Why Tell Personal Stories?

By June 15, 2016 Features No Comments

Our Erasmus+ project Aladdin & his Intergenerational Lamp seeks to provide older people with the tools to pass on skills and experience to younger people. Older and newly-retired people will be trained to use storytelling to share knowledge and engage younger people in learning, whilst also encouraging a sense of belongingness and sharing of cultural differences. Intergenerational connection is hoped to promote greater understanding, acceptance and appreciation of each other whilst enhancing skills, employability and aspiration particularly in those that have low levels of language, lack education, and live with other barriers to inclusion such as migrants and ethnic minority community members.

To illustrate the power of story sharing, our resident Storyteller Stu Packer shares a personal story:

As I work and walk the world of Storytelling I always hear people say that Storytelling is making a comeback. Did it ever go? One question to ponder on!

What is this Storytelling thing anyway? For me, it conjures up imagery of someone who is getting on in years, dressed in some flamboyant costume, who regales his/her eager audience with tales of old. This was the imagery I had before I snapped up the title of Storyteller.

How times have changed and how imagery can be shaped and bended, as in our dreams.

When I was around ten years old I actually sat down with my parents and watched The News. It was boring before then. One story intrigued me. Some people, somewhere in the world were having a terrible time. Some perished and some made it. I didn’t know these people and yet I felt their suffering. News stories! Factual blurting of something far far away.

The people were called Vietnamese Boat People. They were desperately forging their way across dangerous seas. The story captivated me. I had been reading books about boys’ adventures. It seems that these people were actually living these adventures! I heard that some sank without trace, some were picked up by non-well-meaning people, some were even eaten alive by sharks. The paradox of a ten year old; this was high adventure, death defying leaps of faith; this was also the demise of many many people. Some, made it.

Today, I know a nearly ten year old boy. He is loving the adventures of life; both outside in the open countryside and woods, and the adventures that he finds in his books. He is carefree, save for wondering about the people he sees on Children’s TV News; yes, the refugees. He asks me what I think of all these people fleeing war torn places. I tell him the stories that others have told me. I tell him the story of a Vietnamese Boat Person. The story of a seven year old girl who sailed in a rickety boat that her carpenter father had built; of how, when she needed the toilet, she had to crawl along a plank of wood over the sea (over the sharks!) and sit on a hole at the end of the plank. Her family made it to Hong Kong where they lived in a refugee camp for a year. Her father got them a television because he spoke Cantonese too. Then, one day, after putting a lucky pin in a map, they flew to Scotland to live. It was cold, so very cold. The little girl welcomed her siblings there. Second generation refugees.

After learning English to integrate with her peers, the family made the move to the big city. This girl, now nearly a woman, gained a Degree in English (she’d never spoken English up to the age of eight). She strived and looked after her parents and siblings, a modern day unthanked heroine. This girl became the nearly ten year old boy’s mother. He is the son of a refugee. A second generation refugee. He is just a happy little boy, loving the adventures of life. His mother became my wife. The boy is my son. I am the father of the son of a Vietnamese Boat Person. I see how life can be like the waves; they may take you or they may deliver you. Somewhere back in the news of the 1970s, Finn’s mother and her parents were delivered safely. They had made it.

Why tell Personal Stories? That’s not for me to say. By telling yours, you will know the answers.

http://uk.aladdinproject.eu/                           stu@superact.org.uk