Personal Connection & the Power of Storytelling
When I think about what moves me to action, I think an individual’s story is often the thing which grabs my attention most. While numbers and statistics help me assess situations, highlighting the story of single person often has the most profound impact on my emotions. As such, it was from stories that I came to understand just what the Millennium Development Goals (MDG's) were trying to accomplish.
I first learned about the MDG’s while I was in high school. At the time, I knew I wanted to work on my share of “saving the world,” but I had not visited a developing country, and poverty was a concept I couldn’t really place in my own world. In the middle of my senior year of high school, however, I had the chance to attend Intervarsity Christian Fellowship’s Urbana conference. It was there that I was introduced to World Vision, and their advocacy network now called World Vision ACT:S.
Amidst a conference room of hundreds of exhibitors, I was drawn to an interactive walk-through display about HIV/AIDS in Africa. World Vision’s tent was set up so that you took on the identity of an individual, who narrated your walk through the exhibit through a recorded headset. I took on the persona of a young girl, Josephine, and set off through the display of sets made to create the world of a Zambian village. After learning about how Josephine’s parents had been taken by AIDS and how she was left alone, the most memorable moment was when I approached the clinic to learn if my character had contracted HIV from her mother. While Josephine was lucky and was born HIV-free, I watched as another women listening on her headset walked up to the clinician and received the bad news that her character was HIV positive.
While this was only a dramatization, the woman began crying as her hand was stamped with a red plus sign to indicate that she was positive. As part of my narration, I was encouraged to help her walk out of the clinic, and to provide support as she came to terms with the diagnosis. It was a very powerful experience for all who entered, and I left with energy to work on saving lives from preventable disease.
This experience stuck with me throughout my work in college and now as a Faiths Act Fellow. I am still drawn to these personal stories of real people whose lives are impacted everyday by the threat of preventable diseases. As we work on telling the story of Faiths Act, I have the work of World Vision ACT:S to serve as an example of what meaningful storytelling from a faith perspective and personalized experience has to offer.
I am reminded that the children who die each day from malaria, all have names, a haunting reality that seems to make our work on the Millennium Development Goals all the more relevant. When we consider the individual lives saved from MDG programs, it definitely renews in me the desire to creatively work towards ending malaria.
Carolyn Worthge, Faiths Act Fellow