My First Ever Human Library Experience!


The Human library

 

I was intrigued the very first time I had heard, or rather read about the Human library. The Human Library, for those who don’t know, is a concept birthed in Denmark in 2000. It is now organised all over the world. In a Human Library, real people are on loan to readers, giving readers the opportunity to listen to their stories first-hand. The hope is to break down social barriers by providing a safe platform for individuals to challenge the stereotypes and prejudices that they may have.

I was so enamoured by the very concept, that I wanted to experience it first-hand. It all sounded so dynamic and empathetic! And so, I waited for the next event to take place. Finally, I got my chance last week, when I heard about The Human Library @Duxton, Singapore. All I had to do was register through email, and let them know my preferred time slot, and my preferred human book. In two days, I had my conformation. I was ready for my experience.

However, as I made my way to the event after a long day at work, I began doubting my intention to attend. What if I am disappointed? What if it’s a hype? What if I don’t reach on time? I was agitated enough as the taxi uncle slowly, and very cautiously inched towards the address that he clearly didn’t know. Eventually, I got down from the snail-like-car, and made my way, flustered and late to 99 Duxton Road.

The place was abuzz with activities. “Are you a book or a reader,” I was asked. The question was both intriguing and unexpected. I smiled. My very first Human Library experience had begun. “Reader,” I replied. The volunteers at the registration table handed me my library card, and I made my way to table 4. The book title was, Single Mum. As I hurried to my designated book, I had company. Another lady was late, just like I was and we happily spoke to each other, both glad to have company as we entered the “library” late.

 

 

My first thought was, wow, this place is full of bright energy, and lively conversations! There was absolutely nothing dull, or forced in there. What kind of people would come here? Who would want to be a book, and who would want to be a reader? I looked around at the room awash with warm light and smiling faces. There were people of different age groups and backgrounds, but they all had one common trait it seemed, they were all open to know more, and they were all open to share. Yes, that is exactly what was striking in this room. Everyone in the room was a communicator in some way or the other.

I found table 4. My human book, Sherlin, was a bright and vivacious lady, who introduced herself: “Hi, I am a a single mom. A widow.” Then she went on narrating her experiences of loss, pain and of bouncing back. The bouncing back bit was emphasised. She was clearly a lady who enjoyed communicating. The questions poured in, one after the other. The readers were clearly people who enjoyed communicating as well! There were no awkward pauses, or lack of interest. Those 20 minutes were enriched with constant and seamless sharing of ideas, thoughts and experiences. Questions directed at her ranged from financial situations, to grieving process, to even dating experiences, and oh my, my book was not shy! There were no euphemisms and no pretenses. There were also no barriers to communication. The books were there to share their stories, and the readers were there to know these stories. The goal was achieved brilliantly!

By the end of it, I started feeling a kinship with my book. I was proud of her, and thankful to have heard a story that was this personal. Few things stayed with me though, from that conversation. They were my lessons learnt that day.

First was on loss and grieving. Most people are uncomfortable around those who have suffered a loss, she said, and having lost a parent myself a few years ago, I could empathise. “Also, most people don’t know what to say to the one grieving”, she added. I agreed to that too. “I hate the phrase, stay strong,” she finally said, exaggerating the woeful face of a sympathiser trying to deliver a condolence message. We all laughed, guilty of having said that phrase to many people ourselves. “ You don’t have to say that, you know. Because, grieving is allowed, and it’s okay to be sad, and vulnerable, and weak sometimes.”

Lesson learnt in what not to say in a condolence message.

​Secondly, she spoke about volunteering as an act of empowerment. According to her, the act of volunteering made her feel good about herself, and infused her with a feeling of positivity. “The more you help others, the better (and stronger) you feel about yourself.”

Lesson learnt in empowerment and volunteerism

Lastly, I couldn’t help but notice, what a positive and bright energy she was. “How do you maintain this energy in spite of all the problems that you face in your personal life?” I asked. “I have a role model, she said, my mother.” Her mother, she informed us, was bright and active, and lived life to the fullest, inspite of many personal setbacks. Sherlin had learnt to do the same. “I want to be a role model too,” she said. Well, Sherlin, I already think you are!

Lesson learnt in living life to the fullest, in being inspired by those you look up to, and lesson learnt in aspiring to be an inspiration to others.

And thus my first experience of being at the Human library ended. If I had known it would be this invigorating, and informative, I would have registered for few more slots. There was so much more to learn, and so many stories to hear. And like always, the more I know about new experiences, and new things, the more I realise how less I know.

Lessons learnt in humility.

Read Sherlin’s story here

Learn more about The Human Library SG here

Origin of The Human Library

I lingered a bit more to take pictures, to speak to the organisers, and to look around at many new conversations that were breaking barriers, shattering the stereotypes, and bringing people together. After all, we are all stories separated by barriers of ignorance.

 

 

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Teach Kids about Empathy


Empathy. I can’t stress on it enough, and I can’t stop talking about it. Thanks to TheAsian Parents Magazine for publishing my article. Read my original article here.

 

(Text: Prionka Ray. Source: TheAsianParents)

(Text: Prionka Ray. Source: TheAsianParents)

Bringing People Together


A community is where people reach out to each other in different ways, for different purposes, and in the process create something lasting and beautiful. There’s nothing more heart warming than people coming forward as a community, as a society, exactly as humanity should be. There’s much happening in our community as well. A quick look at few events in Singapore:

The Human Library

The largest Human Library event, termed, “Moving Foreword” took place on 27 August at Taman Jurong Community Club, and it brought 234 Readers in conversations with 42 Books and 11 Community Partners. Organised by Human Library Singapore, the event  aims to provide a safe space for conversations to occur between various groups, and in the process, create positive experiences and mutual respect amongst individuals.

Among the Human Books at this event were a wildlife rescuer, solo female travellers, an atheist, a vegan, ex-offenders and suicide attempt survivors. Care was taken to curate as diverse a range as possible as all identities naturally come with stereotypes, not just those that are typically thought of as stigmatised. A first-time Book, Rolinda, Foreign Domestic Worker, added “As a Book I come to share what I had learned; but in the end, I learned more than what I shared. Empathy begins with a conversation.”

More information about Human Library, Singapore

Click here for other community programmes in Singapore

Coming up!

Star Wars Force Friday II

At the stroke of midnight on Friday, September 1, 2017, the Force will be strong at ION Orchard with the launch of Star Wars: Experience the Force Singapore festival. The 10-day festival will take place from 1 – 10 September and will kick off with the worldwide celebration of Star Wars Force Friday II. All festival experiences along Orchard Road are free-of-charge. The festival culminates with an immersive experience over at STGCC, where an entire zone has been specially dedicated to Star Wars. The fans will be offered the chance to get up close and personal with fan-built vehicle replicas, games, releases and collectibles!  Click for more information on Star Wars Force Friday.

Bringing people together. That’s today’s theme and the need of the hour. This large hearted living has been expressed by the poet, playwright, short story writer, and essayist LeRoi Jones, better known as Amiri Baraka (October 7, 1934–January 9, 2014).

Want to do your bit? 

Direct help to Houston

Donate to North East Flood in India

Volunteer in Singapore

So, bring people together, stay united and reach out! Till we meet again!

 

In-Group Support Group for Youth


We have a group and we call it, In-Group.

What does In-Group actually mean?

In sociology and social psychology, an ingroup is a social group to which a person psychologically identifies as being a member. By contrast, an outgroup is a social group with which an individual does not identify with.

The Famous Experiment by Jane Elliot

Iowa teacher, Jane Elliot conducted an experiment in 1968, (A Class Divided) that showed how easy it was to turn students as young as 7-year-old  into hate mongerers by targeted discrimination. Since the time of Elliot’s experiment, social psychologists have warned us of the causes, and consequences of ingroup-outgroup stereotyping. The experiment and the numerous studies after that showed us how easy it was to divide, to break bonds, to forms acrimonious groups that would stick to each other and against anyone they perceive as different.

 Philosophy behind In-Group Support Group for Youth

In-Group Support Group challenges the whole idea of discrimination based on perceived differences, and aims to unite teens and kids instead. It aims to build positive self-image and increased self-worth in kids and teens, and in turn ensure a future society that is more positive and inclusive.

Research shows that most teens and pre-teens go through issues like anxiety, bullying, stress, stereotyping, body imaging, depression etc. These arise from the very thought of being different. In fact, researcher, Yurgelun-Todd believes that a lot of teenage behavior is about avoiding the anxiety of feeling left out and not being a part of things. Though In-Group is targeted at teens and kids, it hopes to reach out to everyone in the community:  teens, kids, parents, educators, counsellors and policy makers, by raising awareness and by allowing a space to share stories, resources and solutions.

In-Group, Support Group (Kids/Teens)

In-Group is a non-profit initiative. It’s an advocacy, support group and a shared resource on stereotyping, bullying, peer pressure, anxiety and other issues faced by kids & teens. We believe shared stories not only increase awareness, but they also help build empathy in the community. The aim is to build a nurturing, supportive and inclusive society. If you would like to share your story (anonymously or otherwise), donate, collaborate or enquire about our workshops, or if you are an expert who could help us with building shared resources, do email us at ingrouphelp@gmail.com.

We are thankful to the following organisations for their support:
* The Bully-Free Committee, Singapore Children’s Society
* Tinkle Friend (www.tinklefriend.com)
* Coalition against Bullying for Children & Youth (Singapore)
* Association of Women for Action & Research, Singapore

Blog Contributors  & Writers Wanted!

We are blogging and are looking for opinions, articles, real stories, and resources (from kids, teens, parents, educators, counsellors, or anyone in the community at all)! We are looking for personal stories when things went wrong, for solutions that worked, and then those that didn’t. We are looking for some cool stuff too! Opinions, current events, music and feel-good articles (less than 300 words). If you would like to contribute, write to us at ingrouphelp@gmail.com or rayprionka@gmail.com. The articles and contributions can be anonymous if you so want, and if you don’t, then we are more than happy to publish your name.

Blog: https://ingroupsupportgroup.wordpress.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/InGroupSupportForYouth/

InGroup, Support Group For Kids/Teens

We founded In-Group, so that we could belong. Yes, all of us. Together.

Stories are Meant to be Shared


Hello! Hello! I have been missing, and that’s because April and May turned out to b
e real busy. They were full of happenings, events and collaborations. And so I had an enriching time meeting people, being inspired and then gushing about it all on social media. Amidst all these ‘gushing about’, I was faced with a dilemma: to share or not to share. But before I go to to that juncture of my narrative, let me step back and talk about the events that led me to it.

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It all began with a diplomatic event that I co-organised for my clients. And in the process, I had the privilege of meeting many strong, powerful and superbly talented women. These were diplomats, heads of organisations, Doctors, artists and professionals, who were not just talented, and confident, but were also women who believed in the power of their stories. Whenever people with passion and purpose articulate, there’s always much to learn from each view-point. I was not just inspired, but also heartened to see how stories had the capacity to reach out to people who would have never assumed what you have gone through and wouldn’t know otherwise, what your ideas are. These stories may have originated from a personal space perhaps, however, as soon as they were shared, they became a place of resource, a place to test ideas, to validate experiences and to learn. Learn, I surely did.

And on a morning, overcast with clouds, the guests arrived at the embassy, and  we celebrated 50 years of bilateral ties between Indonesia and Singapore. Along with that, we celebrated the inspiration behind Ibu Kartini of Indonesia. It reiterated the fact, that years after we are gone, our stories, our ideas and thoughts will be passed down. My sincere thanks to Indoconnect & the Indonesian Embassy for trusting me with such a beautiful and meaningful occasion.

For the second event, I had the opportunity to share my own story. This time, I was asked to share my ‘Empathy Journey’ as a mentor to teens-at-risk. This is a topic close to my heart. Nevertheless, it’s only when I began gathering my thoughts before the event, that I realised that even my own story needs introspection. I realised that empathy is not a tap to be switched on when I am mentoring or when I am volunteering, it’s a way of life  that should be a part of everything I do. I shared my epiphany, my leanings from the many inspiring people that I have met, and my learning from the many failures and successes that I have seen.

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Ted Ed @ NYGH 2017

As I shared my story, I felt grateful to have been given this opportunity to address a crowd of young impressionable students. I hoped that I left some bits of my stories behind in that glittering hall, stories that could be used as a resource, as a validation and, as a positive learning.

Eventually, I was asked: should stories be shared? I thought back to the many who would say no. And then I thought of the few powerful and inspirational ones who would say, yes. I paused and took a stand: Positive stories and positive emotions are meant to be shared. The more they are shared, the more they reach people and touch them, engulfing them in a mist of positivity. They validate a positive intention and allow a feeling of wellbeing. Asian culture frowns upon boasting. However, I have seen the stories inspire many towards positive thoughts and positive actions. Ok, so what about negative stories? That would be an interesting debate, and we shall keep it for another day. But I can safely say that some people have a knack of turning even the negative stories to a positive one. One such young lady is Aija Mayrock. The spunky author, performer and activist turned her bullying experiences towards a positive road to success. I greatly enjoyed interacting with her. Look out for her interview in my next post.

For now, keep sharing!