Sister Imelda Poole, IBVM, has been made Member of the Order of the British Empire in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for her achievements and services to end modern slavery. Sr Imelda heads up a network of European Religious fighting trafficking and exploitation - RENATE. Sr Imelda became President of RENATE after more than 11 years working in Albania where the IBVM founded an NGO called Mary Ward Loreto.
Tributes have poured in following the announcement of the award. The British Ambassador to the Holy See, Sally Axworthy, said: “I am delighted to learn that Sr. Imelda Poole has been awarded this honour by Her Majesty The Queen. It is well-deserved recognition of Sr. Imelda’s outstanding service in combatting human trafficking and modern slavery, through the European religious sisters’ anti-trafficking network RENATE which she leads, and through Talitha Kum, the religious sisters’ worldwide anti-trafficking network. Sister Imelda is a key ally in Her Majesty’s Government’s campaign to eradicate modern slavery. It is wonderful to see such a distinguished friend of this Embassy honoured in this way.”
On Twitter, the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, who is president of the Santa Marta Group which works to prevent human trafficking and modern slavery, said: "I congratulate Sister Imelda on her award, from Her Majesty the Queen, of the MBE for her work against human trafficking.” He added: “Sister Imelda, and her many colleagues in other religious Congregations, have long been champions in this important work. Her hard work, determination and her compelling advocacy constantly bring support and encouragement to all involved in this struggle, myself included."
Sister Poole joined the IBVM (Loreto Sisters) whilst still in her teens. She studied English and history at Manchester University and followed this with a PGCE in Theology and English. After her studies, she worked with disadvantaged people in Glasgow, London and Manchester before going to Kenya where she experienced life with the Kipsigi tribe. On her return to England she worked with marginalised people near Middleborough before later becoming involved with the campaign to eradicate human trafficking and modern slavery.
The Mary Ward Loreto NGO in Albania has led to numerous projects being set up. One of these is called Mary Ward Loreto Women in which six Mary Ward centres have been established to work on prevention, advocacy, awareness, and rescuing of women. The centres have worked with 3,000 women, and set up 16 economic empowerment businesses. They also have a project for men aimed at changing patriarchal culture and promoting gender equality. The work with men is to address depression, anger and fear, drug and alcohol addictions related to unemployment and their changing role in society. Mary Ward Loreto is also promoting ethical and democratic best practice in Albanian schools and in all of the projects.
The network of European Religious fighting trafficking and exploitation, RENATE, has a five-year strategic plan that includes combating human trafficking in all forms. It is currently focusing on child kidnapping and trafficking. In February, RENATE spear-headed the anti-child trafficking campaign in Europe for the day of Saint Josephine Bakhita, the patron saint of slaves.