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Storytelling empowers young people

What is it about stories/storytelling that stirs such a passionate response?
Storytelling is fundamental to being human. It’s the main way we understand the world, and make sense of ourselves within it. All great change has come because someone had a vision of a new world, then told a story about this that allowed others to see this new, better world too. We all have stories about ourselves and our place in the world. In some ways, what we’re doing at the SSF is helping kids to create those stories themselves, instead of being stuck in other people’s stories about who they are and who they might be. Being caught in other people’s stories about who you are can be horribly limiting.

What are the projects and publications you are most proud to have been associated with?
I’m super proud of all the stories our students have written, but I have a soft spot for Home, our community writing project about Redfern/Waterloo. I think of it as a patchwork quilt of memories of the area, from newcomers to people who’ve lived here for decades. It features people from all walks of life, and a wide variety of cultures. Redfern has always been a wonderful melting pot and the book shows that, I think. We feel very lucky to be part of this diverse community.

In 2016, we’re embarking on State of Mind, a writing project that will take us across the state, documenting the diversity of teenage experience. We’ll be running workshops in local schools, and more in Western Sydney and regional NSW. We’re really excited about it, and hugely looking forward to hearing how different life is for, say, someone on a farm in Bourke, or working at the IGA in Fairfield, or in the selective stream at Alexandria Park Community School.

Are you looking for new volunteers? Can anyone get involved?
We always need volunteers! We have a lot but it can be hard to get 10 people who are available on, say, a Tuesday morning. Most of our classes are during or just after school hours. You don’t need any special skills to volunteer: you just need to be literate, and like being around kids. We have an amazing team of storytellers who lead the workshops, and they break down the writing process into small, easy chunks. The volunteer’s job is just to support the students as they do each individual task: to ask questions, and encourage them. It’s not about correcting grammar and spelling (that comes later, as part of the editing process). It’s about being interested in the ideas the child has, and helping to extend them. It’s also heaps of fun! We would particularly welcome more Indigenous volunteers.

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