Interfaith Activists: Leadership for turbulent times

Interfaith Activists is a 6 month leadership programme designed to offer young people an opportunity to explore alternative solutions to global issues, engage their own faith community and grow resilience and leadership skills for turbulent times.


Viviana Esse


020 7469 1616

Be the change you want to see in the world

Viviana believes in the role of faith in inspiring powerful and sustainable action in the world. She has a passion for empowering younger generations to be the change they want to see in the world.

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Are you:
– Concerned about the state of the world and wanting to be part of the solution?
– Looking to develop your leadership capacity?
– Interested in how faith and action can come together?
– Keen to make friends across faith traditions and cultures?
– Deeply sympathetic to the refugee crisis?
– 18 to 36-year-old?


…then this programme is for you! 

Running from November 2017 to April 2018, Interfaith Activists is a 6 month leadership programme designed to offer young people an opportunity to explore alternative solutions to global issues, engage their own faith community and grow resilience and leadership skills. We believe young people have the energy and vision to make a difference.  We want to help them harness that passion and develop strong leadership skills for turbulent times.

We are living in a time of unprecedented upheaval and the refugee crisis is one of the most significant global challenges facing us. It has often been used to generate fear of the “other”, but we believe this crisis offers us a great opportunity to open our hearts and meet in our shared humanity.

Our journey together will include the following elements:

  • Training in the basics of community engagement and movement building
  • Powerful volunteering experiences working with refugees in the UK and also abroad
  • Practice labs to develop your own workshop/event/project
  • Mobilising your community into action
  • Delivering a workshop/event to your own faith community
  • Hosting a final event at St Ethelburga’s to inspire others and showcase your learning and leadership
  • Support to fundraise


Additional volunteering option:

For those participants who want to go deeper, we also offer a life-changing opportunity to volunteer at Oiynofyta refugee camp in mainland Greece. This is is an option that runs in parallel with the main leadership programme.  We will make the arrangements and prepare you thoroughly for the experience.  You will travel in mixed faith groups of 3 or 4, accompanied by a graduate of our programme last year who is familiar with the way the camp works.  We cover some but not all of your flight and accommodation expenses.  You will need to fundraise to cover for a cash gift of £150 or so to donate to the camp on arrival.  When you return to the UK, we will support you to digest and share this deeply affecting experience with others in your community, and enable them to learn from your experiences and grow in empathy for the plight of refugees.

 What you’ll gain from this programme: 

  • A unique opportunity to grow your leadership potential
  • Training on how to engage and mobilise your community around big issues
  • A life-changing experience volunteering with refugees
  • Peer mentoring and expert coaching to develop own action projects
  • Experience of delivering a talk/workshop/event/gathering to your community to inspire others
  • A deep understanding of the refugee crisis from refugees and NGOs on the ground
  • Critical thinking and the ability to create alternative solutions
  • Lasting friendships with peers of different faiths and spiritual backgrounds.

This programme draws on the philosophy of sacred activism.  Sacred activism is a non-oppositional movement for societal change rooted in prayer and a worldview of interdependence.

Programme dates:
The programme has a limited amount of places, and preference will be given to those who can attend all meetings. The group will be split into 2 on 3 occasions, and participants will be asked to choose either the Saturday or the Sunday group. Once allocated to a group, you will need to stick to it for the 2018 dates.   For those who sign up to the additional volunteering in Greece, dates will be more flexible and will be coordinated once the group has come together.

• Sun, 19th November (1pm to 6pm)
• Sun, 3rd December (1pm to 6pm)
• Sat, 9th December: group A (8:30am to 5:30pm)
• Sun, 10th December: group B (9am to 6pm)

• Sun, 14th January (1pm to 6pm)
• Sun, 28th January (9:30am to 5:30pm)
• Sat, 10th February: group A (1pm to 6pm)
• Sun, 11th February: group B (1pm to 6pm)
• Sat, 10th March: group A (1pm to 6pm)
• Sun, 11th March: group B (1pm to 6pm)
• Sun, 15th April (2pm to 9pm)

Apply Now

To inquiry about the programme email Viviana.

For news and updates, follow us on Facebook.

Teachers and Mentors

Adam Bucko

Adam Bucko

Adam Bucko is an activist, spiritual director to many of New York City’s homeless youth, and co-author of ‘Occupy Spirituality: A Radical Vision for a New Generation’ and ‘The New Monasticism: An Interspiritual Manifesto for Contemplative Living’.

He grew up in Poland during the totalitarian regime and spent his early years exploring the anarchist youth movement as a force for social and political change. At the age of 17, Adam immigrated to America where his desire to find his path towards a meaningful life led him to monastries in the US and India. His life-defining experience took place in India, where on his way to a Himalayan hermitage, he met a homeless child who lived on the streets of Dehli. This brief encounter led him to the “Ashram of the Poor” where he began his work with homeless youth. After returning to the US, he worked on the streets of various American cities with young people struggling with homelessness and prostitution. He eventually co-founded The Reciprocity Foundation, an award winning nonprofit dedicated to transforming the lives of New York City’s homeless youth.

In addition, Adam has established HAB, an ecumenical and inter-spiritual “new monastic” fellowship for young people which offers formation in radical spirituality and sacred activism. He collaborates with spirtual leaders accross religious traditions and mentors young people, helping them discover a spiritual life in the 21st century and how to live deeply from the heart in service of compassion and justice.

Adam is a recipient of several awards and his work has been featured by many newspapers, magazines and media channels.

Viviana Esse

Viviana Esse

Viviana has been looking after St Ethelburga’s interfaith leadership strand of work since 2013. She is deeply committed to activating a global culture of peace and to empowering younger generations to be that change they want to see in the world. Passionate about social justice, women’s rights and the environment, she is inspired to create powerful faith-based action to tackle the challenges we collectively face at this point in history. She is the creative mind behind many of St Ethelburga’s trainings and workshops, working as a facilitator and delivering training on behalf of the Centre.

Viviana has a background in Japanese and Tibetan studies (BA), and holds an MA in Dispute and Conflict Resolution from SOAS University. She is a certified community mediator and is in her final years of training as transpersonal integrative psychotherapist.

Gulwali Passarlay

Gulwali Passarlay is an Afghan political refugee currently residing in the UK. He left Afghanistan in 2006 and recently graduated with a degree in Politics from the University of Manchester. Now undertaking his MPA at Coventry University, CTPSR in Global Diversity Governance.

A Global Youth Ambassador for global children’s charity Theirworld, Gulwali has taken a long history of campaigning and leadership roles, including being the President of the United Afghan Peace Movement, Chairperson of the Afghan Youth Movement, Patron of the Separated Child Foundation, Commissioner of The Children’s Society, and Ambassador of various organisations, including being the Olympics Torch-bearer, and NHS Youth Forum. An award-winning activist, Gulwali has garnered the Distinguished Achievement Award (Student of the Year), Collaborative Leadership Award, and among others, the Manchester Leadership Gold Award, in recognition of his leadership and positive contribution.

He has told his story of life as a refugee in his autobiography: “The Lightless Sky: A Twelve-Year-Old Refugee’s Harrowing Escape from Afghanistan and His Extraordinary Journey Across Half The World“, on TV channels such as BBC, Al Jazeera, CNN, Channel 4 News, itv, Russia Today, in print media such as The Guardian, Time Magazine, The Independent, The Scotsman, and at events such as TEDx.

As a fervent advocate for many social justice issues and causes, Gulwali was nominated for the 2016 Nansen Refugee Award by the UNHCR. Today, he continues advocate for education, social justice, and to make a positive impact in the community, locally and abroad. More information can be found at:

Lisa Campbell

Lisa Campbell is a co-founder of Do Your Part refugee camp in Oinofyta, Greece and also serves as its Executive Director. She has worked in disaster relief for 25 years. A military daughter and military wife, she has moved an average of every two years, living in 11 states and three countries. Now a grandmother of six, she lives in Virginia with her husband of 34 years, but for the past 10 months has been based at the camp in Greece.

Campbell joined forces with the Greek government and other relief organizations to build Oinofyta, one of the first of dozens of camps in the country. From the beginning, she said, they designed it to be a place where refugees would not just exist, but live. The first thing they built was a school, followed by cooking spaces, a teen center, a barber/beauty shop, a mosque, and a multi-purpose space where they host movie nights and visits from local acupuncturists to help residents manage stress.

Campbell said she has drawn from the principles of self-reliance she learned as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: Offer a hand up, not a handout, and empower people with choices. Oinofyta is one of the first camps to create employment for residents through a cottage industry.

Saif Ali

Saif Ali, is the founder and community engagement facilitator at Integr8 UK, a non-for-profit community development organisation. Inspired by his 18-year journey of seeking asylum, Saif founded Integr8 UK in 2015 right after receiving his leave to remain to enable refugees and asylum seekers to overcome cultural polarization, social isolation and disintegration of identity. Through his collaborative work with other refugee support agencies, Saif aims to create unique opportunities to enable people to integrate into their host community and empower them to lead a purposeful life and work experience in the UK beyond their limitations.

Saif envisions a world that is enriched by the diverse experiences and unique gifts that refugees and asylum seekers carry. His mission is to empower them to uncover those gifts and share them in a world where everyone feels respected, included and able to embrace their differences and celebrate their individuality.

To learn more about Saif’s work visit or watch his TEDx talk.

Philli Boyle

One of the founding members of Help Refugees, in September 2015 Philli set up the organisation’s first operation in Calais which began as a warehouse and distribution centre and quickly became the equivalent of camp management for a camp with up to 12,000 residents. She went on to lead on Help Refugees’ Lebanon operations, working with local groups to establish two informal education programmes. She is now based in London, working on partnerships, events and community engagement within the movement that Help Refugees has become.

Jo Winsloe-Slater

Jo Winsloe-Slater

Jo brings a wealth of experience from over twenty years co-ordinating projects in the fields of interfaith, social justice and social care in the non-governmental sector. During the winter of 2015/16 she and other members of the St Ethelburga staff team volunteered on the Greek island of Lesbos; an experience that inspired the co-creation of the programme People of the Earth. She holds a Diploma in group facilitation, conflict resolution and counselling (NAOS) and is a graduate of the International School of Storytelling. She is a current Trustee of The Forgiveness Project.


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