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Storytelling at Avalanche

Every year at Avalanche Wilderness camp in South India, I learn something new. Watching the U.S teams over the years, I get to witness amazing creativity and improvisation. For Holly Andrews, this Avalanche expedition is her fourth camp. She plans, dreams, organizes, purchases, fundraises, and prepares her team for a myriad of activities. She is a veteran now, and as the camp progresses, I see all her past experience come to play. She is a teacher through and through and she knows that the surest way to teach girls from a different culture, country, and language is through visuals.

We've used storyboards in the past and storybooks. Occasionally there is a skit. But this was the first year that each teaching time included acting. The stories come to life. The gap between English and Hindi, Telugu, Bengali, and Canada narrows as all the girls watch the story acted out. The translators help enormously, but the attention is all on the actors. Every member of the team, six in all, dress up in simple costumes, sometimes a scarf over the head, a paper pig mask, or a long flowing top belted off with a rope. Our visiting team is in character, and the girls are riveted. From time to time girls are invited to participate as “villagers.” Even better. They are part of the play.

The topic is “Our need for Water”. The story is the Samaritan Woman. Hope Wise plays the part of the Samaritan woman. She is holding a water bucket for a prop. Although there are thirty of us sitting around the now cold campfire, it's so quiet you can hear a pin drop. I look around and see the girls with varying emotions flickering over their faces. They are relating. They have also had “many husbands.” Society has also cast them out. They feel the rejection of the Samaritan woman. They also long for true satisfaction, forgiveness, and absolution. They want living water so that they do not thirst again. There are tears in some eyes, and I can see the story has gripped them.

After the story, we break into small groups to share our responses. Many girls are eager to tell their own stories of pain, rejection, betrayal, and desire. The US team and our Indian staff members work together to listen, counsel, and care for each girl that shares. Storytimes usher in opportunities for healing and resolution for the girls. I see internal movement and change in their faces. They are opening up. The dramas have connected. It's incredibly simple and sweet and it has thrown wide the doors of their hearts.


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