Bridges to Understanding realizes its mission by enabling youth to craft and share their stories with each other and the world. By leveraging a centuries old medium, storytelling, with 21st century technology, Bridges to Understanding puts the power of the story in the hands of the storyteller and allows these stories to be shared over thousands of miles. At Bridges, youth whose voices are often marginalized, shift into a narrator role that inspires confidence, builds community, and highlights their core values.
Bridges to Understanding is tapping into an essential 21st century need, Global citizenship! In this techno/ internet era the world is shrinking and more and more we are having to interact as global citizens. Giving our kids the tools and skills to appreciate and understand other cultures and realize our common humanity is vital to our Country's economic future and National Security. Giving our U.S. kids an avenue to expand their understanding of the world and how we are much more alike than different as a people is invaluable. It goes without saying that the kids who are living in the reciprocating countries also receive these same benefits but would otherwise have little to no opportunity to gain those tech skills and learn about our country 1st hand.
Bridge's school program bring so much to the students. First, they are challenged to be more thoughtful about society, culture, environment, etc.. The kids are planted with seeds to become more engaged citizens. Second, by seeing the stories from kids around the world and interact with them online (I didn't get to witness the online interaction part though), they are also more aware of people from other parts of the world: their culture, concern, or simply the awareness of existence to begin with. The kids are planted with seeds to become global citizens, and to be aware of how apparently domestic choices will influence people in the rest of the world and vice versa. Last but not least, they also learn teamwork; which is critical to their own success in lives as well.
Bridges to Understanding is one of the most effective and creative organizations doing global citizenship in the world. Their work with educators, students/learners and local activists is both powerful and long lasting.
I worked as a mentor for students in Seattle and South Africa and have tremendous respect for the Bridges organization. What stands out for me is that Bridges makes sure that the mentors are very well prepared for their task so they know exactly how to work with the teachers and the students in the different sites. Working with the students, the other mentors and the Bridges staff proved to be incredibly enriching for me. There is a genuine care and integrity about the people involved in this organization. They teach that through sharing each other's stories, bridges to understanding span across the world. I have myself grown much closer to e.g. the Wallacedene township where I worked and hope that the digital story we made with the children makes a difference in the community. Thank you Bridges for giving me the opportunity to be part of your program.
I worked with Bridges to Understanding at one of their participating schools in South Africa. Seeing the excitement on students faces when they were given the opportunity to share their story with other students around the world is an image that will never leave my mind. Without the Bridges organization these young adult would not have had the opportunity to learn from their peers around the globe. All the people working within the organization take to heart that their work is for students, and all decisions are made in the best interest of the students.
Bridges to Understanding provided a technological avenue that enabled my students to tell their stories. The use of digital cameras allowed them to see immediate results and collaborate with their classmates to produce a final product that shared a part of their lives with their classmates and classmates in distant parts of the world. A Bridges photography volunteer came to my classroom every week to work with the students and Bridges provided workshop opportunities for those who wanted to learn advanced techniques. They read the stories of students who lived in exile, poverty, and isolation while at the same time sharing their traditions, culture, joys, and problems. My students were able to communicate via the internet one on one with students in Tibet and Peru. Bridges to Understanding opened the eyes of my students to differences and commonalities in the world. Digital stories were made about religious festivals, games and sports, and the daily lives of my students. This organization gave my students the opportunity to learn about cameras, slide shows, auditory recordings, and the creation of digital stories. These are the technical skills they will be able to carry with them in the future, but more important, they learned about other cultures by making a very personal connection. I was so impressed with the involvement and outcome in many of the classrooms, I continued to work with Bridges as a volunteer after I retired. I now work in the office and in the classroom as a volunteer.
Telling your story is indeed empowering. Bridges to Understanding enables youth the world over to tell theirs. Youth produce "digital stories" and correspond with their peers who live in other countries and are producing digital stories too. "Hotel Bridges," if you will, has a hard-working, global- and youth-minded staff. They're always searching for innovative ways of effecting Bridges’ mission and vision. Five stars!
Bridges has been very effective in employing its creative mission of student-created digital stories as a way of driving cross-cultural education. I participated in a two-week workshop in South Africa. I worked with a group of five students to identify something that was important to them that they wanted to communicate to the world -- and then we built the digital story and populated it with photographs and audo to make it real. The story that we created about the impact of their environment on their health was made available on the Bridges website and turned into a book -- check out http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/480174. The concept of using these stories to teach cross-cultural concepts and education is something that Bridges does very well.
My experience working wtih Bridges both in Seattle and Internationally was so inspiring - the greatest aspect is now focused the Bridges staff is on really engaging the kids in telling their own stories in their own voices. From stories by the Aki Kurose students about the student's personal experiences with urban poverty and homelessness, to the Guatemalan students' story of one student's future aspirations, to the Tibetan Children's school story of personal courage and mentoring by a nun and former political prisoner, it was so exciting to see how passionate each group became as they learned new ways to tell their own stories.