A COUNTRY house built on the back of the slave trade more than 300 years ago is to be used to help the victims of modern slavery adapt to life after their liberation.

Northern College, based at Wentworth Castle, is to become the first college in the country to offer a course especially for the survivors of modern slavery.

The Free Thinking Project has been developed by Northern College as a pilot scheme for students who have experienced significant trauma through modern slavery and human trafficking. The ten-week residential programme is designed to help students gain confidence and skills to live, work and study in the UK.

Survivors of exploitation can face considerable challenges adapting to life in this country, in addition to the trauma they have experienced.
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Northern College principal Jill Westerman said the college had been working over the last year with local charities that provide safe houses and ongoing support to survivors to design the new programme.

She said: “I am proud that we are the first college in the country to offer a course for the survivors of modern slavery and am looking forward to welcoming the first cohort very soon.”

Northern College is housed within Wentworth Castle at Stainborough which during the 18th century was the seat of the Earl of Strafford, Thomas Wentworth.

“The Earl had incredible wealth which largely came from his involvement with the slave trade which helped finance Wentworth Castle and many other great houses into magnificent buildings we see today,” said Jill.

“We are proud that the very same building which was built on the back of the slave trade is now to be used to help modern day survivors.”

The course is due to start on May 23 and run until the end of 2018. It is anticipated ten students will be on the course at a time, with two or possibly three intakes through the year.

If it proves successful, and if long-term funding can be secured, it may continue more permanently.

Jane Williamson, the tutor organiser for the modern slavery and human trafficking programme at the college, said: “We do hope long term we might be able to secure some sponsorship from businesses to offer scholarships.”

She said under the modern slavery act, businesses, especially big business, are required to demonstrate what they are doing to help prevent modern slavery and human trafficking.

“It has been a real eye-opener for me personally finding out more and more about modern slavery over the past few months.

“A lot of what we do at Northern College involves a lot of pastoral care, so this sort of work sits very well with what we do.

“We are quite remote, and our college is a place people come and feel safe.”

Next Thursday Northern College will be celebrating the project’s launch with a ceremonial planting of a rose bush - the Modern Slavery Rose - which is a new breed developed for a winning Chelsea Flower Show garden in 2016 and chosen as a ‘symbol of hope’.