Building Community Through Storytelling

This is a guest post by CYH volunteer, Elaiza Datar.

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Every first Friday of the month volunteers with CYH’s Youth and Gender Media Project gather over delicious home-made crock pot meals and baked goodies for two hours of discussion, laughter, and creativity. I find that every meeting I walk away with a new understanding of our society and learn something new about myself in the process. This month’s gathering was no exception to this enlightenment.

This month was led by a fellow Youth and Gender Media Project volunteer, Lau Mehes, who facilitated a custom designed workshop on intersectionality, based on her work with the Ending Violence Association, YouthCo, UBC Sexual Assault Support Centre, and many more amazing community organizations!

We began by speaking about stories and the power they have compared to facts or statistics. Then we broke into groups and brainstormed the definition of and ideas surrounding intersectionality. Given our different backgrounds and levels of education, I feel the definitions we came up with were more comprehendible and encompassing than what I was taught in any of my rigid university classes. Armed with a plethora of art supplies, our next task was to think of a defining story in our lives and create a visual to accompany the story.

With a rainbow of glitter, pipe cleaners, markers, chalk, stickers, and poster paper flying across our oval table, the result was combustion of colorful and creative visuals for the personal stories each individual was generous enough to share with the group.

This was the most powerful part of the workshop for me on so many levels. It was fascinating seeing how individuals built from such diverse experiences and backgrounds are so much more than appearances suggests. I was reminded of how deep and complex human identity is and how these complexities affect the lives we live, the opportunities we do or don’t have. In one way or another we all interact with systems of oppression no matter what race, gender, class, ability, etc. I feel that I got to know these individuals who I have grown to admire over the past few months on a much more personal level which reaffirmed my personal belief that there is beauty in everyone no matter whom you are or where you come from. Also, I felt very hopeful for society and our future because I knew that in one way or another, each of the intelligent, strong, and inspiring individuals in that room were going to touch someone’s life and make a positive impact in this world, even more so than they already are!

We ended the workshop with each person sharing one word and one color to describe their feeling. My word: moved. Not only by the courage everyone had to share stories and feelings personal to them, but also by the power stories have to evoke the soul and open the mind to horizons never realized. My color: sunset orange, because as the day came to an end with the sun descending to the gentle curve of the earth – it was a reminder that humanity is united through our stories of struggle and compassion.

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Elaiza hails from the tropical islands of the Philippines. Since completing her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science this year, she has been volunteering for local organizations, gardening organic herbs and vegetables, cooking nutritious vegetarian dishes, traveling to fascinating lands, rock-climbing vertical wonders, reading a plethora of books, and more or less living each day in pursuit of passion!

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