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Budding immigrant filmmakers debuted their 3-minute masterpieces to a standing room only crowd at International House Charlotte on Friday, March 16, 2012. A story of treacherous journeys across the sea and prison escapes mingled with personal stories of a marriage broken by abuse, a student’s journey from a refugee camp to a Charlotte school, and an account of how a family got its start in the United States. Each story was different, but each painted a picture of the external and internal struggles faced by immigrants in North Carolina today.

The second Storyology: Digital Storytelling by Immigrants and Refugees class brought together six immigrants and refugees from Eritrea, Mexico, Bhutan, Colombia and Ecuador for three weekends of participatory workshops on storytelling, audio and video editing and community building. A seventh student, unfortunately, had to drop out of the class after being hospitalized with pneumonia. The class utilized interactive storytelling techniques, laptop computers, photographs, oral histories, digital cameras and music, sharing skills with the new documentarians that last a lifetime.

Storyology is unique in that it empowers immigrants to tell their own stories in their own words. As one student expressed, “I got an opportunity to share my own story and my own feelings. I got more experience by sharing my story, how I live in my country, how I deal with my hindrances. And I like to collaborate with my friends, and [get to] know their story too, my international friends, Mexican friends, African friends. I learned their stories , their own feelings, their experiences…I really appreciate this class; I am really joyful… I love this class!” Another student reported that “I did learn how to make a video, but most important, I learned about other cultures and people. My expectations were exceeded!”

Volunteer Martin Doherty expressed that the class gave him “a profound opportunity to recognize my values as an American and move forward the quality of every human life… I’m honored to be helping other people tell their stories so more respect and more care is given to human beings around the world.”

The class was sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee and International House Charlotte, with funding provided by the Charlotte Arts & Science Council. You can view videos produced in the class atwww.youtube.com/afscnc.