SPOTLIGHT ON THE WORK OF STORYTELLER KRISTIN PEDEMONTI
Many of us think about being compassionate on celebrated days and certain times of the years however, often we don’t act on it. This is not so for Storyteller Kristin Pedemonti. She advances the call to action of author James Baldwin when he states, “We are responsible for the world in which we find ourselves, if only because we are the only sentient force which can change it.”
When I first met Kristin, I was at the National Storytelling Conference and she dressed in brightly colored attire held a small sign that said “Free Hugs” and asked if she could give me one. Her embrace was like her, purposeful. Her presence brightened the room. Once you are hugged, one tends to forget worries and are reminded that in this world you are not alone.
If a book could provide a hug, it would be found in Kristin’s most recent book, A Bridge of Stories: Risking it all to connect classrooms and cultures in Belize (2017, Parkhurst Brothers).
Imagine that you have sold your home and decided with only an idea that you will live somewhere where the language is not your first one, and dedicate your time to offer, if requested, to improve their conditions in their schools.
Now if you are Kristin, you do more than imagine, you act on this plan. The tools that she uses are permission, time, talent, and stories.
As she states,
Every culture has a story. Every person has a story. Stories serve many functions, one of which to connect us one to another, build bridges between people, dispel stereotypes and illustrate our commonalities while honoring our diversity. (introduction)
(Click on image to order this invaluable book.)
In this book, we walk into the rural sections of Belize where Kristin relies on word of mouth as she volunteers to spend time in the schools. First step, she asks the needs of the school. She stresses one not assume a person knows what a community needs, instead ask to serve. I enjoy hearing this. She comes as a servant to the school. In no time, she is advocating for programs that will address reading and writing and storytelling skills.
We walk with her as she explains the beauty of the people and land of Belize. She develops a curriculum that can be adapted for any school setting. She talks about not having a hidden agenda, but instead simply wishing to serve. The word catches like wild fire. Her torch shines and schools upon schools ask for it.
The work that she does in the schools places high value on the oral culture of Belize. Drawing from trickster and folk legends of the cultures represented in Belize, she assigns both written and oral assignments that revisit the oral culture the students and teachers live. We hear refined and raw accounts of stories of how the children meet La Llorana, Tata Duende, the caretaker of the forests of Belize and we hear rich tales of El Cadejo, a black and white dog, one for evil actions and one to protect you. She combines the past with the present. What would you do if La Llorana appeared at your school? Students address their responses with personal voices.
She skillfully models and shares how to help students build reading and writing skills by investing in re-telling stories of these folk legends. However, she also echoes the need to orally tell these stories so that the experience of the work is felt in the classroom. We hear vibrant examples of walking to school only to discover the black El Cadejo confronts the student.
What is particularly inviting is the method the book is organized, we hear the beauty of Belize as well as the problems it suffers, we witness Kristin’s personal journey but we also are provided a lesson plan to build literacy skills, (fully adaptable) and it is equipped with student models. Plus, rich photos help us see this journey. This unexpected journey that leads Kristin to serve so many.
This together makes for a delightful informative read. An educator can learn valuable tools to promote oral telling and writing. A community is reminded of the wonder and allure of local legends. A traveler can experience Belize. In all this, it is a personal journey of Kristin. She has provided a guidebook to be compassionate and active participants in serving others.
And she wishes that the reader can follow this example and make a difference in their community. Thank you, Kristin, for providing the tools to do so.
You can contact Kristin and watch her at work at:
Kristin Pedemonti Cause-Focused Storyteller, Speaker & Author
Storytelling Consultant, World Bank www.storytellerkp.com Finalist TED Talks 2013 Worldwide Talent Search TEDxWarsaw: http://youtu.be/Pap6TW3y-k0?t=30s Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/storytellerkp/videos
Performance in Iran: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTNFIAAZFvo
Founder/Facilitator Literacy Outreach Belize http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QNZA3yTiqJ8
Since 2006, Ms Pedemonti has donated programs
for 33K youth in Belize.
*Look for our next post where we interview Kristin and find out about her and the stellar work that she is doing.
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