Survivors of slavery welcome royal guest to singing session
published on 28 Oct 2022
This week survivors of modern slavery supported by The Salvation Army welcomed special guests, Her Royal Highness Princess Eugenie of York and Julia de Boinville, Co-Founders of The Anti-Slavery Collective, to a music therapy session.
After joining in with a fun warm-up and breathing exercises, the guests sat back to enjoy an informal performance of songs prepared by the group of men and women who have been sharing together through music every week in recent months, under the leadership of specialist support worker and keen musician, Nigel Long. After the performance Princess Eugenie and Julia chatted to survivors and support workers and heard about the positive impact the sessions were having on survivors’ wellbeing.
Jenny Thompson oversees The Salvation Army’s London Outreach service where she manages a team of specialist support workers, like Nigel, who work with individual survivors of modern slavery in the community, to advocate for them and help them access support to recover from their experiences of exploitation. This is via the government’s Modern Slavery Victim Care Contract, through which The Salvation Army and its partners have helped more than 18,000 survivors to rebuild their lives in the past 11 years through a network of safe houses and outreach services across England and Wales.
Jenny Thompson said: “Local Salvation Army churches and community centres, such as the one we’re in today, provide a key safe space for the survivors we work with. This particular church has been hosting this music session for almost a year now. Each week survivors gather together to do breathing and warm up exercises, and practice their singing, with some also learning to play the guitar. Having our special guests come to listen to them singing and chat to them has been a tremendous boost and really helped with their preparation for performing to more audiences in the future. These sessions are about so much more than music and singing skills. They are about building confidence and giving survivors space to have fun and share with each other, at the same time as getting support from our team of specialist support workers. Every time they leave they are so excited to come back the following week.”
During the performance, two of the singers introduced their favourite song, Abba’s ‘I have a dream’ and explained why it was so important to them.
One said: The next song is my favourite because there’s a part of it says ‘I believe in angels’. For me you, The Salvation Army, are angels from God who saved me from the dark and gave hope for my dreams. Now I feel more confident and I am blessed that you gave us help.”
A second women said: This song is important to me. Back then I was a person with a lack of ambition, my dreams were all gone because I didn’t feel safe. Then one day, when I was so afraid and felt always in the dark, angels brought me from that darkness into the light and that was you, The Salvation Army. Now I’m so thankful that I can walk in the street and no-one can harm me. I feel comfortable every day and every time I come here. I want to thank you for giving me the strength to face all my trials and making my dreams come alive again.”
The group is planning on sharing their musical talents with others by performing at care homes and to other groups in the local community.