Announcing The Facing Project

(UPDATED: 4/16/13)

The mission of The Facing Project is to help communities tell their own stories.

If you believe in the power of stories, please like The Facing Project fan page.

I believe that each of us needs to put that thing we’re best at, that drives us, that makes us feel alive, that fuels our passions, to the use for our local and global communities. For me this is taking complex issues like sweatshops, the global food system, and poverty and telling the stories of individual people. Suddenly all the stats and bootstraps that we argued about disappear and we are left with the story of an individual who faces the challenges of that issue.

I believe one of the biggest successes of WHERE AM I WEARING? is its ability to start a dialogue with everyone from anti-sweatshop activists to globally recognized apparel brands.

In the new edition of WEARING I find the first garment worker I met in Honduras now living in California. I tell the story of his life-risking journey through Mexico riding on top of trains over mountain passes and dodging Mexican police and local bandits. Amilcar crossed illegally into the United States and started a new life to support his family, including three children back in Honduras. The story is about immigration, but not about politics. The story is Amilcar’s. Even Lou Dobbs could read the story and relate to it.

I had been thinking about a community-based writing project for a while and ran some ideas by Molly Flodder at TEAMwork for Quality Living in Muncie. Molly thought the project was a great fit for Muncie’s Poverty Week.

Working with 17 local not-for-profits, we matched up 21 writers with 21 people facing poverty – either living in poverty, or helping those living in poverty. The individuals facing poverty told their stories to the writers who wrote the stories in the first person to maintain the anonymity of the subject, but also to more intimately capture the subject’s voice. The stories were published in a book shared at Poverty Week and performed as monologues at events at The Muncie Civic Theater and at Ball State University’s Theatre department.

Hundreds of people in the Muncie community came together Facing Poverty.

One of the writers involved in the project was J.R. Jamison. J.R. works for Indiana Campus Compact and wrote the Service Learning section in the Appendix of the new edition of WEARING. J.R. and I discussed what it would take to get other communities to roll out similar projects and how we could help them.

Here’s the gist of the project:

Communities would organize and enlist a team of writers to be paired one-on-one with citizens who are facing life circumstances that deserve to be shared to better educate the broader community, and bring awareness to issues we face in our communities each day. Together, the pairs will meet, get to know each other and share stories of triumph and tragedy, of loneliness and community, of hate and happiness, of deep depression and lofty goals. For some communities this might be poverty, for some domestic violence, for others bullying or some other issue.

Writers will use their talents to take on the voice and persona of their subjects and write as if they were them—in the first person—bringing to life a voice that has been silenced, while keeping the anonymity of the subjects. The stories would culminate with a book to be shared throughout the community, and acted out by local actors through community theatre—bringing a face to the voice. Through these awareness outlets, communities can begin to sit down together to face the next steps of discovering solutions to the problem.

We’ve completed a tool kit that helps communities do all of the above. So far five communities are Facing everything from homelessness, child poverty, and sex trafficking.  and looking to launch similar projects in 10 communities in the United States and beyond.  If you’re interested in launching a Facing Project email A Our site should be up soon, too.

Until then, you can like The Facing Project fan page, listen to Ft. Wayne’s Facing Homelessness featured on NPR, and  watch this video of poet Michael Brockley reading Hollywood’s poem featured in Muncie’s Facing Poverty Project.

Every community has a story. What’s yours?

Victoria Headrick says:

Can I ask how you got yourself to a place to travel and do all the great things you are doing? I always respected and admired people who get to see the world and help others while doing it. I’ve always dreamed of adventure and I know it is a passion of mine to help others. I eventually will need to fufill this immense dream. I know once I finish school, when my girls are older (I can share it with them),and I plan on it. It’s the fight to get to that place that is so anticipating and a challenge to overcome.

Let your voice be heard!