Storytelling Can Bring About Powerful Change

July 25, 2016

by Kelli Knutsen

On July 18, our office in Johannesburg celebrated Mandela Day, an annual international day in honour of Nelson Mandela. Nelson Mandela was a masterful storyteller. After being imprisoned for 27 years, Mandela came out to lead the people of South Africa to political liberation. He believed that the future belonged to the next generation. After retiring from public life, Mandela dedicated himself to children and used the power of storytelling to uplift the future generations of South Africa.

He used his own personal stories to illuminate the nuances of broad issues, and gave seemingly intractable social problems a human face with which to engage. His personal narratives energised public narratives and shaped the way people thought, as well as their collective understanding. Consequently, his narratives impacted the way the people responded to issues around social inclusion.

So to celebrate this Mandela Day, FleishmanHillard’s Johannesburg office decided to enrich the lives of 220 grade one (6-year old) students, at Nooitgedacht Primary School.

As communications professionals, we speak about using the power of storytelling to bring about meaningful change. As part of our commitment to FleishmanHillard’s global social inclusion initiative, we decided to extend our professional use of storytelling to contribute to the fight against inequality in education. Storytelling gives us the ability to influence the way people understand the experiences of marginalised or underprivileged groups, and what needs to be done to help.

Nooitgedacht Primary School, which is based in an underprivileged community in Johannesburg, lacks basic facilities and resources needed to provide the children with quality education. The children come from adverse living conditions, lack support systems and travel far to get to and from school each day.

Because the students seldom receive a lunch meal, we spent Thursday morning making lunch packs for the kids to ensure they had one decent meal in the day. We donated a handful of books the school library and spent an hour of the day reading the children stories, which were outside the realm of their normal curriculum.

Through the power of storytelling we were able to make a real impact in the lives of the children. Energised and inspired, both FleishmanHillard and the children had a day to remember.

Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon with which you can use to change the world.” We are inspired to continue help the communities continue to educate the future generation of South Africa.