Centre for Paediatric Spiritual Care blog

Our regular blog will see posts from various members of our spiritual care team or a guest writer. This month, Ruth Radley, Children's Worker in BCH Chaplaincy team, writes about the role of culture in providing Chaplaincy and spiritual care. 

I recently returned to South Sudan, where I had lived for almost 8 years, to teach a course to Student Teachers who were about to finish their diploma programme. The course was Child Rights and responsibilities, which led into child participation and protection, and I had developed it out of the work I and my South Sudanese team did in the communities around, indeed this was the third time the module was taught. Although this is not an interfaith work, it is work in a very different culture, and led to my understanding of culture, and it’s hold on us in a much deeper way, which I hope will enrich my work back here in the UK.  

I came to realise the strength of some cultures around the world. Take for example, marriage. In the UK there are so many ways that marriage can occur, but in some countries, ‘this’ is the only way. It is easy for an outsider to wonder why someone can’t choose to do something different, but that is before we come to understand the strength of culture, and effects on those who may choose to go against it.

For example, to help a group of student teachers in South Sudan understand the difference between a ‘need’ (or right) and a ‘want’ (no mean feat when some tribal languages do not have different words!) they were asked to do an exercise writing on small pieces of paper all the things they felt children wanted or needed to survive, develop and reach their full potential. The group then together discussed each item and decided if it should go into the ‘need’ or ‘want’ pile.

A conversation was had over the item ‘clothes.’ The group decided that this was a need, the whole class agreed, so it was placed in the ‘needs’ pile. Suddenly, a clicking noise was heard from the back of the classroom, as a student tried to gain my attention with his observations. ‘But madam,’ Tanabor said, “Clothes are a want. I studied up to P5 (primary school year five) as naked as the day I was born, it did me no harm” The area Tanabor was from did indeed have nakedness as an acceptable part of the culture. As I stood before the class I silently reminded myself not to let my culture get in the way of this discussion. “OK”, I said, “in my culture, not only is it not acceptable to be naked, you would die very quickly in the winter if you were not wearing clothes, so for us they are a need.”

“That may be so, Madam”, said Tanabor triumphantly, “but for us it is hot. For us clothes are a want”

After much discussion we concluded that depending on the local culture clothes could be a need or a want, but that where they were a ‘want’ and not a ‘need’ caution should be exercised to ensure that there was no hurt or abuse.

Of course, the UK has laws which must be obeyed, as in any country, but as I continue to settle back into life in the UK – I am aware of so many people we work with who come from very different cultures, and who may be bemused by so many of the ways we do things in the UK, as well as those who struggle to understand things, or do things a different way, because the culture they were brought up in has had such a profound effect upon them. As I continue in my chaplaincy role, I hope that I will be able to maintain this awareness, back in the culture which was once so familiar, but now often feels a little alien after so long away, and help those who may struggle to understand. 


Previous Posts

31.10.2017 Emma Roberts writes about therapy animals in hospitals and reflects on the experience of hatching chicks in the hospital

29.09.2017 Sally Nash reflects back on the past two years of the CPSC

24.08.2017 Emma Roberts, Project Coordinator and Research Assistant at Birmingham Children's Hospital, has written about a conference she recently attended.

21.07.2017 Forget-Me-Not Children's Hospice describe their Eid celebrations. 

29.06.2017 Kathryn Darby, Christian Chaplain at Birmingham Children's Hospital, writes about the launch of the European Research Institute for Chaplains in Healthcare (ERICH), which took place in Belgium in June 2017

26.05.17 Kate Fox Robinson, Masters student at the University of Manchester, writes about the five key areas which emerged from her Masters dissertation on 'Ensuring meaningful spiritual care for children and young people with complex needs and their families throughout palliative care'. 

12.04.17 Kate Fox Robinson, Masters student at the University of Manchester, summaires the research she did for her disseration on 'Ensuring meaningful spiritual care for children and young people with complex needs and their families throughout palliative care'.

15.03.17 Two extracts from 'Spiritual Care with Sick Children and Young People' describing spiritual care with a disabled child. 

09.02.17 Jodie Cotterrell, a student with Midlands Children and Youth Ministry on placement at Birmingham Children's Hospital, reflects on her time so far as a student. 

05.01.17 Read about the staff support module run by the BCH Chaplaincy team, and hear some of the feedback from one of the participants.

08.12.16 Kathy Green, Chaplaincy team leader at Sheffield Children’s Hospital, describes how support was developed for non-clinical staff on an HDU.

03.11.16 Emma Roberts writes about how key biomedical ethical principles can be used as a framework to think about the way that spiritual care is provided. 

11.10.16 Linda Wollschlaeger-Fischer writes about spirituality and grief in children and young people.

07.09.16 Emma Roberts and Sally Nash relfect on the CPSC's first year. 

13.08.16 Dr Emily Harrop, Consultant in Paediatric Palliative Care at Helen and Douglas House, introduces Ana Todorovic, who has written about her experiences of bereavement. 

19.07.16 Lorraine Beddard, a Teenage and Young Adult Clinical Liaison Nurse, writes about supporting a young adult recovering from cancer.

27.06.16 Sally Nash, Researcher at the CPSC, writes about a conference where she and Paul Nash presented a paper. 

15.06.16 Emma Roberts, Project Coordinator and Research Assistant at the Centre for Paediatric Spiritual Care, writes about the research background of our sibling support project. 

01.06.16 Liz Bryson, a Chaplaincy volunteer, and her family are climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in memory of her daughter Katie. She explains why they have chosen to make this journey.

18.05.16 Christine Williams gives a grandmother's perspective on having a sick child in the family, and gives her insights for those caring for the family. 

20.04.16 The opening of a new Peaceful Space at the hospital 

06.04.16 Sophie Slater-Evans, a student with Midlands CYM, visited Birmingham Children’s Hospital as part of her course. She reflects on Chaplaincy with sick children

27.03.16 Sally Nash, Director of Research at the CPSC, writes about attending a rare diseases day at Birmingham Children's Hospital 

09.03.16 Ambreen Pervez, a Muslim chaplain at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, reflects on spiritual care from an Islamic perspective, and talks about developing activities for Muslim patients.

03.02.16 Parkash Sohal, Sikh Chaplain, and Diane Maybey, Therapeutic Consultant, tell us about their experiences of volunteering with a healthcare charity in India.

14.01.16 Nick Ball, Christian Chaplain at Birmingham Children's Hospital, gives an example of spiritual care with a sick child.

23.12.15 Rachel Hill-Brown, Christian Chaplain at Birmingham Children's Hospital, reflects on Christmas in the hospital.

10.12.15 Emma Roberts, Project Coordinator and Research Assistant at Birmingham Children's Hospital, writes about human rights and spiritual care.

03.12.15 Kathryn Darby, a Chaplain at Birmingham Children's Hospital, writes about lunchtime mindfulness sessions for staff  

18.11.15 Alison Bennet, a Physiotherapist at Acorns Children's Hospital, talks about a Spiritual Care Week that was held at the hospice. 

5.11.15 Jayne Tomlinson, a Nurse Specialist at Birmingham Children's Hospital, writes about attending a staff self-care retreat day. 

27.10.15 Kathryn Darby, Chaplain at Birmingham Children's Hospital - 'Conversations with Teddy'.

14.10.15 Adam Truman, Staff Nurse at Birmingham Children's Hospital, shares his expereince with a patient. 

24.09.15 Sally Nash, Director of Research at the Centre for Paediatric Spiritual Care, writes about a message in a bottle spiritual care activity.

17.09.15  Jim Meighan, Healthcare Chaplain at Yorkhill Children's Hospital tells us about Yorkhill's 'Royal Hospital for Sick Teddies'. 

10.09.15  Liz Bryson, Spiritual Care volunteer with the Birmingham Children's Hospital Chaplaincy team, gives her thoughts on lament.


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