Sarah Kippen Wood, Former Executive Director of Their Story is Our Story (TSOS), shares how stories connect and lead to change in an interview with Darien Laird, our Director of External Media. Sarah gives us an inside look at how TSOS functions and shares how telling her story helped her fight a stage four cancer diagnosis. Watch the story.
How have you seen stories make an impact on your community and then have you had any personal experiences with stories, maybe with you or your family?
TSOS taught me a lot about how to share my own story. I had to step away from my work with TSOS when I was diagnosed with stage four cancer…I had to find someone willing to give their liver to me, which meant I had to quickly become a teller of my own story… It was pretty uncomfortable at times. I never really wanted to be a cancer poster child, and I especially didn’t want to exploit my kids in the process. But I had to share my story to get attention on the issue in order to find a good match.
What began as me reluctantly sharing my personal story for primarily selfish motives, hopingnto find my own donor match, wound up having a bigger impact on my community. What I didn’t realize, was that sharing my story inspired someone else to take action in their own life.
Now, their story is linked to my story. This linking of stories is what TSOS is all about.
You were sharing stories during your chemotherapy treatments… Is there any particular story that really impacted you?
Noor’s story impacted, has impacted, and continues to impact my life. And where do I go from here? I can turn to my neighborhood with a newcomer family and welcome them in ways that they need to be welcomed. Because I heard Noor’s story and because it increased my understanding and empathy. And because when I welcome someone else, maybe instead of welcoming them with these twinges of pride or unknowingly patronizing condescension, I can see in someone else’s face myself. And I think that that is the way we can welcome people in a way that helps them feel like they truly belong somewhere, helps us all feel like we belong to the same community.
The Emerald Project is a Utah-based organization that carefully designs dialogues to engage with non-Muslims to make Salt Lake Valley a more welcoming home to Muslims. As many of our refugee friends belong to the Muslim faith, we applaud opportunities that foster understanding and were pleased to support The Emerald Project’s 3rd annual “Slam the Islamophobia” event on February 15th.
Refugees often risk their lives crossing deserts, jungles, and oceans all in the search for shelter, freedom, or happiness. Yet, even once they’ve reached physical safety, mental mountains emerge that make daily life an uphill climb. At the November 2022 conference for the Utah Chapter of the Society for Public Health Education (USOPHE), presenters Shurooq Al Jewari and Sasha Sloan discussed mental health and inclusion, focusing on immigrants and refugees.
Holidays are an important time to include newcomers. Newcomers are often aching for the traditions and holiday magic they knew at home - and the connections with family and friends. The Garcias* came from a strong family and community that knew generous and giving holiday traditions. I knew, when I met our new friends from Venezuela, the rich bond we would have; this was a kindred spirit family. Even though we have been bad at communicating (Google Translate is such a false hope), it was easy to find connections that helped us love each other.