Zoe* bounced through the door of our regular space in the safehouse; a space that had come to feel less like a classroom and more like a relaxed living room, accented with hot red beanbags and a patch-work armchair.

She was wearing white pants with a 70s flare and a bright orange top, and her thick hair was freshly braided over her shoulders. It was the look of a woman who had come into herself with confidence, with bold value for her uniqueness and fierce determination for her tomorrow.

She looked beautiful, and powerful. She exploded into wild and uproarious laughter, laughter I’d come to know so well and utterly adore.

We were celebrating the participants graduating from our confidence and employability programme, the second programme the Sophie Hayes Foundation had run in this house.

We indulged in strawberries and chocolate cupcakes, and shared stories about what we’d been up to since we’d last all been together.

We took our glasses of sparkling red grape juice and toasted the women who, for the past eight weeks, welcomed us into their lives, and into their futures; whose stories had sometimes made us sit in reflective silence, and whose bold resilience challenged any hint of privileged feebleness we had in our own lives.

As we awarded certificates to the women graduating, Zoe loudly showed hers off to the rest of the group: “This shows that I started something, and I finished it.”

I started something, and I finished it.

The crux of our programme is a commitment to looking forward. Not to be separate from or devalue the very real and very traumatic experiences of the past, but rather, because our core message is one of hope, and hope is entirely forward facing.

This ‘hope approach’ is not simply about clarifying goals and identifying pathways, but even more so, it’s about confirming agency.

This is why Zoe’s exclamation was both proud and profound: she had not only discovered where she wanted to go and how she was going to get there, but also, that she has the capacity to do so.

Much of the focus of the earlier sessions of the Day 46 programme had been designed to bring the participants into an unfolding of this capacity. We led them through a personal exploration, allowing them to come to an understanding of their purpose: the intersection of their strengths, their passions, and the world’s greatest needs.

Zoe knew her purpose early, and firmly. She proclaimed it with such certainty and boldness, it embarrassed my own zigzagged, half-hearted attempt at purpose-driven living.

But it wasn’t just her confidence that impressed me. It was her choice to embrace her purpose, to commit herself, wholeheartedly, to any opportunity that would propel her into greater alignment with it.

I started something, and I finished it.

There’s a theory that most of our knowledge is constructed through our interaction with others – that is, we learn best when we learn from and with others. Together.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve found this to be true. Together, we – these women and I – learnt we are not limited by our past experience.

Together, we learnt that there is dignity in meaningful work. Beyond currency, there is self-respect.

And together, we learnt that as much as hope is found in our vision, it is found in our choice, our commitment, and our completion.

*Not her real name

Day 46 is an innovative 8 week learning programme designed to support survivors of trafficking and modern day slavery beyond their ‘45 days’ of statutory emergency care. It is a unique blend of eight face to face confidence, identity and employability workshops which comprise of group sessions, 1:1 coaching and mentoring and where possible, a bespoke voluntary work placement or training opportunity. This comprehensive package helps survivors develop greater resilience, independent living and employability skills.

Written by Suzie King // Follow Suzie on  Twitter

Suzie King is a communicator and educator. She began her career working in public relations and marketing for major Australian media and retail organisations. After seeing first-hand the value of education in improving the outcomes of vulnerable people in India, Suzie qualified as a teacher and vocational trainer. Before moving to London, she consulted on business and community engagement with STOP THE TRAFFIK in Australia to address trafficking in the fashion industry. Suzie is passionate about freedom and social transformation, and is committed to developing innovative solutions to the issue of human-trafficking through story-telling, education and social enterprise. Suzie is a facilitator for the Day 46 Programme.

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