In 1992-93, when I studied for a year in Mexico, I was blessed to be unofficially “adopted” by the family of one of my college classmates. His parents both worked in the US Embassy in Mexico City at the time, and it was wonderful to get to know their family that year I lived abroad. The support and “grounding” they provided to me as a surrogate family was a gift I’ll never forget, and those are experiences I’ll always treasure. Later, their family was stationed in Haiti, in South Africa, and back in the US, among other places. Over the years we’ve stayed in touch and seen each other several times– Each time when my travels took me to Washington DC. This weekend, thanks to a fortuitous alignment of schedules, we were able to have a mini-reunion of sorts here in Oklahoma City with all our families. What a joy it is to visit with good friends! How amazing it is to see how our families have grown over the years too!

Conaways and Fryers

My classmate’s parents are now living and working in the Dominican Republic, and arrived there several months before the catastrophic earthquake hit Haiti in January 2010. Since that time, both have spent a great deal of time working directly in Haiti in support of government and NGO relief efforts there. I have been looking forward to not only seeing them after several years, but also hearing a little bit about the situation in Haiti and the experiences they have had in what must be a tragedy of unimaginable proportions. This evening we heard several stories that leave me struggling for words.

I’m going to turn 40 this summer, and I have a clear perception that I have entered a season in my life where I have finally found and am being enabled to live out my purpose in life. It was no coincidence that this evening at dinner, Vern Conaway Sr. said, “I’d love your help with something. I’ve known Father Rick for over twenty years, and I want to be able to share his sermons with the world. He’s usually preaching to fifteen or twenty people each week, but he needs to share his messages about Haiti with thousands. Can you help me?”

Indeed I can help. I provided Vern this evening with one of our Storychasers “digital backpacks” and a short crash-course in using a portable audio recorder, editing with Audacity, exporting a compressed (32 kbps) mp3 file, and posting that file as a podcast using email and a free Posterous account. While I did provide him with our COV workshop handout, not all the steps I shared are included in the handout, and I know I shared more than he could probably take in at one sitting. That is OK, however, since we have email and Skype to remain connected and for me to help him when he returns to Hispaniola in a few weeks. This experience motivates me to create a short but thorough handout or ebook about this entire process. It’s almost free to do… All these steps are things I can readily demonstrate and coach someone else to do in a face-to-face setting. It will be GREAT to be able to provide a document to Vern and others, however, with these steps outlined in detail. It’s challenging to explain all these steps to someone else in thirty minutes, so a step-by-step handout should really help. Education, learning and empowerment can be shared in multiple ways. I’m eager to ramp up the menu of empowerment options available via Storychasers.

A Storychaser’s digital backback is going to Haiti in June. As a result of the work which Vern will do with it, I hope we’ll have a new, insightful window into the people of Haiti, the efforts of many to bring basic necessities as well as HOPE to them, and the realities of life in the poorest country in our hemisphere. Specifically, I look forward to hearing directly from Father Rick. Based on the few stories Vern shared with us tonight, I can barely begin to imagine what I and hopefully many others will learn as a result of having his sermons available online as a subscribable podcast. I am thrilled to have this opportunity to “empower a digital witness” headed back to Haiti, just as our facilitator team did this week in MidDel Public Schools at a Celebrate Oklahoma Voices digital storytelling workshop.

There are no coincidences.

Our work as Storychasers has just begun.

Pacific Spirit
Creative Commons License photo credit: popejon2

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  • Cliff Baker

    Thank you for this post. Not only is it a good story, but it has given me some ideas and resources. I’m the English Dept. Chair at my high school, and as a way to get kids more engaged with the California autobiographical/biographical writing standards, I’ve been looking at digital storytelling. Your post provides some great how-to resources for my teachers. I look forward to seeing it all put together in a guide, as you mention.

    As an aside, I’m assuming that MidDel Schools means Midwest City/Del City Schools? I actually attended Willowbrook Elementary in Midwest City for 5th grade and part of 6th, from 9/65-2/67. A long time ago now.

    Thanks again for the information. Your blog has been a major help to me in coming to understand more about Web 2.0 and its possibilities for education.

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Made with Love in Oklahoma City