CPI's Storytelling Program

Storytelling is a powerful tool for learning, and for empowering children.

Storytelling serves as a powerful tool for education, transcending traditional classrooms. It’s a dynamic means of imparting knowledge, fostering creativity, and instilling valuable lessons in children.

UGANDA
TURKEY
HAITI
ZAMBIA
KENYA
PERU
GHANA
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Girls in Sri Lanka interpret a story through dance.
Girls in Sri Lanka, traumatized by war, danced their interpretation of the story an elder had told them during a storytelleing session.

CPI’s storytelling program is transforming the lives of around the world.

The program offers a lifeline to children who have faced unimaginable hardships, helping them reclaim their childhoods and rebuild their identities. Through the power of storytelling, children connect with their roots, develop critical thinking skills, and find emotional solace. This program doesn’t just teach lessons; it fosters resilience, empathy, and hope, creating a supportive community where every child’s voice is heard and valued. Join us in empowering the next generation, one story at a time.

WHAT OUR PARTNERS SAY ABOUT CPI'S STORYTELLING PROGRAM

CPI first met Gloria Ochola in 2012 while conducting storytelling activities at Mikei Primary School, where 30% of the children are impacted by HIV/AIDS. Over the past two years, Gloria has developed and innovated the storytelling program to the point where parents and teachers are now requesting its implementation in their own schools.

"Children can speak out for themselves freely, expressing their thoughts, fears, challenges, and aspirations. This self-expression allows them to be understood without fear, revealing how they perceive life. Vulnerable communities are seeing another side of life through these narratives. Parents appreciate the stories their children share and are actively reaching out with questions, eager to participate and support the storytelling program as part of the school curriculum. Storytelling techniques are being embraced by parents, guardians, and teachers, with children collecting stories at home and sharing them with their peers. Additionally, the program highlights the importance of arts and crafts, creating a ritual that ensures a safe space for everyone involved."

Gloria Ochola CPI Partner, Kanya
Gloria Ochala is CPI's storytelling partner in Migori, Kenya

It is a paradisematic country, in which roasted parts of sentences fly into your mouth. Even the all-powerful Pointing has no control about

Shams W.Pawel Founder & CEO of XpeedStudio
    Female storyteller in Uganda and displaced children
    Refugee ghildren in Northern Uganda during one of CPI and HAF-Uganda's storytelling sessions.

    Storytelling is Important for Many Reasons

    Storytelling provides several advantages to children: As children listen to stories, they acquire knowledge, establish connections with their cultural heritage, and help carry forward traditions.

    When children tell stories, it enhances their ability to organize language into narratives, prompting “thinking on their feet,” and gaining confidence in a safe setting.

    Storytelling is not confined to formal educational settings. It can also take place within families, and community centers, making it a universally accessible form of education.

    Its impact extends beyond textbooks and school grounds.

    Introducing New Storytelling Program in Kampala, Uganda

    Our esteemed storytelling partner Youth Sports Uganda launched the program beginning of June.  We are so impressed with their dedication to helping vulnerable children.

    CPI's Storytelling Program: Enriching Play-Based Learning and Preserving Culture

    ChildsPlay International’s (CPI) Storytelling Program was created to share our experience with schools, NGOs, and community groups seeking to enrich play-based learning, stimulate children’s imagination, preserve local culture, and foster face-to-face interaction in an increasingly digital world.

    Storytelling serves as a powerful tool for education, transcending traditional classrooms. It’s a dynamic means of imparting knowledge, fostering creativity, and instilling valuable lessons in children.

    The Value of Storytelling

    Storytelling Serves as a Powerful Tool for both Learning and Empowering Children


    Boys in Charsadda, Pakistan, drawing during a storytelling session (2022)

    Storytelling Preserves Culture

    CPI’s Storytelling Program: Enriching Play-Based Learning and Preserving Culture

    CPI’s Storytelling Program: Enriching Play-Based Learning and Preserving Culture Storytelling can play a significant role in promoting the overall wellbeing of children. Storytelling serves as a powerful medium for sharing our experiences. It holds the key to unlocking the realms of personal imagination and fostering a sense of shared love within local communities.
    Play is at the center of ChildsPlay International’s mission. We foster greater opportunities for vulnerable children to play, learn, and develop while preserving local culture.

    Storytelling Bring Generations Together!

    Storytelling session Haiti with Dr. Jean-Elie Gilles.
    CPI's Storytelling Advisor Dr. Jean-Elie Gilles tells stories to children in Jacmel, Haiti

    Storytelling can play a significant role in promoting the overall wellbeing of children.

    Storytelling serves as a powerful medium for sharing our experiences. It holds the key to unlocking the realms of personal imagination and fostering a sense of shared love within local communities.

    By bringing together the young and the old, storytelling becomes a catalyst for community building and forging lasting connections.

    Storytelling Is Play-based Learning at It's Best

    Storytelling is a way to live in a world of imagination—and it requires no materials! 

    Storytelling for children is play-based learning at its best and brings the community together. This important activity is rarely part of a school’s curriculum so we develop a Storytelling Manual for extracurricular activities.

    Boy Storytelling program
    Cover Storytelling manual

    Drawing is an

    Important Part of our
    Storytelling
    Program

    children's drawings of bombs being dropped

    Through drawing, children can communicate complex ideas and messages that would otherwise be impossible due to a lack of vocabulary.

    CPI emphasizes drawing in its storytelling project to enhance expression, engage creativity, and help children process emotions. Drawing fosters skill development, preserves local culture, ensures inclusive participation, and facilitates meaningful dialogue, enriching the overall storytelling experience.

    Girl in Kenya with drawing made during storytelling session (2024)

    History and Culture come Alive through Storytelling


    Local history and culture come alive through storytelling for many communities. Stories and Storytelling open up a world of imagination, uniting children and their communities. CPI encourages storytelling sessions as a new way of learning that is rarely part of a school curriculum.

    Girls with drawing during Storytelling event
    Kenya
    Girl in Sri Lanka creating artwork during a Storytelling Workshop conducted by CPI.
    Sri Lanka
    Child explaining his drawing to storyteller
    Turkey
    Play Video

    The Importance of Local Stories

    CPI champions passing down local stories. It ensures that local people are involved. It also means that the method of recording and transcribing are reproducible at the local level. This involves finding and training local apprentices in skills such as film-making. In addition, instructing local teachers to pass on to students an interest in how stories conserve culture. The students are encouraged to define their own relationship to the oral tradition. They do this by creating works of art that interpret that tradition and perpetuate it as a living practice.

    Cultures and Societeis where there is no Cultural Preservation

    What about societies where there is no concerted effort to collect, preserve, and study the stories that matter to their own self-definition? In these societies, elders tell stories perhaps for the last time, since the next generation – the children – are distracted by cell phones or, worse, by war. The task of preserving these stories – the whole oral tradition of a people – has fallen to individuals and organizations dedicated to that purpose.

    Students in Kenya telling their stories through the camera lense

     Such dedication comes from the immensity of the need, that is, from what is likely to be lost without deliberate preservation. In a recent essay for Terralingua, Luisa Maffi wrote:

    “In many societies, history and culture come alive through storytelling. Stories open up a world of imagination, uniting children and their communities, and allowing them to wonder at history’s ongoing drama.”

    ChildsPlay is creating Storytelling Partnerships with Schools, Community Leaders and NGOs in Pakistan, Turkey, Kenya, Uganda, Pakistan, the DRC and Haiti.

    CPI encourages storytelling circles as a new way of learning that is rarely part of a school curriculum.

    The great anthropologist George N. Appell described storytelling as a basic human impulse, a cognate of religion that allows us to re-envision – and cope with – existence by situating all of life within of a narrative order. For Appell, oral literature is inescapably profound:

    “It arises in response to the universal aesthetic impulse to provide narratives that explain the nature of life and human response to challenges. It retains knowledge to be passed on to succeeding generations. It contains the history of the society and its experiences. Thus in various forms this oral literature portrays the society’s belief systems and makes sense of life. It provides a guide to human behavior and how to live one’s life. . . As such this literature is a response to the universal human instinct to find balance, harmony, and beauty in the world and the need to understand pain, suffering, and evil. It functions to fulfill the need for religious belief and spiritual fulfillment necessary for human existence.”

    Boy in Kenya Telling a traditional story during Storytelling workshop
    Boy in Kenyan orphanage telling a traditional story during CPI Storytelling workshop.
    Elders during storytelling workshop

    Passing on Stories from Old to Young

    Passing stories from the older generation to the younger, all at the level of creativity, is what distinguishes CPI’s methodology. Children are given tools – and the impetus – to envision this creativity as connected to previous generations. Such connection is presented as natural, and it becomes as much. In this sense, storytelling is a great leveler among societies, one skill that all children are able to share and cultivate using their own, indigenous stories. At the same time, storytelling is dynamic; it is both a way to interpret a child’s own society and a way to communicate with and understand children from other societies.

    This repository of knowledge-as-art will  disappear

    With the arrival of mass literacy and its technological concomitants, this repository of knowledge-as-art disappears in a generation . . . unless there are efforts to preserve it. Accordingly, an array of international initiatives has been mounted, including by UNICEF. Scholars from around the world have published numerous studies showcasing specific projects and outlining their sophisticated methodologies.

    How ChildsPlay Records Local Stories

    When ChildsPlay International records local stories, it ensures that local people are involved and that the methods of recording and transcribing are reproducible at the local level. This involves finding and training local apprentices in skills such as film-making and instructing local teachers to pass on to students’ interest in cultural preservation. Students are encouraged to define their own relationship to oral tradition by creating works of art – paintings, puppets, masks, plays – that interpret that tradition and perpetuate it as a living practice. These works of art are also collected and exhibited, enabling the children to see the direct connection of their own creativity to that of the past.

    Girl in refugee camp drawing during Storytelling workshop

    Including the Local Community

    However, it has been clear from the outset that merely recording and transcribing these stories, without including local participants in preserving them, can be an act of cultural appropriation. Community-based programs of collection and transcription are becoming the norm. The Firebird Foundation, among others, has published extensive guidelines for collectors, emphasizing that the benefits of collecting should flow both ways. The goal is to increase the community’s respect for its own culture and encourage its own efforts at preservation.

    ChildsPlay Empowers Children

    This linkage among generations, at the shared level of creativity, is what distinguishes the methodology of ChildsPlay. Children are given tools – and the impetus – to envision their creativity as connected to previous generations. Such connection is presented as natural, and it becomes as much. The idea is to help indigenous children become self-sufficient in story-telling, a skill that children in developed societies take for granted. In this sense, story-telling is a great leveler among societies, one skill that all children are able to share and to cultivate using their own, indigenous stories. At the same time, storytelling is dynamic: it is both a way to interpret a child’s own society, and a way to communicate with and understand children from other societies.

     

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