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“Raising Your Voice” 

Preston College, Preston

November 2018

In November 2019, the “Raise Your Voice” programme took place in Preston’s College, in which some thirteen students from sanctuary-seeking backgrounds at the college took part in an extended programme spread across 4 Wednesday afternoon sessions. The four sessions in the programme 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), along with a person with lived experience, shared their experience and the potential for participants to have their voices heard effectively. In the workshop session each member was invited to write out in his/her own language the aspect for change in the asylum process about which he/she felt most passionately. Mentors then helped each of them to focus their ideas into bite-sized “headlines” in English.

In the second session, Anne Markland, Drama teacher, together with some of her senior students in the performing arts department, showed the programme participants the best way to introduce themselves to an audience with confidence. The participants then worked together to create a short performance that captured the essence of the asylum journey and  this was followed with small group work on poems describing the plight of refugees, which evolved into participants sharing experiences on the challenges of navigating the UK’s asylum system.

The third session was by Gary Hart, Parliamentary Outreach Officer for the North-West, Jonathon Ellis, Vice-Chair of City of Sanctuary UK, and Julia Savage from Asylum Matters, focusing on “where and to whom are you going to say it?” Jonathon Ellis spoke about building capacity & momentum in the refugee support sector whilst Julia Savage outlined the basics of developing a successful campaign. Finally, Gary Hart explained how to access and use the UK’s democratic structure and the ways in which MPs, Peers and the Government operate.

The last session was by Adam Sharples, the college’s press and communications officer, about how local and national press operate, and explained the efficient channels to contact broadcasters and journalists. The group then concentrated on refining presentational skills with the help of video recording, critiqued by facilitators & classmates. Mock interviews were staged when volunteers were invited to defend their views just as they might have to do when challenged by a television interviewer or questioners in a public meeting.

The programme ended with College Vice-Principal, Mick Noblett, distributing certificates of participation to programme graduates.