First International Story Swap to Connect Students in New Orleans and Port-Au-Prince

April 13, 2010  • Alexa Wahl

Contact: Nicole Hernandez
Marketing and Communications Coordinator
Aspen Writers’ Foundation
970.925.3122, ext. 2# | [email protected] 


Aspen, CO, April 13, 2010 –– The Aspen Writers’ Foundation (AWF) is proud to announce the international launch of its innovative educational program, Story Swap. Thanks in large part to major support from the Bezos Family Foundation (BFF), this groundbreaking project will connect students from Port-au-Prince, Haiti with students from New Orleans, Louisiana. 


From April 19-23, AWF Story Swap facilitators, videographers, and field producers will travel to New Orleans and Port-au-Prince to facilitate the program and to document the entire project. The AWF will team up with the Global Nomads Group (GNG), an international nonprofit organization, to establish web videoconferencing between twelve students from Sci Academy: New Orleans Charter Science and Math Academy in New Orleans, and twelve students from Cours Privé Edme in Port-au-Prince in order to conduct this first-ever, face-to-face international Story Swap.


“The BFF believes in the power of youth to solve world problems,” explains Jackie Bezos, who together with her husband, Mike, created the Foundation. “The future hinges on the ability of young people – tomorrow’s leaders – to look beyond their borders to gain knowledge and forge understanding. Story Swap, through the sharing of voices and lives, will help these students become informed, compassionate global citizens.”


Established by the AWF in 2007, Story Swap uses storytelling, creative writing, and the visual arts to foster understanding among diverse populations. By pairing individuals from different backgrounds, this cross-cultural storytelling exchange breaks down isolation, increases interaction, raises awareness, and encourages compassion.


Imagination is at the heart of this project and allows participants to see the potential for change within their daily lives and to envision solutions and possibilities for development, unification of diverse socioeconomic and cultural groups, and hope for a better future. Students share stories of family, landscape, and emotional experiences that broaden their perception of the world and their surroundings.


“We believe that this is a fitting and timely project for the students of Port-au-Prince and New Orleans being that these two cities have rich storytelling traditions and have experienced devastating natural disasters. Story Swap is the ultimate modern-day pen pal relationship and is designed to help strengthen and, in this case, restore individuals, schools, and communities,” says Lisa Consiglio, executive director for the AWF.


A video of the New Orleans/Port-au-Prince Story Swap, sponsored by the BFF, will premier during the AWF’s Aspen Summer Words Literary Festival, to be held June 20-25 in Aspen, and (tentatively) during the Aspen Institute’s Ideas Festival, to be held July 5-11 in Aspen.


Previous Story Swap projects have been conducted locally throughout Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley, and between students in Rifle, Colorado and students in Oakland, California. With each Story Swap project that takes place, webs of connections are created and bridges are built within communities. In conjunction with the New Orleans/Port-au-Prince Story Swap project, the AWF is encouraging local Roaring Fork schools to become involved in rebuilding Haitian schools by participating in the Students Rebuild Challenge. This nationwide initiative, sponsored by the BFF (www.bezosfamilyfoundation.org), GNG (www.gng.org), and Architecture for Humanity (www.architectureforhumanity.org), matches donations dollar-for-dollar and up to $2,500 per school to rebuild schools in Haiti. More information may be found at studentsrebuild.org.  


Follow the Story Swap project on Facebook and Twitter: @aspenwriters, @studentsrebuild, and @global_nomads. Please contact Nicole Hernandez if you are interested in watching the final presentation of stories on Friday April 23rd between the students from Port-au-Prince and New Orleans live via web videoconferencing. For more information, visit aspenwriters.org and studentsrebuild.org, or contact Nicole Hernandez by emailing [email protected] 


The Aspen Writers’ Foundation, Colorado’s oldest nonprofit literary organization and a program of the Aspen Institute, has been bringing readers and writers together since 1976. The organization’s mission is to provide programs that encourage writers in their craft and readers in their appreciation of literature. Through its repertoire of ten year-round programs and projects, the Aspen Writers’ Foundation annually serves 100,000-plus literary enthusiasts of all ages.


The Bezos Family Foundation is a private, independent foundation established by Jackie and Mike Bezos, who along with their children and spouses, serve as directors. The Foundation works to strengthen educational opportunities for everyone, regardless of economic circumstances, and cultivate learning as a life-long process that begins in early childhood.


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