5 Cities. 5 Different Projects. 5 Amazing Stories. The first 5 Facing Projects.

If you would have told us a year ago that in one year The Facing Project would pilot in five communities across the U.S. and that we’d be on the verge of opening the opportunity up to others, we might have said that sounded like a nice dream.  After all, helping people tell their stories and giving them a voice is a dream of ours, but would communities really take on this challenge with us?

One year later, we are honored to say, “Yes, they were.”  And the dream of helping communities tell the stories of its citizens is coming true.

We have had the privilege to work with amazing people in extraordinary communities during the pilot stage of The Facing Project.  People from all walks of life who rallied together around an issue that needed to be faced in their communities, and they did so through telling their own stories.

The Pilot Communities

Atlanta, Georgia – Facing Sex Trafficking: Atlanta’s Dirty Little Secret   

Daisha Wilber and Audrey Galex, two freelance filmmakers, along with Yewande Austin, the founder of the Change Rocks Foundation and Phoenix Record’s First Lady of Alternative Soul, have come together to lead Atlanta’s Facing Project.  The trio is partnering with various organizations that work to combat human and sex trafficking, and with individuals who have been trafficked, to tell the first-person stories of those who have been impacted by Atlanta’s underground sex trafficking industry.  Atlanta’s project will include written word, spoken word, video, music, and art culminating around awareness events in August and leading into a Conference on Sex Trafficking in January where the book, Facing Sex Trafficking: Atlanta’s Dirty Little Secret, will debut along with the monologues.

Fort Wayne, Indiana – Facing Homelessness

Fort Wayne was the first community to sign on as a pilot with The Facing Project, and this community truly had the energy to develop an amazing project.  Led by Heidi Kaufman and Bethany Pruitt from Lutheran Social Services of Indiana, Facing Homelessness brought together a steering committee of representatives from 13 organizations working with homelessness, as well as the Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry, to tell the stories of their homeless citizens.  The Fort Wayne project included art that was inspired by the stories, displayed at various locations around the city for 30 days—including the Fort Wayne Museum of Art.  The end of the 30-day stretch led to an awareness event on homelessness where the book, Facing Homeless in Fort Wayne, was debuted and the monologues were read to a crowd of nearly 200 people.  At the event, Mayor Tom Henry made a proclamation that April 18th would now be known of Facing Homelessness day in Fort Wayne.  One exciting part of Fort Wayne’s journey is that NPR picked up the story and produced a segment that shared a few of the stories each day for one week during Morning Edition and All Things Considered.

Muncie, Indiana – Facing Autism

Muncie is our hometown and the start of the original Facing Project, Facing Poverty.  As we began working with other communities to start their Facing Projects, we had an ongoing conversation between us that we would someday launch another project in our own community that we would lead.  We just didn’t realize it would be in a few months rather than in a few years.  But moments in life happen when the universe begins to tell you that the time is now.  In Muncie, families with children who are just diagnosed to be on the spectrum aren’t pointed in the direction of how to find support from other families; not even to resources that exist within the community.  We are here and we can help with a solution.  Over the summer and into the fall, we will share the stories of families who are touched by autism through a book we will call, “Facing Autism in Muncie: A Support and Resource Guide for Families.”  In addition to the stories, the book will provide a directory for all autism resources in Muncie—including families who are willing to be contacted.  We will have art on display inspired by the stories, and have an evening of monologues.  Each pediatrician in town will be provided with copies of the book to share with families.

Rome, Georgia – Facing Hope

Led by a partnership among Georgia Highlands College (GHC), Berry College, Georgia Northwestern Technical, over 20 nonprofits, and chaired by Juliana Breihaupt from GHC, the City of Rome is Facing Hope.  Rather than look at poverty as a negative factor, the community will take the opportunity to learn from the stories of their neighbors living in poverty and create a plan for lifting them up.  The project will include art, photography, and monologues.  Service-learning students from each of the campuses will work with community writers to be mentored on the process of becoming a community engaged writer.  The book, Facing Hope in Rome, will debut in fall 2013, and the magazine, V3, will run a feature on the project.

South Bend, Indiana – Facing the Future through the Voices of Teenage Girls

Moving a city forward depends on the investment in youth.  South Bend believes this, and that’s why Adrian Six from Ivy Tech Community College—North Central and staff from Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s office  have come together with multiple nonprofits and schools for South Bend’s project.  Through the stories of inner-city girls on their hopes and aspirations for the future of South Bend, Ivy Tech and the Mayor’s office want to use the inspiration to plan for South Bend’s future.  The project will include video, photography, and monologues.  The book and the video, Facing the Future through the Voices of Inner-City Girls in South Bend, will be released in fall 2013.

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And these stories are just the beginning.  Will your community be next?  We hope so.  We want to help you tell your story.  As we like to say:  Every community has a story, what’s yours?

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Facing Autism in Muncie, Indiana