Telling our stories, understanding each other

International storytelling project Dear World—which asks the simple question: “If you had one story to share with the world, what would you say?”—is coming to UC Santa Cruz

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UC Santa Cruz is a community with an endless number of untold stories about hopes, fears, losses, joys, and life philosophies.

Those hidden stories will be raised to the surface when Dear World, an award-winning, international storytelling project, comes to campus, starting on Thursday, April 13 and continuing through Friday, April 14.

Dear World has been described as “part business/art project/social experiment exploring stories of hope, stories of struggle, stories of a brighter day.” The program starts with a simple question: “If you had one story to share with the world, what would you say?”

Dear World envisions all the shared stories as part of a vast and colorful mosaic that makes up the campus community.

The Dear World events kick off on campus with a “VIP Photo Shoot” that will take place at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 13, at the Bhojwani Dining Room (Terra Fresca) at University Center. Those who wish to join students, staff, and faculty at this special event may do so, but first, make sure to fill out this registration form.

The main photo shoot will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, April 14.

Then Dear World will continue with a major storytelling event, to be held that Friday evening at 8 p.m., at the Multipurpose Room for Colleges 9 and 10. Many of the portraits taken over the previous two days will be unveiled at the event. Dessert and tea will be served. All are welcome.

This program is put on for and by the UC Santa Cruz community. Dear World brings two staff to facilitate the events and take photos. Campus organizers are now recruiting about 32 volunteers from the UC Santa Cruz community to facilitate the events. Those who wish to help out should fill out this form.

The rationale behind the project is simple and straightforward. “Storytelling is a powerful way for people to come together and share their identities in a unique way, offering a sense of shared humanity,” said Cowell College programs coordinator Kara Snider, who heads the planning committee for Dear World/Dear UC Santa Cruz.

“The UC Santa Cruz Principles of Community articulate a desire to 'celebrate the heritage, achievements, and diversity of the community and the uniqueness and contributions of our members,'" Snider continued. “We believe that our nation and campus are at a point where it is more important than ever to form connections with each other. In bringing the program to UC Santa Cruz, we hope community members will find deeper connections, clarify and strengthen their personal identities, learn to describe their own values, and develop an understanding of the intersectionality of identity.”

Dear World consists of two separate entities—a for-profit venture that generates revenue and a 501(c)(3) organization. Organizations that partner with Dear World pay a fee for photo shoots.

The Dear World/Dear UC Santa Cruz project has its origins at Cowell College.

“At Cowell, we began conversations with new provost Alan Christy last spring to do a year-long co-curricular storytelling program series,” Snider said.

Starting in the fall, all new Cowell students were invited to the provost house to craft stories and characters.

Then in winter, Cowell hosted some storytelling workshops and a Story Slam facilitated by UC Santa Cruz alumnus Simon Hanukai, a director and curator.

“For spring we wanted to do something beyond Cowell for the entire campus,” Snider said. “At the end of fall quarter, I put the call out for collaborators and formed the committee. We have fundraised across campus.”

Dear World/Dear UC Santa Cruz is made possible by support from Colleges, Housing & Educational Services, Cowell College, Merrill College, Stevenson Programs, Crown College, Kresge Programs, Rachel Carson College, Oakes College, the Bay Tree Bookstore, the Disability Resource Center, Cowell Student Senate, Stevenson Student Council, Rachel Carson Student Council, and the Oakes Student Senate.

Several other universities and colleges have put on Dear World storytelling events. Next week, UC San Diego is hosting its own series of Dear World photo shoots and storytelling sessions.