From September through November ExpresArte has kept up digital storytelling in Colombia, this time in Riohacha, La Guajira. Riohacha is a small city on the Caribbean coast near the Colombia-Venezuela boarder.

The Livio project was a partnership with Livio Reginaldo Fishione, a public school, and Atala the computer teacher there. Using the school’s computer lab, I worked weekly with Livio’s tenth grade class (all 140 of them) to make digital stories about the environment in Riohacha. The original idea was to focus the stories on ecological themes, but the students were more interested in writing about specific aspects of their lives in Riohacha, that I don’t think most people would consider “environmental”–in a traditional sense at least. Into the project, I started to see the stories as focusing on the lives and places that make Riohacha what it is. Interestingly, a lot of students wrote stories that mixed fiction and non-fiction.

The Livio project was not easy. 140 students was too many for me to connect with and support the same way we were able to in Bogotá. The city itself also presented some challenges. I started the Livio project as soon as I arrived in Riohacha and did not know the place at all. These projects require a huge time investment and I was often thrown off by teacher strikes, power outages and faulty computers.

Despite the obstacles, the students really enjoyed the project and (incredibly) produced stories. Unfortunately, I was not able to document the process as well as we did in Bogotá, but on our final screening I interviewed some students about their projects. Those stories and statements are on the ExpresArte Students’ blog.

The experience at Livio taught me a lot more about what kind of supports I need to make a digital storytelling workshop successful. Using what I learned, I have already developed two upcoming DS workshops, one in Cuba and one in La Guajira. More on those workshops to come.

This project would not have been possible without the help of Fanna Gamal, another Tufts graduate and recent ExpresArte team member. I want to give a big thank you to Jackie & Sid Mintz, Phil Fornaci, Susan & Hal Malone, Peter & Jevne Diaz, Tabitha Stewart, Lauren Young, Laura Weeldryer, Diana Medina & Pat Halle. Without all of your help the project could not have gone on. Gin Ferrara! Also Gin Ferrara sorry I forgot you earlier.