Sharing Stories and Encouraging Change

Maddie Poole ‘21, shares her passion for “connecting with those who have different backgrounds and different stories.”

This summer 25 students were accepted in the CSGC grants program. These grants are funded due to the generous support of the Cost, Earle/Mendillo and Workman families, who established endowment funds to support the community and public service endeavors of future generations of Deerfield students. For more information on these grants please visit: https://deerfield.edu/csgc/grants

In the last month and a half, after refining the questions for the interviews, and creating an intro video to send to interviewees introducing the project and myself, I have interviewed seven people, 6 adults and one older teen, all connected through the Jewish Family Services. At the time of my first blog post, I had recently learned that my plan to interview refugees between the ages of 13-17 years old, who had been a part of the JFS resettlement program, was not possible. Instead, I had to be flexible and readjust my idea for what the project would look like. Although the word this summer has been, “pivot,” due to the Corona virus bringing the need for changes in plans in all areas of life, this project has been nonetheless fruitful. I have had the amazing opportunity to, instead of teens, interview staff members at JFS, the majority of whom are former refugees, two of which have come to the U.S through visas. I even was recently connected to, and interviewed, a 19-year-old girl who came to the U.S as a refugee in 2015.

The idea for this project came from the passion I have for connecting with people, the great value I place on connecting with those who have different backgrounds and different stories, and the belief I have in the power that these different perspectives can bring. Each person I have interviewed has responded to my questions eloquently and thought-provokingly. Through these interviews, I have been able to think about the different experiences of this country up close, the different emotions it provokes, and see it through descriptions I wouldn’t necessarily have thought of. Although there have been overlapping similarities between each person’s story, there are also so many unique nuances that have made each story powerful and impactful. Not only has every interview left a lasting impression, but they have all been important in shaping the story of what being a refugee in America is like, and the journey beforehand.

But my project doesn’t end with interviews. The last couple of weeks I have been working on transcribing each interview that I recorded into a google doc, a time-consuming process that I will finish this weekend. Once I have every interview written down, the process of shaping the interviews into stories begins. In the next week, for each person I interviewed I will piece together their responses to create a beginning, middle, and end to what they told me. Once I’ve done that I will drive down to Springfield where most of the staff members live or live close to, and take their pictures. Lastly, I will use an online tool called InDesign to compile all the stories and the photos into a booklet format that I will then have made. The finished product will be a booklet holding the stories of each individual, a product that the JFS can use, and that I will distribute throughout Deerfield and other organizations that work in immigration. I hope that by sharing these people’s stories, those who read them will also be able to see the power in them, and see the world around them differently, and that seeing the world differently can incite change.

 

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