I have a scenario to share with you about our session on Tuesday in Islington to highlight the importance and value of training as a new volunteer. One of the exercises of the session had a Halloween theme with all things scary and spooky. Once I introduced myself to the student I paired up with, the first question I was asked was: "Do you believe in witchcraft?" pointing at the figure of a black cat which was meant to be a witch's pet. I replied: no! He went on to ask: "You are telling me that if you came across a black cat in the middle of the night walking home alone you will not be afraid?" I replied: "no, I'm more wary of humans walking late at night than any other creatures!" He asked: "You don't even believe in the devil?" I replied: "my Mother always use to say to me fear is the brother of death and is extremely debilitating"... the student (who is originally from Columbia) replied: ""Well this is very much a "thing" in many parts of Africa and South America and people do believe in it". I went on to explain that such belief systems don't really exist or have a place in our society in the UK and we moved onto the next question. I felt very confident and self assured to voice my opinion (without offending him) as Fatima had highlighted a similar scenario during a training session that very morning about witchcraft and how best to respond. I thought I share this story to highlight the importance of training for all new volunteers (including myself) as well as highlighting how common these stories of witchcraft seem to be.
As stated already in the story above, unfounded and irrational beliefs are something that can hold people back in our society. If an employer were to see a prospective employee run from a black cat, for example, that may well go against their favor. A lot of these images and superstitions hold a place in popular culture as well, whether it be in horror movies or in holidays such as Halloween and they will come face to face with seemingly "evil" on a regular occurrence. Our place is not to belittle or patronise, but to help people from other cultures understand some of the misinformation and false stories that can be limiting once they come to the UK.
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I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!