BA Theology and Religious Studies (2006-2009)
Youth Interfaith Co-ordinator, Southampton Council of Faiths
During my time at Winchester studying Theology and Religious Studies, I volunteered to work with Revd Tim Selwood, co-ordinator of the Three Faiths Forum in Hampshire and Dorset. After this I knew that I wanted a career in the field of peacemaking, helping to encourage interfaith dialogue.
Jobs in this area are scarce and it wasn’t until a year after I left Winchester that I found an ideal position at the Southampton Council of Faiths working as a Youth Interfaith Co-ordinator. My job is extremely diverse and involves working with students from colleges, schools and universities as well as youth groups from different places of worship. I organise faith debates and peace walks as well as help to create a place where it is acceptable to talk about faith. I also present and teach students about different faiths, focussing on the seven main faiths in Southampton, and offer a service as interfaith minister at some of the colleges. I have been a guest on numerous occasions on Tim Daykin’s show on BBC Radio Solent as well as Unity 101, highlighting the importance of interfaith dialogue.
My studies in Theology and Religious Studies at Winchester have really helped to prepare me for this job. The Interfaith Dialogue module gave me an excellent insight into peace building, teaching me to understand some of the barriers which can arise and need to be overcome when talking to people of different faiths about other religions.
The most challenging part of my job is trying to make faith and belief something ‘cool’ for young people to talk about. There are certain subjects that they feel they should not discuss and should shy away from and religion is usually one of them. It is my job to try and encourage them to speak about views and feelings because I believe that barriers create ignorance and ignorance can breed fear.
My top tips for other students would be to do as much as you can to be part of the University during your studies. The Student Union is a great place to start. Either join a society or even start your own! A couple of friends and I set up the Winchester Interfaith Society where students could express and talk about faith in a non-judgemental environment. I would also recommend gaining as much work experience as possible. Knowing your subject matter is good but being able to implement what you know in a professional manner can be equally important.