There are moments on my journey that stand out. Some for all the wrong reasons. Those ‘rookie errors’ that have held me back. The great ideas where the reality didn’t match the dream.
Then there are the moments that I recall that make me smile. There have been plenty of those and it’s those moments that I celebrate.
Interviewing Balgeis is one of those.
Back in 2017, I’d been doing some work with Dundee International Women’s Centre to help them tell their stories. They’re a remarkable charity that supports women from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds, to help them achieve their personal goals. Their ultimate goal is to engage, educate and empower women.
I delivered a storytelling workshop and as part of the project, I completed one real story for them. The team who would be tasked with telling more impact stories would observe the process. The idea being, I show them the end-to-end process so that they could become self-sufficient storytellers.
I’m pleased to say that’s what happened. As well as creating one story for them, I helped them edit their first story. They now have 6 impact stories on their site that share the inspiring stories of real women who have experienced real change through DIWC.
I’m proud of those women and the women that brought those stories to life. And, I’m excited to see the stories that they share in the future.
Interviewing Balgeis was an incredible experience. She was to be the subject of the story I created. I’d prepared a series of questions aimed initially at making her more comfortable. I wanted to build trust between us to put her at ease. That meant talking about subjects close to her heart. Her kids, and her talent as a baker and a cook.
It worked, and what followed was an incredibly honest and moving account of her life since leaving her homeland of Libya. As she recalled elements there were moments where I could see her battling the emotions of her story. Then, there were moments of triumph and hope where she grew taller in her seat.
At all times, what really struck me was just how humble she was. Here’s a woman who didn’t know English just a few years back that now teaches it to women who were just like she was – strangers in a strange land. There was pride, but it was very reserved. She downplayed every achievement. I was humbled by her story and by the unassuming way that she shared it.
Sitting in the car after the interview was completed, I felt drained and quite emotional. A remarkable woman, sharing a remarkable story. A life changed by Dundee International Women’s Centre. And, countless lives changed by Balgeis’s unwavering support.
I learned valuable lessons from my time with Balgeis. I learned that the subjects of stories so often take their own stories for granted. Stories lived over a long period of time don’t feel as remarkable as they unquestionably are. Time seems to dilute their impact for the teller of the tale. Those that hear it though, experience something different.
I also learned that great stories need great interviews and that great interviews need great questions. Interviews also need to be flexible. Much of what made the story so powerful didn’t come from a pre-prepared question, it came from the unplanned follow-up question. In other words, I dug deeper into the answer I got.
It became less of an interview and more like a fascinating conversation with a stranger.
The final lesson I learned is that charities are sitting on a near endless supply of powerful stories that showcase the difference they make to the lives of others. Most of those stories go untold. Whether it’s raising awareness with future service users, securing funding or motivating your own team – the stories charities share can make a difference.
When I speak to my commercial clients, I often talk about the need to ‘get out of stealth mode’. The exact same can be said for charities.
If you’re involved in a charity and want to bring your stories to life let me know. Whether you have a budget or not, I can give you the direction you need to start your impact storytelling journey.
I'm a storyteller, case study specialist and the founder of The Story Edge. I want more people to tell more stories. I write stories, teach people to do the same and generally encourage people to use storytelling in their business.