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"From mice to lions"—a Zoom Story Café

May 1, 2021

Image: A children’s class in Toronto, Canada. Copyright © Bahá’í International Community.

Course: Creating Unity with Friendship and Laughter (2021)
Faculty Mentor: Wendi Momen

In our community in Chiang Mai, Thailand there are several active youths, but they are often too shy to give talks or share stories about the Faith in the Thai language at our community events. Often, an older Thai Bahá’í or pioneer will give the talk instead. 

When my husband and I were young, we took a Dale Carnegie course in public speaking. Each week, people took turns sharing 3-minute talks about something inspiring that had happened in their lives. Some participants were sent to attend the course by their companies to gain confidence to speak with customers. I was amazed how these employees, as they practiced telling stories, slowly gained confidence and turned from mice into lions. I would love to help the youth in our community gain confidence like this as individuals, and also to become vibrant resources for our community. 

In the Creating Unity with Friendship course, my project is to start a virtual storytelling meetup space on Zoom; I call it the Zoom Story Café. We would meet once a week for one hour to share stories about ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá, some new learning that relates to the principles of the Faith, or something exciting that happened in our lives related to the Faith. However, the main focus would be for the youth to share stories of ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá in preparation for the Ascension of ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá. It is my hope that some of the youths could perform at this special event.

The Story Café would be open for one hour each week on the same day and time. Each week, three or four storytellers could sign up for a slot. The idea would be to keep it simple; a full storytelling workshop could be arranged for another time.

The timing of the stories would be limited to three minutes. Once each storyteller has finished telling their story, the other participants could respond to what they heard and give feedback or share something related to the story. 

The storytelling meetup café would be limited to one hour. This way, it would not drag on and would be more likely to continue each week. The youth could see it as a kind of “coffee break” from their regular activities or studies.

In preparation for running a Thai-speaking Story Café, I would first begin with an English-speaking version as a way to practice and learn myself. I know several English-speaking Bahá’í friends in our area who might be interested and are already quite good storytellers. A few Thai-English speakers could be encouraged to join this group and then possibly help start up the Thai-speaking Zoom Storytelling Café. Again, the intended focus would be on sharing stories about ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá. 

I also would like to help to organize a one-day storytelling workshop on Zoom that could help inspire the participants who attend the Story Café to polish their storytelling craft.

This is a pilot project geared to help members of our community learn and share stories about ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá, as well as helping the participants gain confidence in their storytelling skills.

Contributors

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Diana Schaffter

Diana was born in Rochester, New York, but has spent the last thirty-five years working as an international educator and children's book writer in Thailand, Vietnam, Romania, India, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, and even North Korea. She has a Master’s degree in Public health and education and founded schools in Vietnam and Thailand. She currently lives in northern Thailand with her wonderful husband, who recently retired from UNICEF. They are involved in Bahá’í community building projects and helping couples with Marriage Education.

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