“Our goal is to achieve a sense of fearless hope through radical empathy.”

Colum McCann, Author (Apeirogon, Let the Great World Spin) and Co-founder of Narrative 4)

By: Dee Ellmann

How does one achieve fearless hope and radical empathy? For Irish novelist Colum McCann, this process began a decade ago when he co-founded Narrative 4, a global storytelling exchange for students. Narrative 4 is a non-profit organization based in Limerick, Ireland which uses personal storytelling as a way of getting young people to stand in the shoes of another whether that “other” lives across the street or the country. Narrative 4 has paired kids from the South Bronx to those in rural Kentucky and students in Chicago with kids in Tampico, Mexico. They are now offering programs in 12 countries and hundreds of schools where teachers have been trained to use story exchange techniques in their classrooms.

Colum McCann has a new book out called Apeirogon. It centers on a story of an unlikely friendship between two fathers, one of whom is Israeli and the other Palestinian. They are united in grief by personal tragedy. His work with Narrative 4 is an extension of his interest in storytelling to build empathy and understanding beyond our differences and to alleviate suffering caused by conflict and violence.

How do we break down the barriers, learn to trust one another, and create compassion for one another’s struggles? The answer may be partly through sharing our stories. Students learning the power of storytelling are experiencing a sense of connection with others and the confidence that comes from knowing their lives and stories matter.

Find out more about Narrative 4 at narrative4.com or on Colum McCann’s website: colummccann.com

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