Ripple Effect: socially transformative storytelling

Photo by Christine Stewart

Photo by Christine Stewart

The Access to Media Education Society (AMES) was created 20 years ago with the goal of providing access to media training and technology for people grossly misrepresented or invisible in mainstream media. On Sept. 22, they celebrate two decades of learning and change at the AMES 20th Anniversary AGM. 

AMES runs a multitude of programs and workshops in communities and schools in the province, with in-school workshops (facilitated by older students in both elementary and high schools) as well as after-school programs and projects. Often they come into the same classes for workshops multiple times, allowing them the opportunity to have more in-depth activities, discussions and projects. But while it allows them to have more meaningful dialogue with the students, they haven’t always had that opportunity.

“We first started working in schools in 2002,” says Deblekha Guin, founding executive director at AMES, “at that point there wasn’t that kind of stuff at all. We used to do just 90-minute presentations.”

In the years that followed, AMES continued to push educators to have them in classes multiple times – as that was needed to make the workshops work best.

“We wanted to have an opportunity to build relationships,” says Guin. “You don’t want to stuff information in people’s heads, you need more time. We wanted to be able to have conversations that are more organic, and also fun.”

Visions for change

Deblekha Guin, founding executive director of AMES. | Photo by Samm Moore

Deblekha Guin, founding executive director of AMES. | Photo by Samm Moore

With the ability to engage with groups over a longer period of time, AMES has had both in and after-school programs flourish, with five currently running. One is HumanEYES, run largely in elementary schools with children in grades 6 and 7. This project aims to create inter-generational storytelling with students and some of the older members of the community.

“This year we focused on food,” says Guin. “The students created cookbooks, interviewing an elder, talking about their lives and food from their childhood. They also cooked with the elder and presented it through art.”

HumanEYES isn’t the only project focusing on inter-generational relationships. Digital Forage is another project. This project has been in place for the last four or five years, and brings youth and elders from Galiano and the neighboring Penelakut Island together, with the elders sharing information about the nature around them and the youth documenting it all.

“We’re using new school tech and old school knowledge to learn more about the area around us,” says Guin.

Climate Matters began with members of six different (primarily indigenous) communities banding together to make videos with independent movie makers about the importance of climate change awareness. It is now in its second year, and the films made by youth are now being presented in the workshops they are facilitating at schools.

The final two programs are #HerDigitalVisions and #GirlsMakeGames. #HerDigitalVisions is an after-school program that works with self-identified teenage girls in order to build their digital savvy. #GirlsMakeGames builds on that, with the program being AMES’ first foray into the world of game making. Participants learn the basics of coding and game-making, as well as exploring ways to change the portrayal of women in games.

Community-based culture

The celebration itself will begin with a lot of different stations available to check out, with slideshows showcasing past projects, displays with the cookbooks from HumanEYES and other items and presentations reflecting the history of AMES, which Guin describes as a blend of “heart, art and change.”

The formal show will start with letting the audience experience what AMES does in their workshops, and will be followed by presentations from a variety of people.

“We want to do a couple of activities, getting good dialogue and creative conversations going,” says Guin. “We’re going to have lots of creative presentations from AMES members, as well as spoken word performances from people who work with us and are very committed to embodying the idea of creativity and change.”

The celebration will showcase what AMES is trying to instill in the community: creativity, critical thinking and compassion.

“We’re trying to bring all the threads together to engage the whole student,” says Guin. “Building relationships, building people’s trust, encouraging people to not accept the world immediately how it is presented.”

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