Telling Our Stories

24 Feb

By: Adam Rubin and Kaitlin Rogers

While we were supposed to post Meghann’s Strategic Planning follow-up  piece yesterday, it isn’t quite ready yet. Life in Tanzania moves at its own pace, and that pace is slooooow and unpredictable and requires patience! Not to worry, that post is coming, and it’s going to be an interesting one, as the team has devoted many, many hours to strategic planning workshops this month.

Today, however, I have something for you that is also very interesting and important. Last month we published Sophia’s narrative and then followed that with this post addressing the importance of honesty. We plan to post more student narratives here over the next few months, but first we would like to back up and explain the writing process that the students went through to produce their narratives.

Adam Rubin, TFFT’s Full Circle Program Director, explains:

I chose this project because I wanted to do something that could allow the students to open up, both to themselves and to one another. I had noticed emotional barriers for a number of our girls in class 4-6 (all of the 4-6 Full Circle participants class were girls). I thought there could be a link between emotional issues that are kids haven’t yet overcome and academic struggles and that the opportunity to share their stories could be therapeutic.

Of course, in doing so, Adam needed to be sensitive to the kids’ traumatic pasts. He had earned the kids’ respect and trust over the months he spent working with them, but as a young, white, American male, he wanted to make sure the girls felt as comfortable as possible being interviewed on some very personal topics.

Adam, Sam, and the girls

Adam, therefore, explains that,

asking the Secondary Students to help me with the project was a clear choice. They viewed it as an opportunity to be role models to their younger brothers and sisters (we even had Ombeni interview little sister Julieth!). Some of the students cried, while others kept a straight face, and others smiled. Some opened up completely and told the truth, while others invented stories of their childhood in what appeared to be either a defense mechanism to avoid a painful past or a recollection of the story that was told to them by family. The entire interview was conducted in Swahili and the answers were also written in Swahili by our Secondary Students. The process took one Full Circle class period, and Fratern (who helped and interviewed Witness Yonah) and guest teacher, Sam Satock, joined me. Sam helped explain the process to our students and answered questions about the interview along the way. Then, Uswege helped to translate all of the stories from Swahili to English. Finally, Anne Rhett photographed the girls, and I combined the stories and photos together into what is now a short collection of their narratives.

Ombeni interviews his little sister, Julieth

As we continue posting the narratives, you will notice that they follow a similar structure. This is because the students all answered the same questions before composing the narratives:

1)     Please describe yourself. How old are you and which class are you in? What is your favorite subject in school? What do you like to do (play, sing, dance, draw, write, study, read, etc.)?   Who are your best friends? What do you love most about yourself (self-esteem)? Please describe your traits (i.e. beautiful, smart, funny, caring, nice) and your skills (i.e. writing, singing, dancing, cooking, drawing). What kind of person are you? What are your best qualities?

2)     Please describe your childhood. Where did you come from? Are your parents still living or deceased? Did you know your parents? What happened to them? What about your brothers and sisters? What was life like growing up? Who took care of you? When you were very young, what were your goals and dreams? Did you think you could achieve your goals and dreams when you were very young? If yes, why? If no, why not?

3)     What was the saddest moment in your life? Please explain what happened and how you felt. At that time, what did you think your future was going to be like? Did you have hope that things were going to improve? Where did you get your hope and inspiration from?

4)     When did you join The Foundation for Tomorrow? Did you stay in an orphanage? If so, which one? How has TFFT changed your life? What has TFFT given you? Please explain the happiest moment in your life. Please explain what happened and how you felt.  How will you use your education? Now, what are your goals and dreams? Do you think you can achieve them?

Thank you, Adam, for thoughtfully designing and facilitating this writing process. We hope to expand on this project this summer using the Literacy Through Photography approach—more on that to come! Meghann will also share the outcome of the meeting she had today in Moshi with the POFO (Positive Outcomes For Orphans) research team, a subset of the Duke Global Health Institute. I can’t wait to hear what TFFT’s team learned about POFO’s work with cognitive behavioral therapy research and intervention for orphans in Tanzania.

Have a wonderful weekend!


One Response to “Telling Our Stories”


  1. Meet Rosemary « TFFT's Blog - March 8, 2012

    […] In honor of National Women’s Day we would like to celebrate all the young women in our Scholarship Program who inspire us every day. In doing so, we’re pleased to introduce to you to Rosemary, one of the students who worked with Adam on the Narrative Project. […]

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