Sir Mo Farah has become a Patron of the Bakhita Centre for Research on Slavery, Exploitation and Abuse at St Mary’s University, Twickenham.
The four-time Olympic champion, who is Britain’s most successful track athlete, revealed in a BBC documentary during July last year how he was brought to the UK from Somalia illegally, having assumed the name of another child, after his father was killed in the civil war.
He was later helped to obtain UK citizenship by his school PE teacher Alan Watkinson, while still using the name Mohamed Farah.
Now 39, Farah has a long relationship with St Mary’s, having trained, studied and lived at the University from 2001 to 2011.
The centre is named in honour of Saint Josephine Bakhita, who herself was a victim of human trafficking in Sudan and Italy during the 1870s.
“I am honoured to have the opportunity to support the work of the Bakhita Centre as its first Patron,” said Farah.
“Fighting the crimes of human exploitation is a cause close to my heart and I hope I can support the centre in their work.”
The Bakhita Centre conducts research on modern slavery and human trafficking, striving to influence practice and policy, and raise awareness across the university, in local communities and further afield.
The centre aims to broaden the University’s research on global issues which intersect with modern slavery, including gender-based violence, sexual and other forms of exploitation, abuse and discrimination based on structural inequalities, race, ethnicity, asylum seeking or refugee and migrant status.
St Mary’s vice-chancellor Anthony McClaran said: “We are delighted Sir Mo has agreed to become a Patron of the Bakhita Centre.
“On the athletics track, he is our most famous and successful alumnus.
“It is a great honour that he will continue his relationship with the University on this topic that is both close to Sir Mo’s personal experience, and our mission as a University.”
Director of the Bakhita Centre Dr Carole Murphy added: “Sir Mo’s presence as our patron will help us raise the profile of the work of the centre and our commitment to expose the structural factors that underpin the crimes of human exploitation and in turn provide more support to more survivors and anti-exploitation practitioners.”