Thursday, September 8, 2011

Storytelling As A Tool For Peace

Story Swap is proof positive that the stories we tell can have far reaching benefits; that our stories make us who we are and help us understand those who we think are strangers.

Story Swap has been around for just a few short years but already it has impacted hundreds--if not thousands--of young lives.

With Story Swap young people from different communities are brought together to share their stories, swapping snippets of their lives. In this way they learn about themselves and someone else.

For as long as we have had the ability to communicate humans have been sharing their stories. We share to enrich our own lives and the lives of those around us. We share stories so we can open our soul to another. It builds trust and understanding between tribes, communities and individuals.

Story Swap has had success student survivors of natural disasters in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and New Orleans, Louisiana, following the Haitian earthquake of 2010. Dozens of communities, hundreds of students have been helped. Now the program is reaching across the Atlantic to the Arab and Jewish communities of Israel.

Here's a piece of the press release:

Arab and Jewish high school students of Israel -- from two communities that are minutes apart but rarely interact -- will come together for the first time this month to engage in Story Swap International (SSI), a ground-breaking program that employs the art of storytelling to build bridges of understanding. The collaborative project, founded by the Aspen Writers' Foundation (AWF) and expanded to an international level in partnership with Global Nomads Group (GNG), will take place September 19-23 in one of the most controversial regions of the globe. "Nowhere else does a program like Story Swap hold the potential, not to end the conflict, but rather to build a dynamic that might allow a resolution to survive," said Mickey Bergman, SSI advisor and director of Middle East Programs at the Aspen Institute.

"Story Swap is powerful precisely because it harnesses storytelling -- the most accessible and universal of all human activities -- to open the doors of communication that might otherwise be closed," said Lisa Consiglio, executive director of the AWF. "It works because when listening to stories, we suspend argument, engage our imagination, and, walking in the shoes of another, build compassion."

The 24 participants of SSI's inaugural Middle East Swap, selected from an Israeli Jewish high school in Haifa and an Israeli Arab high school in Nazareth, will be paired together for a five-day creativity exchange that is part of a two-year storytelling initiative in the region by the AWF and GNG. Over the next couple of weeks, the students will begin preparing for individual exchanges with their partners by taking classes in storytelling, creative writing, active listening, and media skills (such as interactive videoconferencing and digital storytelling). The Swap week will culminate with face-to-face exchanges between partners on September 23 that will provide the groundwork for future community outreach, including digital storytelling presentations by students to their communities in November.

Click here to read the entire press release.

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