VIDEO: Empowering our African staff to be storytellers

Uganda, September 3, 2010

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Wednesday was the last day of our writing and photography workshop in Kitgum, Uganda — and it was the day that we learned the most from each other.

Throughout the course of the day, which wound from early morning well into the night, we edited and presented the stories and photographs we'd collected in villages on Tuesday. As an editor, it was a tremendous but wonderfully welcomed challenged: I went over stories with all 22 participants, sometimes more than once. It was an opportunity to give them advice on their craft and learn about their process. The pieces they wrote were astoundingly original, with clear and unique narrative voices. Most of the participants took chances with the framing, focus and structure of their stories, which was amazing to see.

In the late afternoon, each participant stood in front of the whole group and read his or her story aloud, then we projected a slideshow of their best photographs. I loved watching the expressions on the faces of their colleagues (now friends) as they told their tales and revealed their images. There was such pride and support in that room.

On Thursday morning, it was time to leave Kitgum and head back down to Kampala — and, from there, back to their 10 home countries. I am now on Ethiopia on another field assignment. I know that this is only the beginning of the work I'll be doing with each of these 22 talented writers and photographers. I feel very fortunate to have taught and learned from them.

We will be presenting all of their stories and a selection of their photographs here on the website soon! In the meantime, here's a short video to further introduce you to just a few of these newly-empowered storytellers: