It’s basic numeracy and literacy but a lot of it is just trying to engender some level of self esteem,” she said. “We’re seeing massive improvements, big transformations, and if you can help people have better lives the integration will follow.”
She now hopes that the charity’s work, which has been praised by Archbishop Philip Tartaglia of Glasgow and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, can be replicated elsewhere.
“In the beginning we did a lot of listening to the community,” she said. “We didn’t begin as a Roma project, but they are the one’s who responded. Our whole idea was to get the model right and now I think the model could work anywhere there are really poor communities, the bottom five per cent.”
The Space recently restructured itself and she is hopeful the model they’ve built can help others. “It’s got huge potential,” she said. “And there is great need.”