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Raise Your Voice – a programme for people seeking sanctuary at Preston College

Imagine yourself suffering or struggling with something, no one knows about you, and you can’t share it. Not because you don’t want to, but because you do not know how to share it?  It could be with terrible housing officer or an even more complicated issue, like being in detention for an unknown period, whither you will be released or returned to a place where your life is in danger? You don’t know how to address your tragedies, to whom should you speak?, Your  English is broken, It’s a different language with many difficult accents. This is the life of many of sanctuary seekers, fleeing to this country for their safety.

From 31st of October “the four, four to five hours sessions of Raise Your Voice Program” took place in Preston’s College,  The four sessions were titled, “What you want to say”, “How you are going to say it”, “Where and to whom are you going to say it?” and finally, “Go ahead and do it”.

The first session was facilitated by Dr. Jeff Morgan and Vivien Caparros, Head of school (Skills Development, ESOL and Community Learning), at Preston’s Further Education College. Joseph Chivayo, (a national trustee of City of Sanctuary), together with myself, shared our experience and the potential for participants to have our voices heard effectively. On the second session, Anne Markland , The Drama Teacher, together with some of her senior students showed the program participants the best way to introduce themselves to an audience with confidence. This session took place in the Performing Arts Department. The third session was particularly interesting, Gary Hart, “Parliamentary Outreach Officer for the North West”,  Jonathon Ellis “vice chair of City of Sanctuary“, and Julia Savage “from Asylum Matters” focused on “where and to whom are you going to say it?”. The valuable last session held by Adam Sharples, the college’s press and communications officer, spotted how local and national press operate, and explained the efficient channels to contact broadcasters and journalists.

All in all, the program was fabulous, full of information, knowledge and know-how. However, I found the true value of this program goes beyond teaching and learning; it also builds a sort of unique social relationship between the group and the locals and it broke many existing barriers to community integration. The surprising fact was that both participants and facilitators on this program learned from each other. On top of that, I found this program succeeded in finding the light in the darkness of ignorance and laughs between the gaps of tears. Thankfully, City of Sanctuary alongside Preston’s College, and the wonderfully virtuous and moral Jeff Morgan and Vivien Caparros are giving to those who have no voice, the opportunity to be heard.

Ghassan Mahadi

See also this article about a similar programme called Sanctuary in Politics aimed at people seeking sanctuary in the south-west.