Family Storytelling Workshops Lead to Animated Prize

On Sunday, January 29, Learning Life family diplomat (FD) trainees, Maria and Marvela Kavuma from Uganda, and Nusrat Jahan Nipa from Bangladesh, were awarded cartoon animations of their family stories.  The awards were the culmination of a series of storytelling workshops that ran from November 20, 2022 to January 29, 2023 led by Learning Life FD and Board of Directors Chair, Joe Toles

The workshops followed the successful completion of Learning Life’s first online international FD training in July to October 2022.  The training launched Phase 2 of Learning Life’s Family Diplomacy Initiative (FDI).  FDI is an ambitious, long-term, grassroots effort to connect, train and empower a growing international corps of family diplomats to participate in decision-making at local to global levels.  We envision a world more connected and caring because every family has one or more family diplomats, and those citizen diplomats advocate effectively via nonprofits, businesses, media and governments for the needs, concerns and aspirations of families worldwide.  

FDI’s Phase 1, launched in 2016, initiated live international family dialogues and connected a growing number of people (now over 14,000) worldwide to FDI on Facebook.  Phase 2 is focused on training a growing international corps of FDs with an eye, in Phase 3, to connecting these trained FDs to governments, nonprofits, businesses and media so that they can advocate effectively on issues that affect their family and other families like them, from cancer, depression and domestic violence, to war, climate change and migration.     

Joe Toles’s own leadership advocating for the adoption of kids in foster care led him to create animated videos that told his own story (see screenshot above) of growing up in foster care to becoming the father to eight boys he adopted from foster care.  In 2020, Joe learned about FDI through one of his former students, then Learning Life intern, Solana Gibson.  In 2020 and 2021, Joe got involved in the series of international family dialogues on food culture then issues impacting family health that Learning Life organized, then the 2022 FD training.  He then proposed to lead a series of storytelling workshops to help FD trainees continue to develop their storytelling skills, and generously offered the most impactful storyteller the prize of an animated version of their family story.    

On January 29, five FD trainees from Uganda, Ghana, Liberia, Pakistan and Bangladesh competed for the prize, and given a close vote for the winner, Joe decided to award two rather than one prize.  The winners, Maria and Marvela, engaged in dialogue about preserving Uganda family culture while also uplifting the voices of girls, while Nusrat Jahan Nipa told the painful story of her aunt’s suicide after an argument in a large family living together under the same roof.  Stay tuned for the unveiling of their family stories, in animated form, in a future post at Learning Life’s website!   

Learning Life thanks Joe Toles for leading the workshops and generously sponsoring the animated story prizes, and our interns Anya Neumeister and Keilyhan Echevarría for assisting Joe by taking photos and attendance, answering our FD workshop participants’ questions, and providing feedback to improve their stories. Lastly, thanks to our other interns Ma’Shayla Hearns, Matt Turanchik, Dorothy Simon, Nate Escobar, Côme Joly, Maebelle Faragallah and Clare Rigney for attending the workshops finale to vote on the best story tellings. 

See photos from the workshops below.  To learn more about the FD training and how you can become an international family diplomat, click here.