From the Vanderbilt Reporter: VUSN video workshop helps teens cope with type 1 diabetes

This article originally appeared in the Vanderbilt University Medical Center Reporter and appears here with the author's permission.


StoryCenter Southern Region Program Director Allison Myers, left, helps 17-year-old Graciela Rayome edit her video about living with type 1 diabetes. (Photo by Susan Urmy)

StoryCenter Southern Region Program Director Allison Myers, left, helps 17-year-old Graciela Rayome edit her video about living with type 1 diabetes. (Photo by Susan Urmy)

A group of adolescents gathered at the downtown Nashville Public Library last week for a three-day Digital Storytelling Workshop to learn how to write, edit and produce a video about managing their type 1 diabetes.

The project is part of research by Shelagh Mulvaney, Ph.D., associate professor of Nursing, and her team into the design, development and testing of a Web and mobile phone-based self-care support system for this population.

“A lot of the recent discussion in science and technology has been focused on ‘design research’ as it relates to identifying and implementing the best methods of integrating patients into the health care design process, but little is known about what really engages people in behavior change and support systems,” said Mulvaney.

Engaging teens in telling first-person stories about overcoming a challenge in self-care helps that individual, and even more importantly, may help other adolescents who view the stories that model positive coping and problem-solving. The stories are embedded within a digital program that guides individual self-care problem-solving.

Adolescents with type 1 diabetes are at high risk for poor self-care and glycemic control partly due to the complexity and frequency of the tasks, as well as psychosocial and developmental barriers to self-care.

“In order to address the needs of adolescents with type 1 diabetes we created an Internet adherence problem-solving intervention, named YourWay that integrates first-person diabetes stories as part of the learning experience,” said Mulvaney.

Last week’s workshop is the first time Mulvaney and her team have used an approach that allows the teens to actually create the digital stories themselves through photo editing and audio recording at the new Teens and Technology Space (Studio NPL).

Research shows that for the storyteller, the story creation process can be a meaningful opportunity to improve self-awareness through reflection on one’s own life events and emotional responses. For adolescents with type 1 diabetes it offers a chance to reflect on particular obstacles they have faced in their self-care and the steps they took to overcome them.

Allison Myers from the Berkeley, California-based Center for Digital Storytelling, taught the teens how to tell a compelling story, focus the message, and narrate and edit using the latest software technology. The workshop was organized by Vanderbilt team member Sarah Vaala, Ph.D., an expert in children’s media.

Sixteen-year-old participant Claire Trabue was diagnosed when she was 2 and explained that diabetes has not been a focus of her life. Her video reflects an epiphany while attending a summer camp for girls with diabetes.

“A lot of the girls didn’t treat their body the right way. They didn’t accept their condition and it was an awakening that gave me a lot of perspective,” said Trabue, whose video features friends, neighbors and family members who have supported her.

“My parents are constantly nagging me about my diabetes… ‘remember to do this, don’t forget to do that,’” said Jack Sevelius, a 14-year-old participant who loves junk food.

“My parents know I can eat sweets and stuff, and at the end of my film I tell them I will include them more in what I do. I know the nagging is because they love me.”

A story made in the workshop by Taylor Palmore.  View more stories online.

The results of the research, funded by the National Institutes of Health, will help identify useful patient-centered design research methods and create an engaging and effective program that can be disseminated nationally. The final aim of the grant is to eventually conduct a randomized trial of the self-care intervention.

Contact: 
Kathy Rivers, (615) 322-3894 
kathy.rivers@vanderbilt.edu

Updates from StoryCenter's Public Health Programs - Summer 2015

New Public Health Webinar Series Continues Through December!

For many years, the StoryCenter has been supporting researchers and community practitioners as they explore how storytelling can enhance public health promotion. Our workshop-based production methods provide support for crafting first-person narratives and turning them into videos that have been shared around the world.  This year, we share some of our best public health strategies through a series of new, two-hour webinars.

Food Dignity Workshop Participants, February 2015

Food Dignity Workshop Participants, February 2015

Stories for Food Justice

We at StoryCenter are excited to share a beautiful set of academic and community stories about paths to food justice, created through a collaboration with the United States Department of Agriculture-funded Food Dignity project.

The project is a research, education, and extension effort bringing together five community-based organizations that have already been doing food justice activities within their local communities, and three universities, to learn how to create healthier and more sustainable food systems.

Representatives from Food Dignity sites around the country shared unique and touching stories from their lives, revealing the strengths of committed individuals and the challenges they face in creating long-term, sustainable alternatives to an unhealthy and environmentally destructive food system.

The storytellers will be using the stories to share their experience and expertise in community food production, access, and justice and their vision for equitable, democratic, and sustainable local food systems. We’ll be collaborating with Food Dignity on the distribution of selected stories from the workshop through our existing public health and broader storytelling networks, via YouTube and social media tools like Facebook and Twitter. 

Marie Stopes Ghana Storytellers, June 2014

Marie Stopes Ghana Storytellers, June 2014

Seeding New Conversations about Sexual and Reproductive Health … in the United States and Abroad

Have you wondered when young people’s stories and voices will be taken seriously, when it comes to public conversations about sexual and reproductive health?

The Hear Our Stories project aims to reframe public conversations about young women and sexuality, health, and reproductive rights, by enabling young moms themselves to shed light on what they go through in trying to obtain support and resources for carrying healthy babies to term and raising their children. 

And across the Atlantic, our partners from Marie Stopes International in Ghana are training youth peer educators to share a courageous set of stories by young people from around the country, addressing sexuality, relationships, health, and parenting. We set a new language-use record at this Ghana digital storytelling workshop, by producing stories in seven distinct Ghanaian languages!

Language Chart, Marie Stopes Ghana Workshop

Language Chart, Marie Stopes Ghana Workshop

Interested in learning more about how we can partner with you?  Contact us today!

Sending all the best,
StoryCenter Staff

Your Voice is Your Creativity: Building Safe Spaces for Creative Expression

Editor’s Note: Evelyn Thorne worked with StoryCenter as an intern from May through August of 2013. She then returned to her graduate work at the University of Oregon. Here we share her thoughts on her research regarding creative expression.


Your Voice is Your Creativity: Building Safe Spaces for Creative Expression

By Evelyn Thorne

When I was seven years old, I was learning to draw by copying masterpieces. I had such confidence that I truly believed my drawings were superior. I look back on those drawings today and think “What naiveté”… and then I think, “How can I get that back?” How can I reclaim that belief in my ability to be stronger than my fear of how I might appear through others’ eyes?

Fast forward many years, and I’m sitting at my friend’s marathon poetry open mic, listening for five hours straight and never once participating. The entire time, an internal debate about whether I could or couldn’t write poetry ran through my head. I went home that night so frustrated that I chose to settle the argument by writing my first poem. The poem started like this: “You, yes You. Sitting there, just sitting there. I used to be you.” And from that moment on, the debate was over: I would not sit on the sidelines anymore; I would actively participate and learn to express my creativity. This was the start of my journey to what I call “reclaiming creative confidence.”

This journey to creative confidence is never easy, especially if you’re an adult with little artistic training or access to arts education. As international education advisor Ken Robinson says: “Most children think they’re highly creative; most adults think they’re not. This is a bigger issue than it may seem” (Robinson, 2011).  The issue is rooted in an education system and capitalist society that tells children or young adults not to study art because it won’t allow them to make money, thus ignoring the intrinsic value of creativity. With this knowledge in mind, I set out to pursue a graduate degree in Arts Administration, as a way of exploring inclusive arts education practices.

During my first graduate course in Community Cultural Development, I realized storytelling could be a gateway to arts engagement. As I studied how to build ethical cultural organizations, I saw how storytelling can be an access point. Storytelling connects people through empathy and understanding, builds more culturally conscientious and inclusive environments, and facilitates creativity through personal expression. I started searching for organizations that were putting this idea to practice, which led me to an internship with the Center for Digital Storytelling (StoryCenter).

As I helped participants in a Standard Workshop in Digital Storytelling produce their stories, I noticed the range of artistic backgrounds in the class – from the artist who was determined to reimagine the digital storytelling format, to the professor who was struggling to express herself in non-academic language. Yet they were all working together. This was an epiphany for me: here were adults with very different relationships to creativity, feeling safe enough to learn alongside each other. This workshop was the inclusive arts education environment that I was looking for!

But why? Why does storytelling encourage collaborative learning? I embarked on an extensive research project to explore how digital storytelling practices facilitate safe space for creative expression.  

My master’s research project, entitled Digital Storytelling: A Safe Space for Creative Expression, details the process, facilitation, and ethics of those StoryCenter methods that contribute to the establishment of safe space for creative expression. By conducting an extensive literature review and interviews with digital storytelling facilitators and participants, I was able to confirm that digital storytelling does in fact provide a unique safe space for adults with different creative confidence levels. This concept is perhaps best demonstrated by a digital storytelling participant I interviewed, who said, “We were all totally different, coming from totally different areas, taking the workshop for completely different reasons, and yet we were all able to still really feel safe to write a story about something that mattered.”

To explain the nuances of why digital storytelling can create a special safe space, I compiled the results of my research into a best practices framework.

My “Safe Space for Creative Expression” framework follows the model of StoryCenter’s Digital Storyteller’s Bill of Rights by presenting twelve best practices or promises that a practitioner commits to, in order to facilitate safe space for creative expression. The design of the framework is significant. Ethics, facilitation, and process are at the center, to show how they build on each other. The topics most mentioned during the interviews are placed on the four corners, as foundational practices. While all the practices are integral to establishing a safe space, what stands out for me is agency. Agency is the feeling of being in control of your actions or having authority over your decisions. Digital storytelling heightens agency, because it enables people to tell their stories in their own words.

I remember StoryCenter founder Joe Lambert stating that if a workshop participant tells him, “I couldn’t have done it without you,” he feels like he let that person down. This is because true creative confidence comes when people gain agency over their creative decisions and feel like they are expressing an authentic voice.

Always remember that in expressing your voice, you are expressing your creativity – as StoryCenter facilitator Andrea Spagat said when I interviewed her for my research, “Your voice is your creativity.” All it takes to be creative is finding new ways to tell your story. Now let’s work together to build spaces where every voice feels safe to speak out.


Works cited:

Robinson, K. Out of our minds: Learning to be creative. Oxford: Capstone, 2011


You can read Evelyn Thorne’s full research project at the University of Oregon Scholar’s Bank, or you can attend the 6th International Digital Storytelling Conference, where she will present the best practices framework in more detail! Feel free to email Evelyn at evelynthorne88@gmail.com for questions and comments.

 

 

Like Roosters - History and Hope at Stonebridge Farm

Like Roosters - History and Hope at Stonebridge Farm

“I do not propose to write an ode to dejection, but to brag as lustily as chanticleer in the morning, standing on his roost, if only to wake my neighbors up.”                      
--Thoreau, Walden

On a trip to Cuba a decade ago to research sustainable agriculture, I arrived too late at the guest hostel in the southern, rural part of the island to see much of the hills surrounding us with palm trees in a small valley. I got my chance early the next morning when I was awoken by not one, not two, but what sounded like hundreds of roosters crowing all around me. I dressed quickly and went outside to find that roosters roamed freely in this village, strutting as lustily as Thoreau’s chanticleer. Roosters are undoubtedly more intent on alerting other roosters to their territory than on signaling transformation, but in El Valle del Gallo, as I called this place, I witnessed the power of roosters crowing in unintentional symphony at the dawn of another day.

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StoryCenter and Marie Stopes International: Stories of Sexual Health from Ghana

Editor’s Note: Leonard Gobah is the Manager of the Marie Stopes International Ghana project “No Yawa” (no problem, or no mistake). A partnership with DKT International and the Grameen Foundation, with funding from the Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands, No Yawa provides accurate, non-judgmental information about sexual and reproductive health to young Ghanaians. 


YOUNG PEOPLE IN GHANA SHARE STORIES OF SEXUAL HEALTH
By Leonard Gobah, Marie Stopes International

In June 2014, the Marie Stopes International Ghana No Yawa project collaborated with the Center for Digital Storytelling’s Silence Speaks program to organize the first-ever digital storytelling workshop in Ghana. The workshop brought nine young people from regions around the country together to share stories about their sexual and reproductive health. 

Stories created during the five-day workshop were recorded in seven different local languages- a record number of different languages in a single workshop, in the 21-year history of the Center for Digital Storytelling. The young people who participated told personal stories of surviving and thriving in the aftermath of economic hardship, difficult relationships, teenage pregnancy, sexual assault, and sexually transmitted infections. Their powerful stories took shape as short films. The stories offer youth-friendly information, open up sensitive topics, and illustrate the need for improvements in adolescent sexual health services.

For many of the participants, the workshop represented the first time they had ever held a camera. After the group shared their stories, one participant, a No Yawa peer educator, said that even though she was sad to hear what others had spoken of, she was also moved to action. Another said “I am so humbled by all these stories. I always thought I went through the most terrible experience as a young boy until I heard others speak during the workshop. I feel so relieved after sharing my story, and I am happy I have shared it to help other young people.” 

As the Project Manager for No Yawa, I know that the stories created in this workshop will be of immense benefit for our program. The fact that they are told by youth means that the other young people who watch them are more likely to listen, learn, and make good decisions about their own sexual health. Adolescents need to feel comfortable accessing sexual and reproductive health information and services, including family planning services. For too long, family planning has been seen as only for married couples; this must change, and the services must be made appropriate and welcoming, for youth.

At Marie Stopes International Ghana, we plan to use the stories created in the workshop as education and advocacy tools. We will be sharing them with Marie Stopes International Directors across the world, and with state health and justice agencies, legislators, and through local media here in Ghana. Most importantly, the storytellers who created the videos will show them within their schools and communities, as part of their peer education efforts.  

Sexual Assault Assault Awareness Month: "Papo"

April is Sexual Assault Awareness month.  StoryCenter is currently recognizing the importance of speaking out about rape and abuse by sharing new and archived pieces from our blog.  Today, at the conclusion of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, a story about resilience in the wake of trauma.


This story was made in a workshop facilitated by the Center for Digital Storytelling in collaboration with The Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month: "See That Woman Over There"

"Ruthie Jordan shares her survivor of sexual assault experience through this compelling short film. She continues to stand for justice on a collective scale for all women – especially for Jini Barnum, a woman who is no longer present to stand and see her own justice transpire. Often times Deaf women are not aware of their rights when such assault occurs. Ruthie has produced this film to ignite hope and inspire courage within her community to stop allowing power play coercion acts to occur and advocate for yourself – YOU are worth it!"

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Sexual Assault Awareness Month: Personal Stories and Policy Education in Nepal

April is Sexual Assault Awareness month.  StoryCenter is currently recognizing the importance of speaking out about rape and abuse by sharing new and archived pieces from our blog.  Today, we share a piece from our archives by Amy Hill, the director of StoryCenter's Silence Speaks program.


Linking Women’s Personal Stories of Abuse to Policy Education in Nepal

By Amy Hill, Silence Speaks Director

Editor’s note: since this piece was originally published on the WITNESS blog, the digital stories by Nepalese women have been screened in a variety of local community and training settings in Kathmandu and beyond, as part of our partner organization SAATHI Nepal’s efforts to protect women’s rights throughout the country.

From the moment I met Bandana Rana in 2008, I sensed that we would work together. She runs SAATHI Nepal, which has for nearly twenty years been challenging violence and injustice against women at all levels of Nepalese society. We talked about the importance of bringing stories told by survivors into human rights dialogues, about the power of visual media, about the possibilities for storytelling in Nepal. It took time, but three years later the vision became a reality, when I traveled this past October to Kathmandu to begin a SAATHI – Silence Speaks Digital Storytelling partnership on the Voices for Justice project.

Silence Speaks is a project of the non-profit Center for Digital Storytelling, offering workshops in which storytellers reveal and bear witness to personal tales of struggle and courage and are guided through participatory media production methods that result in short digital videos known as “digital stories.” The Voices for Justice project has supported Nepali women in sharing their personal experiences with gender-based violence in an effort to promote awareness and enforcement of the Nepalese Domestic Violence Act.

Nepal has one of the worst records of violence against women in the broader Asian region. According to a report prepared by the Nepal Department of Health Services, an estimated 81% of women in rural communities face recurring domestic violence at the hands of husbands and in-laws. Nepalese women and girls are vulnerable to both domestic and public violence, such as rape, sexual abuse in the workplace, and human trafficking. Although caste-based discrimination and the dowry system have recently been banned, these traditional practices which place women at risk of harm continue to be widespread throughout the country.

Political instability and a lengthy civil war overshadowed issues of gender-based violence for many years. Finally, in 2009, after a decade of advocacy by women’s rights groups, the national government passed legislation designed to protect Nepalese women impacted by domestic violence. While the Domestic Violence and Punishment Act represents an important step towards justice for Nepal’s women, absent effective public education strategies and concerted efforts to push for accountability in enforcement, it is unlikely to make much real difference in their day to day lives.

This is where we hope Voices for Justice can play an important role. With the goal of centralizing women’s first-person stories to raise community awareness about the new law and advocate for timely and effective response by police, legal officials, and health providers, I worked for five days with SAATHI staff and interpreters to support a small group of shelter residents in talking about their lives. We played games to get to know each other, took photos and video clips, and spent a tearful afternoon bearing witness to narratives that describe the unthinkable: the wife who was beaten almost daily, for ten years; the child bride whose in-laws poured kerosene on her and set her on fire; the young girl lured from the countryside to the capital city by the promise of education, only to be held as a sexual slave for months.

Given the stigma that surrounds gender-based violence in Nepal, SAATHI staff and I spent many hours prior to the workshop emailing back and forth about ways to protect the safety of the storytellers. We relied on the principles outlined in the Silence Speaks “Digital Storyteller’s Bill of Rights." All of the women were informed from the outset that their completed stories are likely to be screened in communities, at law enforcement and service provider trainings, and on radio and television, to give visibility to the new law. They were offered multiple opportunities to opt in or out of the workshop, as well as multiple opportunities to decide within and after the workshop whether or not to go public with their names and images. (Note: though final decisions have not yet been made, it’s likely that all of the women will remain anonymous in their stories.).

We also took great care to avoid re-traumatizing the women during the process. Some have only been in the shelter for a few months and continue to struggle with recurring memories and nightmares about what they lived through. I was grateful again and again for my own training and experience in working with survivors; for the presence of the peer translators, all young women with whom the storytellers bonded; for the support of the SAATHI staff who assisted; and for the courage of the storytellers.*

SAATHI eased the participating women into the process of sharing their stories by bringing them together for art-making sessions, prior to my arrival. They created detailed drawings of their abuse experiences, which will appear in the final digital stories. During the workshop, we created a sense of safety and protection and helped those participants who occasionally became lost in the past spiral out of their pain and back into the present moment of caring and attention. During the workshop debrief, almost all of the women expressed relief and gratitude for the opportunity to tell their stories in a nurturing, women-only environment.

Because the workshop coincided with Diwali, we ended with a candle-lighting ceremony that gave each of us the chance to express a hope for herself as well as a hope for women around the globe. Again there were tears and heartfelt wishes for an end to suffering. I expressed the hope that my daughter, who turned one in September, will grow up into a world where women can live safely and freely… and the hope that the stories shared in the workshop will lead to positive change.

An anonymous excerpt from one of the stories from the Voices for Justice project:

I got married at an early age without my parents’ consent. I thought that after marriage life would be good, but my dreams were shattered. After the wedding, I found out that my husband was not the person I had thought him to be...

He would beat me until I was unconscious, and when I woke up, he would say, “I thought you were dead, but you’re still alive.” I was not allowed to work (outside the home), or tell my story to anyone. I felt so alone...

Somehow my father knew what was going on. He asked me to come home, but I didn’t want to, because I had married by my own choice... I tolerated all this pain for ten years. My husband threatened to kill me, again and again. I was thrown down to the floor, I had scars and black and blue marks all over my body. My children used to be terrified. When my husband beat me, they would shout and cry...

Finally, for the sake of my children’s future, and for my own safety, I left my husband. I came to Kathmandu and stayed with my sister in law. She helped me find the shelter, and the stories of the other women consoled me. Now I’m being trained in housekeeping. I know that one day I will find a job and be able to take care of my children on my own.

View stories from other Silence Speaks projects.

*For more information about the Silence Speaks approach to addressing trauma, please contact Amy Hill at amylenita@storycenter.orgVoices for Justice is funded jointly by the Global Fund for Women and the Colorado Foundation for Women’s Beyond Our Borders Fund.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month: "Listening . . . And Telling," a story by Elizabeth Ross

In 2005 I was part of a group who produced stories about the impact of child sexual assault through The Center for Digital Storytelling’s Silence Speaks initiative. Initially after viewing the stories at the end of the workshop, I felt curiosity and surprise at the immediacy of impact: I felt proud, visible, and necessary – quite different from how I had walked into the Berkeley lab feeling on the first day. What has become clear was that this process of internal re-structuring has continued to this day. Making Listening and Telling was the beginning.

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Sexual Assault Awareness Month: Voices from Around the Table

April is Sexual Assault Awareness month.  StoryCenter is currently recognizing the importance of speaking out about rape and abuse by sharing new and archived pieces from our blog.  Today, we share a piece from our archives - a story that it took twenty years to share for the first time.


Editor’s Note: this piece was originally posted on Nov. 26, 2013, as part of a series about the global “16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence” campaign.

Voices from Around the Table: Reflections on Gender-Based Violence

It was a weeknight in March, too warm for the time of year. I wore a sweater anyway, because it was windy – wind always makes me feel nervous. I’d met him once before, at a dining hall. When I showed up at the party, he came right over. He was polite, and funny…he got me a beer, we danced…we talked around each other, like we weren’t sure. He kept re-filling my cup…and I kept drinking, like I often did, back then; it took some kind of edge off.

I don’t know when my friends left, or how I managed to walk to his dorm room. All I know is that when I woke up the next morning, in his bed, my dress and sweater were still on but the rest of my clothes weren’t. And I was in pain. I left while he was still asleep, we didn’t talk again. He graduated a couple of months later.

For so long I said nothing. I felt ashamed…responsible. I didn’t know what to call it. Then twenty years after it happened, I finally told a college friend. She reminded me that her ex-boyfriend had raped her, when we were sophomores. We shook our heads, wished both guys had been different. Then she said, “I’m sorry. I wish I had known, so I could’ve been there for you.” 


Silence Speaks is a project of the Center for Digital Storytelling that surfaces personal narratives of struggle, courage, and transformation and works to ensure that these stories play an instrumental role in promoting gender equality and human rights. We use participatory media, popular education, and testimonio practices to support the telling and witnessing of stories that all too often remain unspoken and unheard. With the permission of storytellers and project partners, stories are shared in local communities and globally through broadcast or social media outlets, as strategic tools for training, grassroots organizing, and policy advocacy to promote dignity and justice. To learn more about Silence Speaks, view stories, and read about projects, please visit silencespeaks.org and "like" Silence Speaks on Facebook.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month - "Staci's Story"

"My story is not something I try to forget.  It would be especially hard because I have written many papers and spoken at many different events about my story. That is why I was so excited to have another opportunity to share it - because spreading awareness of the issue is a passion of mine. When creating my digital story about my incident with sexual assault, I didn’t realize how many details from that night I had tried to block out of my mind. The process brought flashback after flashback from that night. I do have to say that even though the process was a difficult for me emotionally, I definitely enjoyed the process. Seeing a finished product of me telling my story in a way I never had before was somewhat relieving. Now I can continue my healing process knowing that other people can now truly understand what that night was like from my perspective, and how the small details can make such a huge impact on a survivor’s life."

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Sexual Assault Awareness Month: It's On Us, It's In Us

Sexual Assault Awareness Month: It's On Us, It's In Us

It's On Us, It's In Us

By Sally J. Laskey, National Sexual Violence Resource Center

My story closely mirrors the story of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM).  They are both about activism.  I was raised by activists and teachers. Some people (like my mother) would say that I have always had an agenda.  SAAM definitely has an agenda to prevent sexual violence. Working at the National Sexual Violence Resource, I am inspired by the activist stories I hear every day, but many people still feel very alone in thiseir work. Digital storytelling is a vehicle for sexual assault prevention activists to capture their histories and build new futures.

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Sexual Assault Awareness Month: Fighting Violence through Story

I’ve had a love for storytelling for as long as I can remember. I grew up in a home filled with books, and with grandparents and parents who enthralled me with their stories throughout my childhood. My interest in stories brought me to university, where I first majored in literature. The more I read, and the more I learned, the more I became interested in how stories could be used to facilitate dialogue between people. How personal experiences could be communicated through stories; whether they were created and revealed through literature, photography, films, or paintings. How these personal narratives reverberated in reality, and in fact constituted reality.

So when I started studying human rights last year, I was already interested in exploring how the arts could be used in the service of rights promotion. I was particularly keen to explore how survivors of human rights abuses could voice their opinions and influence policies that directly concerned them. With an interest in women’s rights, I decided in my dissertation to take a closer look at how personal narratives can be used as policy advocacy tools to combat violence against women (VAW), with a particular focus on domestic violence and sexual assault.

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The Importance of Production: Beyond Community Practice and Process

The Importance of Production: Beyond Community Practice and Process

I think a lot about digital storytelling. That’s a given, since I work for the Center for Digital Storytelling (StoryCenter) and facilitate digital storytelling workshops. I probably ponder too much. Just ask my family and friends. I know my colleagues at StoryCenter and practitioners around the globe would agree; we’re always on about storytelling, constantly trying to provide the best workshop experience possible.

Lately my obsession has expanded from the practice and process of digital storytelling – why we make them and how they’re facilitated, to the form and function of digital stories – what they are (or can be) and how they work. It’s been refreshing and even imaginative to consider the ‘production’ of a digital story rather than merely what the story is about.

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The Real Family Project: Celebrating Birthdays, Finding Community

Last week, I had a beautiful birthday.  I will admit that it was mostly due to Joe and  his beautiful community.  It is always weird to be the one entering a completely  new world.  Joe, in his letter about my birthday, mentioned the importance of that date for us.  It is the moment that this story really began.

For me, birthdays have always been troubling.  It is not because I am growing a year older.  I am oddly at peace with my age, and I probably should be after it has been made public through this project everywhere.  For an adoptee, a birthday is a memory of loss.  It is the one day a year that you remember completely and without question that you once belonged to someone else.

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The Real Family Project: Being Thankful for Birthdays

The Real Family Project: Being Thankful for Birthdays

Every time I'm on Facebook I notice who is having a birthday.  Social media is mainly distracting, but that little convenience, being reminded about a friend's birthday, somehow balances out the distractions.  It feels great to say Happy Birthday to someone every day of the year.

I believe all lives deserve a shout out, at least once a year, if not 365, by a large number of people, who simply say, it is great you exist.

Tatiana turns 42 on Wednesday, November 26.  In 1972, that date was on a Sunday.  I imagine myself that weekend in 1972, aware that the birth mother was preparing to have a child, perhaps she had gone into labor the day before.  I had asked to be there, but perhaps the home where Tatiana was born was not so keen on the idea of the birth dad's being present, or perhaps it was decided by our parents it was not the best.  I know I never saw Tatiana at birth.  I wonder what that would have been like.

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