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"No one who achieves success does so without acknowledging the help of others."

The Free Thinking Programme for Survivors of Modern Slavery allows victims of modern slavery and human trafficking to gain an education and enjoy part-time residency on campus at Northern College. The second of a series of blog posts about the programme, this piece provides an insight into the experiences of one of the students, who gives thanks to her educators and describes her feelings concerning her status as a modern slavery survivor. Educators working with vulnerable groups may find this blog psot beneficial for better understanding the trauma that some learners have to cope with and to help them provide the best learning experience. 

Northern College students graduate from the Survivors of Modern Slavery programme


Earlier this year, Jane Williamson, the Tutor Organiser for Modern Slavery at Northern College, wrote a blog post about the institution’s Free Thinking Programme for Survivors of Modern Slavery. On 26th November, another thirteen students graduated from the ten-week course bringing a total of 54 survivors who have benefitted from this specialist education provision. This time one of the graduating students has written a blog for EPALE. ‘Sister J’ is also an active leader with Survivor Alliance, an international network of survivor led groups campaigning for their human rights. Here are her words...


I would like to congratulate the graduating class of Free Thinking 2019 on this huge achievement. I would like to thank God for seeing us through to the end of this program. Alfred North Whitehead once said, “No one who achieves success does so without acknowledging the help of others.” Showing gratitude is an essential step to triumph in all aspects of life. I’d like to thank a group of people who I feel simply haven’t been thanked enough. 

Hands holding a thank you note
To our support workers from various organisations - you didn’t see us much during our time on this program, yet you provided us with endless support and care. For you are the people we call our family. As you already know, many if not all of us, have nobody in this country. Despite all our trauma and mental health difficulties, you manage to understand our situation and help us to rebuild our lives. I say a big thank you to you all.


Thank you to the principal and staff of Northern College, especially Sue our support worker, for being with us since the beginning of the ten-week course, for treating each and every one of us with such dignity and respect, despite our different levels of understanding due to language barriers. The entire class appreciated all the support and assistance we received. 

Last but not least, I would like to say a very special thank you to our tutor, Jane, for providing victims of human trafficking and modern slavery with this opportunity. Your smiles, kind words of encouragement and motivation means a lot to the class since the first day we met you. Thank you for creating time and listening to our problems and providing immediate solutions.


I believe that our present situation in the UK asylum system is more pressing and relevant to us than our past. Survivors of human trafficking and modern slavery in the UK face many difficult barriers in accessing higher adult education and having the right to work. What we want is to leave our traumatic experience behind us, be awarded leave to remain and move on with our lives because we cannot change the past. We want equal justice, we want to be respected and be treated as human beings, and we do not want to be exploited by the system. 

filming in a studio
Therefore, education is the most important freedom that someone can have. This is where Free Thinking comes in. The course has given us that educational empowerment. It teaches us lots of skills and knowledge about our rights in the UK and workplace rights to be precise, builds our confidence, teaches us to identify and give assistance in an emergency situation, builds our IT skills and allows us to express our feelings and raise our voice through filmmaking and podcasting, to name just a few of the subjects covered.


These are exactly the sort of opportunities survivors need to build our lives and to diversify further education We do not need sympathy from the people and calling us ‘resilient’, but proper reintegration into the communities we live in.


Other students on the course were also keen for their voices to be heard and created an audio message that can he heard here


Find out more about Northern College or follow course organiser Jane Williamson on Twitter for regular updates on the Free Thinking programme.


Find out more about Survivor Alliance or follow ‘Sister J’ on Twitter.



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Northern College Northern College is an adult education college that provides learners with unique opportunities that allow them to change their lives for the better. The college is a leader in inclusivity and diversity, welcoming students from many different backgrounds. Emphasis is placed on helping those familiar with unemployment and low-paid work opportunities to secure the education, qualifications and opportunities they have previously been denied. The majority of courses are short and high-intensity, with many students being offered temporary accommodation while they complete their studies. 




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