project leader
Sally R
City of Asylum/Alphabet City
(Northview Heights, Pittsburgh PA)
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the project

The Northview Heights public housing community in Pittsburgh PA has become home to hundreds of African refugees in the past decade.  Now almost half of the population, tension between newcomers and long term residents has grown.  Groups live in separate pockets with little positive interaction because of fear and misunderstanding. Digital Storytelling: Building Bridges is a series of 4 workshops aims to build a vibrant community through the empowerment of refugees and long-term residents by giving an opportunity to share their experiences.

Focusing on teens from the many cultural groups living in Northview Heights, refugees from The Congo, Somalia, and Burundi, and African Americans, will have positive interactions with each other as each highlights important cultural traditions and histories through their stories. Through 4 facilitated collaborative workshops, on consecutive Saturdays from 9:00 - 4:00, participants will learn digital storytelling strategies, audiorecording and video editing to create short videos detailing their own challenges and aspirations and ultimately reflect the experiences of young lives in transition.  Team building exercises and collaborative brainstorming will aid to create bonds of common understanding and experience and mutual empathy. The final workshop will be a chance to view everyone's video and plan showing the videos to community members.

These videos will then be used to spark community discussions about tolerance and empathy, enabling the wider Pittsburgh community to learn from these complex relationships. This will happen in community events, the first of which will be held at City of Asylum, and others in spaces such as libraries, churches, and schools to highlight the cultures and social realities of the people creating them. 

This project empowers marginalized communities by offering a chance to speak with their own voices, choose the story they want to tell, and learn multimedia storytelling techniques WHILE sharing the full experience of doing so with their neighbors. This engages, build empathys and create community among neighbors. Our hope is that this first teen cohort will go on to facilitate future Sharing Our Story workshops where they will assist other teens, adults and seniors, and create a platform to amplify their stories. 

the steps

  • Work with community stakeholders to recruit teens and advise on project plans.
  • Finalize the recruitment of and registration of participants
  • Hold a training workshop for writing and technology volunteers
  • Hold workshops
  • Plan for the first public discussion, which will be held at City of Asylum: create marketing materials and involve community leaders to invite their communities
  • Hold the first public discussion, with a panel of workshop participants to speak
  • Discuss with workshop participants a strategy for helping others in Northview Heights to create their digital stories with the teens as support. 

why we're doing it

Stakeholders involved in Northview Heights, have recognized this disturbing separation between communities and feel efforts at bridging the cultural divide have been unsuccessful. This stress impacts academic and social experiences, and resonates with community leaders from the Somali Bantu Community, the Burundian Community, YouthPlaces, and the president of the local tenants council, as well as refugee service groups, including Northern Area Multi-Service Center, Jewish Family and Community Services, and the Allegheny Center Alliance Church.

Understanding the realities of each other’s lives can form the basis of friendship. For youth, this is vital to their growing ability to live productive lives in a complex multicultural society. Art enables people to think more deeply about the experiences of others in a less threatening way. The experiences of creating these stories is empowering for the author, but also for the community they represent, especially when they are marginalized. These stories focus on the often unacknowledged truths about teens struggling in these situations.

This project is based on Sharing Our Story’s 2017 successful project, Immigration Journeys: Old and New, which connected residents in South Hills communities. The videos and images from the workshops and public discussions are documented here:


Disbursed Budget 1.7.19:

RAISED = $4,910.00
 less ioby Platform Fee  $35.00
less ioby Donation Processing Fee (3%) $141.99

Original budget:

Stipends for teens and instructors, and cost of technology, transportation and meals:  $7,670

Project Subtotal =  $7,670
ioby Platform Fee  $35
ioby Donation Processing Fee (3%) $230
Total to raise on ioby = $7,935



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