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  • Writer's pictureHelen Victoria

Realising a Dream - The News Is Out! #ChurchillFellows2020

Today is March 5th - announcement day! Despite the fact I’ve known for a few weeks now, the news still hasn’t quite sunk in. Even typing these words to you feels very much surreal.

9 months ago, I applied for one of the most prestigious travel research fellowships in the world. From there, I managed to get through each detailed stage of application selection, before reaching interview at the WCMT headquarters in London.

I applied to the WCMT to travel abroad to research using education as a tool in abuse prevention. I founded Living Liberté 8 years ago, initially as a simple blog page. It is now a full time social enterprise which provides workshops and resources to teach young people how to form healthy relationships, as well as how to spot red flags of abusive behaviours.

I started this work after leaving the domestic abuse that almost killed me. In 1978, my grandmother lost her life to her husband in a domestic violence murder case. I have always felt that if we’d had the opportunity of relationship health education, then things could have been very different for us both. This perspective remains my motivation in all of my work today.

As a retired professional dancer, formal interviews are not too familiar to me! When I found myself pacing the candidate waiting room, my stomach was lurching. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such stage fright, throughout the entirety of my performing career.

As I walked into the interview room, I could feel myself shaking. I shifted uncomfortably in my green, sequinned suit (you can take the showgirl out of the show…) and felt uncharacteristically self conscious.

But I needn’t have worried. As I shook the hands of each panel member, I was met with warmth and encouragement. I felt honoured to be seated in front of some of the England’s leading experts relating to my chosen field of study along with Julia Weston, Chief Executive of the Trust. I took a deep breath, and gathered my thoughts.

I was invited to share a little about my proposed research travel project, including why I was passionate about my study area. My throat tightened and my heart flipped. I wondered if they could see my nerves as I paused for a sip of water - a helpful anxiety tip from a friend!

As soon as I started talking, I knew I was in the right place. I realised wasn’t there to be judged as I had been in my previous career. I had a purpose. I was there to share my passion for preventing young people from experiencing relationship abuse.

For regular followers of my work, you may remember some of my Instagram and Facebook posts about this interview! It was back in early January - I had quite a wait to find out the results!

During the 6 week wait, I swayed between bubbling excitement and a cautionary sense of self protection. I couldn’t quite allow myself to imagine the possibility of being selected to be a Fellow, but I couldn’t help but let my imagination run wild every now and again.

Then, one morning, a large parcel dropped through the letterbox. And with that, my world exploded into colour. I had been selected!

This #fellowship news means that I have been fully funded to travel to the USA and New Zealand to learn how these two countries are pioneering relationship education in their high schools. I will then bring back all I have discovered and apply it here in England through the work of my social enterprise.

Even typing out these words makes my heart flutter!

To receive the news earlier this year that Living Liberté will be funded this year by the incredible social start-up support company UNLTD. was already my news of the year. But this news has blown me away all the more. I feel incredibly fortunate to be given keys to make the significant change in the world that I’ve always wanted to.

More than that - this truly confirms that relationship education is valuable to the world. Not one but two incredible organisations recognise it’s importance. That, above all, is what makes me the happiest.

I write to you with gratitude. I will never say that I’m glad I went through what I did, nor that my grandmother lost her life in the way that she did. But my goodness, I am determined to do all I can to stop it happening for others.

I'm ready to help change the world for the better, with the unique and incredible support of the WCMT - now, whose with me?

With love!

Helen Victoria

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