First Voice Stories Empower Individuals and Communities
Look into the La Vida! Challenges for Healthy Living project and you’ll find the meaning of empowerment in the stories of transformed people. Shelley Schlender, KGNU Community Radio coordinator of La Vida! in Boulder, Colorado, recently related one story after another of people who changed their own lives for the better and, through radio, reached out to empower others.
Consider the six-part series that followed Kim Bowman as she struggled to quit smoking using the Colorado Quitline. Bowman volunteered to share her personal struggle—as it took place—with a large radio audience. Schlender said Bowman’s courageous narrative hit home with many listeners. One woman said the show taught her how to support her husband who had quit smoking and was struggling. “I know how to help. This is enormous. This is thrilling,” she wrote. Schlender added, “The power of the story came from capturing the voice of a real person as she struggled with her addiction and all that the cigarettes meant to her.”
VIEW . . . the video made from excerpts of all five programs.
Another first-voice radio saga called Medicine for Magdaleña recounts the difficulties Magdaleña, a disabled legal immigrant from Mexico, has in getting her bills paid by Medicaid, though she qualified and registered for the program. Her granddaughter Diana narrates and conducts the interviews with her grandmother, while simultaneously translating for her. During the second show Euvaldo Valdez, a Medicare ombudsman, comes on the scene to sort through the stack of bills and complicated paperwork. Valdez makes call after call to straighten things out, until, finally—seven months later—the bills start getting paid.
Magdaleña’s experiences change how Diana sees life and moves her to act on her family’s behalf. She observes that even Valdez, a state employee who knows the ropes, has to struggle to straighten things out, and she sees that his persistence pays off. Additionally, Diana gains confidence and develops her own communication skills as she speaks into the microphone for the radio broadcast. Diana announces, while recording the last show, that she is going to work on fixing her grandmother’s food stamp problem. The show ends with Diana calling Maureen Farrel of the Colorado Center on Law and Policy and saying, “Hi, Maureen. I have a question for you.”
LISTEN . . . to all 5 programs in the series
You can easily see the value of empowerment in the personal story of Pilar Aguilar. Schlender approached Aguilar, the adult outreach coordinator at the Family Learning Center (FLC), about bringing a nutritional eating plan to a support group at FLC. She wanted to create a radio series by recording people’s experiences while they followed the plan. Aguilar was a borderline diabetic, so she tried following the plan herself. After experiencing great results—her blood sugar levels moved into the normal range and she lost weight—Aguilar made the plan part of the weekly support group she facilitated. The meetings were recorded, edited, and posted to the La Vida! Web site by KGNU, making great use of first-voice stories.
Says Aguilar, “At the beginning some of us were very [hesitant] about talking about health issues because those things are very private. Not everyone was comfortable discussing such things, especially with a microphone in front of us. But we learned the importance of sharing our stories to educate other people who are struggling with the same issues . . . We hope we are planting the seeds for change.”
LISTEN . . . to the “Nutritional Think Tank” support group series •
Watch and Listen
New Research & Recommendations
This report (PDF 3.8MB) offers guidance for community organizations and those who fund social change in how best to harness the power of local media-making for community health improvement. Spanish-language version is now available. Una versión en español de este informe esta en la web.