University of Lynchburg will celebrate the stories of its students, faculty, and staff with Dear World, a live storytelling show and photo shoot on November 8 and 9.
Dear World uses stories to promote discussion and understanding across a diverse population. The Lynchburg event is designed to help bring students together.
“It’s all about creating intentional dialogue and encouraging people to interact with each other,” said Director of Residence Life Kristen Cooper, who led efforts to bring Dear World to Lynchburg. “It allows people to engage in conversation and connect using stories about pivotal moments in their lives.”
Dear World will provide several storytelling workshops and photo sessions: two for faculty and staff on Wednesday, November 8. Portraits from these sessions will be shared on social media that night to help invite students to their sessions on Thursday, November 9.
The storytelling workshops and portrait sessions for students will be held at 9:45 a.m., 11:15 a.m., and 12:45 p.m. in the West Room of the Drysdale Student Center. Students: sign up here.
These workshops will allow hundreds of students, faculty, and staff members to explore their personal stories and learn how they can share their stories to create empathy and understanding. Participants will write keywords from their stories on their skin for a portrait designed to help them share their stories.
The event culminates with a storytelling showcase at 8 p.m. Thursday, November 9, in Turner Gymnasium. During the show, a few members of the community, coached in storytelling techniques by the Dear World staff, will share their stories. During an after party, additional members of the community can have their photos taken.
Lynchburg invited Dear World to campus to help students and other community members understand one another’s life experiences. That mutual understanding allows people to understand their differences but also recognize what they have in common.
“Everybody has a story,” said Cooper. “I’ve had some conversations where someone says they don’t have a story. But there’s got to be something about you, some moment in your life that makes you tick or makes you see people the way you do.
“It shows that everybody is different. Everybody has had struggles. Everybody has had these moments in their lives.”
She believes the event will help people break down barriers between themselves and people they consider different.
Dear World is an award-winning, interactive storytelling and portrait project. It was founded as a project to boost morale in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina; Dear World’s creators asked people to write love notes to New Orleans on their skin and have their portraits taken. When a man chose to write the message “Cancer Free” on his chest, the organizers realized that this could be a powerful way to help people tell their stories.
“Dear World has taken over 50,000 portraits from around the world and we found that these portraits often became the first line in a story that brings us closer together,” says the organization’s website.
Learn more about Dear World and its college tour at https://projects.dearworld.me/collegetour