In what made for an educational experience, Independence Care System (ICS) members attended a workshop hosted by The Moth and Center for Independence of the Disabled, NY (CIDNY), where they learned about the art of storytelling and how to effectively communicate their personal stories.

A non-profit organization launched in 1997, The Moth’s mission is to promote the art and craft of storytelling and to honor and celebrate the diversity and commonality of human experience. During the online workshop, “Learn to Tell Your Story Effectively,” Moth facilitators focused on effective storytelling principles, brainstorming techniques, and how to draft and polish a story. Participants worked in pairs to identify principles in a sample story and practice a mini story.

Moth discusses effective storytelling

At the start of the workshop, Moth facilitators outlined several important guidelines, including the importance of active listening and confidentiality. They encouraged participants to select experiences they could speak about with ease and comfort.

Additionally, facilitators discussed the elements of a compelling story. They touched on change (how a person is before and after an event); stakes (what one has to win or lose); themes (the meaning behind stories); and scene versus summary (the importance of vivid imagery to convey dialogue, action, thoughts and feelings).

After introducing themselves, participants engaged in activities such as providing sentences about what they love doing, visualizing their favorite room or space, picking an object in that space and describing it and how they relate to it emotionally.

“Everything was done in baby steps, which was good,” said ICS member and Independent Living Program Manager Sharifa Abu-Hamda. “We learned to brainstorm. We wrote and organized different sentences to put together stories.”

Sharing stories during break out pairs 

To allow participants to hone their speaking and storytelling skills, they were put in breakout pairs, sharing stories of a change in their lives privately with their partners that they could later present to the whole group.

Sharifa was paired with ICS member and Independent Living Associate Franklin DePaula, who said that the experience helped him to be less shy and more outgoing, and to be a calmer, more confident speaker.

“I feel I can work better with members, and explain their history and their situations to others, while articulating myself better,” Franklin said. “The more I speak, the more comfortable I get.”

Storytelling event well received 

Participants described the event as educational and rewarding, and said they were grateful for a resource that allowed them to become more confident in speaking about their personal stories, whether regarding their disabilities, or other struggles and successes in life.

“I have to learn to be comfortable with speaking to people,” said Sharifa, who noted that the workshop allowed her to learn to take notes and gather information better, a skill she will apply to her job when assisting people with disabilities and helping them meet their needs. “This was beneficial for me.”

ICS member Iffat Mahmud described the workshop as collaborative and engaging, and a valuable learning opportunity.

“There was a great sharing of ideas. Everyone took stock in what others had to say,” Iffat said. “It was about storytelling and gaining support and positive feedback.”

Advocating for disability rights through storytelling 

ICS member and Intake Coordinator Edwin Ramirez said the event was important and enlightening and provided people with disabilities tools and resources to be better speakers and share their personal stories with the world.

“I enjoyed being able to tell my story and then also being able to hear others,” Edwin said. “People with disabilities need to embrace opportunities like this because it allows them to break free and let their stories be heard.”

ICS member Stephanie Wallace (pictured above) echoed those sentiments, and said that the event served as a roadmap for her and others to craft, strengthen and share their stories to effect change and advocate for disability rights in the community.

“When you speak, you are nervous. This helped me to feel like I’m not freestyling,” Stephanie said. “Sometimes, you don’t know you have a story. I can take a slice of my life, put it together and share it in feelings and words. That can be effective. This will help us to advocate for ourselves with our words, our stories, without fear.”

For more information on virtual programming at The Moth, storytelling tips, and to listen to great personal stories, visit their website here.