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Mandy and I took part in a couple of excellent training sessions (in one week!) with the Sophie Lancaster Foundation in April. The first was at Boston College and the second in Rossendale, Lancashire.

In Boston Sylvia, Deena and Kate were invited by the college to deliver a session about Hate Crime to students. There was a showing of the film ‘Black Rose’ which tells Sophie’s story, this was then followed by a panel question time. The panel was made up of Sylvia & Kate (Sophie Lancaster Foundation), Mandy (Just Lincolnshire) and Craig Naylor (Lincolnshire Police). This produced some very interesting questions which were answered fully by the panel.

Two days later, Mandy and I travelled to Lancashire to take part in a training day on how to use a resource created by the Sophie Lancaster Foundation. The resource is a game to use with young people, that challenges their assumptions about other people and how we make snap decisions about people we meet. These decisions are made based on our experiences, prejudices and our unconscious bias which is learned from an early age from everyone we have contact with.

The game consists of 30 picture cards of different people, the players are split into groups of no more than 5 and asked who they feel they would not want to spend time with and why. They record this then each group feeds back and shares their thoughts. The groups also pick out who they feel the would like to get to know, decide within their group why and again write their reasons down. Then again, each group shares their thoughts and decisions are discussed.

It is amazing how people make assumptions purely on how a person looks and most of the assumptions made are negative! There is a second set of cards which on the reverse side, has a description of who the person really is.

The aim of the game is not to decide who is good and who is bad, but to challenge our own perceptions of people based only on their appearance. It also shows how people’s perceptions vary, the feedback discussion between the groups pulls out what one person sees another person may not.

This game is not rocket science, the premise is so simple – challenging our own first impressions, especially negative ones, and reminding us to just step back a moment, before we judge a person and condemn them for the way they look. Like Sophie and Rob were that fatal night in 2008.

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