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News / Staff Showcase – Sarah Koster

Staff Showcase – Sarah Koster

Staff Showcase

F&BF

04 / 05 / 20

Sarah Koster Faith & Belief Forum

Every Monday we meet a staff member of the Faith & Belief Forum, and find out what makes them tick. This week we meet our Education & Learning Manager, Sarah Koster

 

Your name and job title:

Sarah Koster, Programmes Manager, Education & Learning  

 

What made you initially interested in interfaith work? 

I have always been interested in learning about faith and different beliefs. A long time ago (in my school days!) Religious Education was one of my favourite subjects  – and I not only took it as a GCSE, but afterwards when I moved to a faith school for sixth form, I choose to study Jewish Studies and Ethics as one of my A-levels.  

Within my own Reform Jewish faith community I organised a joint volunteering event with the local Mosque. I loved seeing different faiths working together for a shared aim and the learning and relationships that took place at the same time. This definitely sparked an interest to be more involved in interfaith work.  

 

Why do you feel interfaith is still required in our world? What motivates you?  

I believe its vital today more than ever, due to an array of factors – some political. Faith communities are more insular, staying together where they feel a sense of safety and belonging. I feel its of vital importance to give different faith and beliefs a voice and safe space to speak about their individual lived experience of their faith, and encounter others different from them, dispelling myths and generalisations – this is my motivation.  

 

How did you first hear about F&BF? 

Funnily enough, on LinkedIn! I was between jobs, having previously been a Primary School teacher and prior to that a Youth Worker. I was looking for a role that married my experience and passions, wanting to still be connected to education, where I could work with young people on developing skills for personal and social development. I also wanted to move into the not for profit sector. The role of F&BF’s School’s Officer, delivering the faith schools linking programme was advertised on LinkedIn and when I looked up the charity and discovered its interfaith aims and methodologies, I was very excited!  

 

How would you explain what you do to someone completely unfamiliar with our work, and what is your favourite aspect of your job? 

I manage the Education and Learning programmes, which includes: 

  • Delivering interfaith encounter and skills workshops in schools 
  • Running a ‘School Linking’ project that matches up classes in different schools different, to explore identity and community together
  • Training teachers and education professional in interfaith skills and controversial issues  
  • Creating educational resources online; including lesson plan packages that help young people develop skills to have interfaith encounters, and feel safe and confident to ask sensitive questions 
  • And all the ‘other’ stuff that comes with management… strategy, budgets, networking, fundraising etc!  

My favourite part of my job is without a doubt seeing the impact on the young people and teachers we train and work with. Especially the School Linking students; to see their journey from Link day 1 to Link day 3, their confidence develop in their own identities, the learning that takes places about others different to them, but also the surprise they get in realising they also share so much in common and the real friendships they make with others they may not have ever encountered.  

 

What is the most common misconception about your job? And what is the truth? 

That I teach about religions or know everything about different religions, and that my job is only working with people who are religious.  

The truth is we work with all faiths and beliefs. It is not so much about religion, but an individual’s experience of their lived faith, and how this differs from person to person even within the same ‘strand’ of a faith. The belief element is even more interesting; we recognise everyone has a belief system or beliefs and values that are important to them and influence their lives. At with this we are likely to have more in common with those different to us than we may ever assume.  

I also definitely do not know everything about all religions! I have however learnt a lot through working at F&BF hearing people’s faith and belief stories, and having opportunities to meet so many people of all different faith and beliefs. I am constantly learning. 

 

What didn’t you realise about interfaith until working at F&BF? 

What struck me working at F&BF was learning the importance of language and the part it plays in having effective encounters with others, especially those different to us. Using language effectively, in a safe space, goes a long way to achieving real and meaningful dialogues. In our Skills for Interfaith training we focus a lot on ‘helpful’ and ‘unhelpful’ language for dialogue and it is so powerful to see the assumptions that often lay behind a statement, but asked as a question! It is through unpacking language; we can rephrase questions so they can be asked sensitively and purposely.  

 

What are you most proud of during your time here at F&BF? 

Being able to offer opportunities for interfaith through schools programmes, workshops and training educational professionals, alongside creating videos and online resources to complement our face to face delivery.  

Professionally, I have worked for F&BF for 5 years now, my longest job! Working my way up from officer to managing the Education and Learning programmes, and being part of an organisation that really cares, not only for the ethos and work, but for its staff. I have the most wonderful, passionate and hardworking colleagues, and F&BF is an extended family I am proud to be a part of.  

 

What floats your boat outside of work? 

Three things: Spending time with my family, which includes; running around like a headless chicken after my energetic and crazy (like their mother) 2 and 4 year old sons.  

Escaping motherhood, buy spending time with my friends, eating out, playing board games, doing quizzes, escaping escape rooms and talking/moaning about our kids!  

The sunshine, reading, doing stupidly complicated jigsaw puzzles, eating sushi, eating in general, the theatre and travelling (less now but hoping for more in retirement!)

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