A collaborative project between two Chippewa Valley organizations is collecting and documenting stories to give a voice to people whose stories aren’t heard.
Who We Are: A Chippewa Valley Storytelling Project is a collaboration between the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Eau Claire and Joining Our Neighbors Advancing Hope, an Eau Claire-based organization which works to build community and increase the ability to address root causes of poverty and injustice.
The first step in the project is to collect stories of adversity and injustice from people in the Chippewa Valley community, regarding a wide range of topics including racism, poverty, single parenting, affordable housing, LGBTQ issues and living with disabilities.
The group also encourage submissions from a wide range of ages including youth.
Rachel Carter, ministerial intern at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation, is one of the leaders of the project.
Carter, who has done work documenting veterans’ struggles with sexual assault and PTSD through storytelling and theater, and is a veteran herself, said the goal of the project is to raise awareness and humanize issues facing people in the Chippewa Valley.
She said the idea was formed about a month ago through talking with JONAH members and they’ve already had submissions in the week or so that they have been putting up posters.
“I thought it would be a really neat idea to collect stories from the populations (JONAH) works with,” Carter said. “People whose voices need to be heard.”
Submission are open through October 1, and following that, the submissions will be shared with the public in potentially multiple ways—whether that is readers’ theater, education or even a book if there are enough submissions is being determined.
The submissions can be as anonymous as the people writing them want to be, Carter said, and can include triumphs, past struggles, current struggles or other experiences they want to share.
Emma Johnson, youth advisor on the project and at the Unitarian congregation, said they are also hoping to recruit more youth volunteers for the background work, like poster hanging, processing submissions and other aspects of the project.
Johnson said that in addition to helping the submitters by sharing their stories, young people in particular can benefit from seeing the wide range of lives and experiences around them.
“That’s the point in development where judgements are made,” Johnson said.
Carter said the project is hoped to empower people who have before now been afraid to speak about their experiences or have felt they aren’t being heard or listened to.
“Sometimes it takes sharing their story,” Carter said.