A Victoria-based non-profit is providing a thoughtful online platform for silenced, marginalized and underrepresented people around the world to share their stories.
With a Humans of New York feel, The Nature of Us features candid firsthand accounts by people whose stories are rarely told and are often only done so when something bad happens – bullying, hate crimes, a police shooting.
The first of these is the story of Eddy Charlie, a local Indigenous man and survivor of the Kuper Island Residential School. To date, Charlie’s story has received close to five million reads, an overwhelming number for someone whose voice has been silenced for decades.
Founder and executive director of The Nature of Us, Winnie Weston, said they’ve stayed in close touch with Charlie since 2019 and on multiple accounts he has cried, relieved that people are finally listening.
“I don’t want to share my story and for people to feel sympathy, I want them to understand,” reads Charlie’s account.
This is perhaps the biggest goal of the platform, Weston said, creating conversation and education. They want stories that every type of person can recognize themself in, and stories that awaken others to realities they’ve never imagined.
Other accounts on The Nature of Us include a young man’s experience with schizoaffective disorder, an Olympic athlete’s fight against racism, a professor’s work on human rights and social justice and a teen’s journey accepting their transgender identity.
“It’s about ongoing engagement and ongoing representation,” Weston said.
|Winnie Weston is the founder and executive director of storytelling platform, The Nature of Us. (Courtesy of Winnie Weston)|
They recall forming the idea for the non-profit after delivering a TED talk in 2018 about their journey as a recovering addict and their struggle with mental health.
“It’s very therapeutic, not only to share your story and have that off your chest, but to have it heard as well,” said Weston, who wanted to give other people the same opportunity.
Weston began gathering stories for the platform in 2019 but it wasn’t until this year that they dove fully into the project, incorporating it in January and bringing on a roster of 17 staff and volunteers from across the country.
The team tries to make the storytelling process as simple and supportive as possible. If someone reaches out with their story, Weston will meet up with them – either virtually or distanced – and simply have a conversation. Then, an editor will transcribe what they talked about and work with the person to turn it into their story. It’s about building trust and community.
“We always have a sustainable relationship with our storytellers. We don’t forget about them, we always touch base and ask them how they’re doing,” Weston said.
Prospective storytellers and interested readers can find out more at thenatureofus.org.
Do you have a story tip? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.