- Baha’is believe in the power of prayer and you’ll find Baha’is and their friends, throughout the world, getting together to pray. This is often referred to as a ‘devotional gathering’ or ‘devotional meeting’, and they happen in diverse settings, whether in cities or villages.
A wonderful initiative has just launched! The Storyful Family Challenge is a 19-day learning experience for children and their grown-ups and it’s spearheaded by one of Baha’i Blog’s contributors, Preethi Vergis! The event (which runs from March 2-20) is completely free, is open to every one, and you can register now until March 1st!
Preethi gladly jumped on board to tell us all about it. Here’s what she shared with us:
Baha’i Blog: Could you please tell us a little about your initiative?
The Storyful Family Challenge is a 19-day online event that starts on March 2nd and ends on March 20th, with a joyful family or community gathering that celebrates the universal values we share across different cultures and faiths – creativity, perseverance, wisdom, courage and loving-kindness.
It’s something that families can do in their own homes, but we’ll get to share with and learn from other families participating around the world.
The purpose of this initiative is to build academic confidence and a love for learning in kids, while fostering deep connection within homes and communities, through the use of storytelling.
Over the 19 days, kids and their parents (or any other adults in their lives) explore these themes together through 5 digital storybooks featuring stories from the world’s diverse cultures and faith traditions (including a beautiful tale about the love and kindness Abdu’l-Baha once showed), as well as daily story-based lessons that integrate literacy, numeracy, global citizenship and socio-emotional learning, and additional activities that foster connection with other members of the family and community.
The 19-day Challenge ends with the Storyful Festival, in which each participating family hosts a small and intimate gathering for their friends and family, to celebrate the universal values of creativity and imagination, perseverance and hard work, wisdom and consultation, courage and determination, and loving-kindness. All participants get a Storyful Festival Host Kit with lots of ideas and tips to help them plan and host their event.
Baha’i Blog: Who is its target audience? How does it work?
Everyone with kids in their lives can participate – parents, obviously, but also grandparents, uncles, aunts, older cousins, neighbours, babysitters, teachers!
If you are looking for a joyful, fun activity to do with the kids in your life and you are looking for opportunities to create more meaningful moments of connection in our busy, distracted lives, this is for you.
The activities are quick and simple, so it would work great even during the daily FaceTime call with doting grandparents, relatives or friends!
The educational activities are for kids aged five to twelve but the other activities work for all ages.
During the Challenge, you’ll get a daily email with access to all the information and resources you need for the day.
Registration is available to everyone at www.storyful.family, and at no cost, from Feb 25th to March 1st.
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about yourself and what inspired you to create it?
Professionally, I work in the fields of education and community development, but that probably doesn’t really explain very much. I think it’s probably more helpful to tell you that all the work I’ve been involved in over the past decade can be summed up as an insatiable curiosity about two lines of professional inquiry:
Firstly: how do we reach the very core of a child to spark their innate love of learning, help them realise that they have a place in this world and ignite their determination to use their talents to contribute to the world around them? Secondly: how do we create environments, within our communities, that are conducive to children fully developing their capacities?
In short, as many other Baha’is are thinking about: how do we fully realise the immense potential that lies within each child?
I became Baha’i at the exact same time that I was embarking on my career, and I feel so fortunate that I’ve been able to glean so many invaluable insights into these questions from the community building process that Baha’is, and our friends in the wider community, are involved in.
Like so many people who work in education, I felt like there was something missing. I’d worked with some amazing and innovative education NGOs who were – like so many others – trying to revolutionise education by championing a more holistic approach. But still, it felt like education was missing its heart, and soul.
Even with the most sophisticated policy initiatives and cutting-edge research, we haven’t seemed to figure out how to ensure that our system of education is defined by spiritual qualities of love, joy and imagination. And, as someone who works with young people at the margins, for whom our current system of education just isn’t working, the idea that love, joy and imagination are essential to education, is something I feel very strongly about.
As Baha’is, we learn that intellectual and spiritual development go hand-in-hand, and I had a hunch that in order to learn about the things I cared about, I needed to be in environments where patterns of community life had not yet been so severely eroded and where expressions of faith still found a natural place in the lives of individuals and communities.
I spent three years travelling to countries where there were opportunities for me to learn about these questions I was pondering (until I ran out of money to fund this very-rewarding but completely-unsustainable endeavour, and returned to Australia).
One of the things that I came across in these years, was the role traditional storytelling plays in so many cultures around the world – a practice that is disappearing in modern times because, as someone once put it “with electricity, we don’t need to sit around a fire in the evenings anymore”.
Storytelling used to be a primary method of transmitting knowledge from one generation to another, and it was also a way of bringing communities together. This is something I’ve been able to explore, alongside some amazing people I’ve had the opportunity to work with through the Changemakers Collective program. We’ve been compiling traditional tales – being careful to do this with respect, care and – as far as possible – with participation from different communities themselves. We’ve been learning about how storytelling has always been used as a tool for education and connection, and how to use stories in our own work with young people and communities.
The Storyful Family initiative is a culmination of this work, and a chance for us to share what we’ve been discovering with as many parents as possible and to invite them to join us as we learn more.
Baha’i Blog: What was something you learned in the process of creating this project?
Telling a story is inherently a deep act of connecting with another. When you tell a story, in your own words (i.e. not reading a story aloud), you become deeply attuned to your listener. You watch for their reactions as a cue – you are looking at them to gauge understanding, to see what interests them and what causes their eyes to light up. When you learn to share a story, without the aid of a book, pictures or props, you learn to connect deeply, to be fully present and to shut out the noise and distractions around you.
Baha’i Blog: How do you hope this initiative will be received, and how do you hope people will be affected by it?
For those who already love stories and are in awe of the richness of our world’s collective cultural heritage, I hope that you will enjoy these beautiful stories and the values they embody, as much as I do, and be inspired to discover new ways of how you can use stories to support children in their learning and development, and as a tool for fostering family cohesion.
I also really hope that people will feel inspired to use these stories and activities as an opportunity to connect with their wider family, neighbours and friends – by inviting them to a simple Storyful Festival gathering in which bonds of friendship can be strengthened through conversations about the spiritual qualities of creativity, perseverance, wisdom, courage and loving-kindness, which are deeply cherished by people from all cultures and faith traditions.
Baha’i Blog: Thank you so much, Preethi, for taking the time to tell us about this wonderful initiative!
Registrations are open from Feb 25th and close on March 1st at 12 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. You can register and find out more here: www.storyful.family
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