During and after my trip, I saw many instances of how storytelling can be used to help change the world for the better.
The volunteer group I was with wrote daily recaps to record stories and document our time in the village. It is something that will be looked at for years to come and it will have an impact on future volunteer projects in the village. These powerful and human stories help connect the needs of the community with skills volunteers have around the world—so what’s stopping brands from getting involved?
My volunteer efforts centered on teaching English and math at the primary school. After every day of class, I gave my students homework that we reviewed the next day. It saddened me to hear that the students had to finish their homework before leaving school, since only a small handful had light at home after nightfall. Having access to lights would make a huge impact on their education.
Telling stories like this could inspire people to action. What is stopping Home Depot from donating solar-paneled lights and telling the story of helping these children in need? The children also loved to play volleyball, but balls and air pumps were in short supply. Where are the companies that are ready to fill these needs and reach an audience on an emotional level through stories? Brands can look for ways to help but also show up in unexpected areas that surprise and delight their customers.
Since returning home, I was told of a remarkable short film created by Fixodent, of Procter & Gamble. The film, titled “Saving Aslan,” details a six-hour dental operation in South Africa where a lion’s bite was replaced. In the beginning of the video, the storytellers note that “A lion without his bite is not really a lion.”
Stories unite us and they help change the world. There are several things I won’t miss about that small African village, but there’s plenty I will. I’m going to miss a world not completely distracted by smartphones and technology; the children who came to school respectful and eager to hear stories from the other side of the world; the happiness, support, and sense of belonging that only a small community can provide; and the laughter, stories, and sincere kindness from people who were strangers but who I now call friends.
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