Combining the latest in multi-media with the Narrative Therapy model, KIDS FOR KIDS provides a platform for traumatized youth to find their voice, speak out their truth to others, and more importantly – to themselves.
A typical D-Story can take anywhere from 25 to 40 hours to produce. The most challenging aspect of the D-Story process is helping the "writer" get in touch with their individual, unique story. What is the message they wish to share? Our trained assistants not only help in defining that story, but also guide the participants through the technology of producing the CD.
We cannot directly affect the terrorism that has rendered many Israeli children 'voiceless', viewing themselves as powerless victims. But we can seek to enable these children, our next generation, to heal by being heard. According to a research study at Tel Aviv University, 40 percent of Israeli children suffer from moderate to severe symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. (PTSD)
Among the many debilitating symptoms of trauma is the feeling of 'helplessness', and that 'no one can possibly understand'. When a child is given the opportunity to claim her/his voice, speak out their truth, it empowers. The Digital Storytelling computer software process is a healing experience in itself. While terrorism robs a child of her/his 'control of life', the creating, editing, and manipulating of the Digital Story material provides a feeling of calm confidence and empowerment.
According to Dr. Clarissa Pinkola-Estes, psychoanalyst and author ("Women Who Run with the Wolves") who continued to work with the students of the Columbine school until each one who was there during the tragic shootings graduated, "We post-trauma experts know helping souls express themselves is a large part of healing, that each soul must have an outlet for what overflows inside."
KIDS FOR KIDS is giving young victims of terrorism and their families that healthy outlet.
BRIEF HISTORY OF KIDS FOR KIDS D-STORIES
In February 2003, KIDS FOR KIDS embarked on its' innovative pilot project, using Digital Storytelling for therapeutic purposes. By August, we committed ourselves fully to the project and engaged an expert to train our D-Story team. Seven facilitators completed the weeklong program. Two additional facilitators were trained during the year.
KIDS FOR KIDS has been given generous grants from the Zell Family Foundation and National Council of Jewish Women, which enabled us to acquirer the initial computers to establish the first phase of the D-Story Lab.
OBSERVATIONS FROM PARTICIPANTS
* Sara Poupko, 20, was walking down the street one August evening when Egged bus #2 exploded. Sara ran towards the carnage and helped several children including a bloodied baby. Holding the six-month-old infant close, she hurried into the first ambulance, already stuffed with battered and crying victims. She found that while she rescued little Shoshie, the baby's three-year-old sister was killed instantly. Over the months, Sara has maintained her relationship with Shoshie's family who are also recovering from their numerous injuries sustained during the terrorist attack.
For Sara, creating a Digital Story was an important step in recognizing and dealing with the trauma she suffered as a witness to the terrorist attack. Sara has now become involved in KIDS FOR KIDS FOOTSTEPS program.
* Elimelech Lepon, father of 17-year-old Yosef who was stabbed and left for dead. Yosef survived but lost a kidney.
"The Digital Story process was an amazing opportunity for me. I had to slow down and truly get in touch with what Yosef's attack meant to me. It was a learning experience that definitely had closure on a chapter which, until then, had been left unwritten."
* Alice Feinstein of Los Angeles, whose daughter Ariella was wounded in a terrorist attack on Rehov Ben Yehuda in June of 2001, shared the following feedback with us about her experience with the Digital Storytelling process:
"As the mother of a "victim" of terrorism, I felt that I didn't belong in the same category as mothers who truly lost a loved one to terrorism... or who will have a lifelong struggle with a loved one's disability from injuries sustained in a terrorist attack. I felt so incredibly fortunate and blessed that my daughter survived with a few physical scars. I believed that I didn't need to tell my story. Mine is just a story of gratitude, not pain. With gentle persistence, K4K got me to tell my story and I wound up crying for the first time since the attack almost 3 years ago. I relived the experience without my defenses up and cried again and again. So was it therapeutic? I'm not a psychologist but I assume that finally allowing the fright of what happened and the horror that my daughter had her face, chest and legs injured from a human bomb deserved a mother's tears.
Also, I now feel that for Israel to have D-Stories to document these tragic events by people who "were there" may be useful one day. I know that Steven Spielberg felt strongly about documenting the experience of holocaust survivors, as their generation is dwindling. My daughter also agrees that if we turn this experience into something helpful for Klal Yisrael, whether educational for some, and therapeutic for others to see, then we are turning tragedy into a positive experience."
EDUCATIONAL IMPACT OF KIDS FOR KIDS DIGITAL STORIES IN THE DIASPORA
Digital Stories have proven to be a powerful medium for sharing the emotional experience of being affected by terrorism. For those who view the movies, many find resolution, comfort, and meaning in events that have pained and frustrated them from a distance. KIDS FOR KIDS hosts groups visiting Israel from the Diaspora on a regular basis. Digital Stories have become the centerpiece of these InterFACE programs. KIDS FOR KIDS volunteer staffs have also traveled to the United States to bring D-Stories to schools, synagogues, and communities.
For the classroom setting, KIDS FOR KIDS further developed the D-Story program as an educational tool by translating several of the movies into English, Spanish, and Russian to be sent to interested Hebrew and Jewish day schools abroad along with discussion questions for teachers to stimulate and interact with students.
CONCLUSIONS & FUTURE PLANS
Further funding will permit KIDS FOR KIDS to purchase needed equipment, train and hire additional staff to guide our KIDS through the D-Story process and to continue to offer this effective modality.
We have seen that the Digital Stories program is a powerful therapeutic tool. In order for the stories to be truly effective, the creative process takes longer than we originally anticipated. The more the "nifgaim" (victims) participate in the process - getting in touch and writing their story; reviewing and scanning public and private photographs; experimenting and creating with the artistic software, etc., the more they rightly feel "ownership" over their finished product. This process is time consuming. We have seen that a typical Digital Story can take from 3 to 6 weeks to make.
PLANS FOR THE UPCOMING PROGRAM YEAR
- Facilitate a minimum of 40 stories
- Continue to archive KIDS FOR KIDS Digital Stories in our Karl Memorial Library in Jerusalem
- Expand our D-Story educational project in the Diaspora by reaching out to additional schools and youth groups.
- Continue to host Diaspora groups in the Library for Digital Story screenings and discussion groups.
- Explore the possibility to make KIDS FOR KIDS D-Stories available on our Internet site for on-line access.
- Explore the possibility of establishing KIDS FOR KIDS D-Story Labs in other locations of Israel
KIDS FOR KIDS has encountered challenges in reaching our Israeli target population for this particular project. Where as our teenage Footsteps program and elementary age Eytan program usually take place on the children's home turf, the center of activity for Digital Storytelling is in our Jerusalem Library. Since it takes many hours over many days to complete a D-Story, it is difficult for children living in distant areas to safely come to Jerusalem that frequently.
Therefore, in the near future, funding permitted, KIDS FOR KIDS hopes to expand D-Stories' area of influence by establishing K4K D-Story Labs in other locations in order that this needed program can be offered to children throughout the country.
The Digital Storytelling computer process is a healing experience in itself. It is also healing for those who view Digital Stories, to help make sense of what is happening to our people here in Israel.