By Maricha Harris
The more than 28,000 Milwaukee women who battle substance abuse represent more than just numbers; they represent stories. Meta House—a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping women, especially mothers, recover from substance abuse—recognizes the importance of helping women tell their stories.
Recently, Mandi Lindner, communications coordinator for Meta House partnered with Daria Kempka, interactive producer, Marquette University Office of Marketing and Communications and Jennifer Janvier, multimedia specialist, Diederich College of Communications at Marquette to host a one-day Digital Advocacy Workshop for Meta House graduates.
“The project was all about sustainable story telling,” said Kempka. The overarching goal of the workshop was to empower the women by helping them develop skills to tell their story for a lifetime and to acquire employable skills by working with technology that was new them. Using a camera, for example, was a new experience, but in the end “it’s a confidence builder,” sad Janvier.
The workshop began with an educational component in which the women learned basic storytelling and photography skills. Participants learned how to tell their stories using their own words and pictures. Janvier taught the participants lighting and composition basics like how to choose angles that help communicate a message. She also provided technical assistance.
“When you give people the tools and the permission to tell their own stories, it can be a healing process for the people,“ said Kempka. “The participants reflected on their lives.” The stories also offer encouragement to other women, she said. “That’s a direct women to women benefit.”
Wanda, a Meta House graduate, was compelled to participate in the workshop because she feels a greater purpose in her story. “I just like to give back and tell my story,” she said. “I just thank God for Meta House. I just thank God that I am one of the fortunate ones that made it back and made it through.”
During the workshop, Wanda reflected on her life—including her 18-year addition to alcohol and cocaine, her journey through recovery and her now six years of sobriety. “It was like the past, present and the future.” For her, the workshop was fun and exciting. “It felt good to go in there and visit my old room and take pictures.”
The workshop’s benefits go beyond empowering the participants; the benefits impact the community. “It puts a human face on an issue that’s a concern to the community, said Kempka. ” When you can see a story—especially a story of triumph—it helps bring down barriers.” Jenvier agreed and added, “It helps move issues beyond the numbers and statistics. People can see the person behind it and can relate.”
For Meta House, the workshop complimented the work that they are already doing. “It certainly helps get our message out of what we do,” said Lindner. “There’s no better way for us to share with the community what we do than having the women share how Meta House has affected their lives.”