Storytelling through Thimble

This project is supported by a grant from CIRA’s Community Investment Program. CIRA’s Community Investment Program gives back by supporting initiatives and programs that help build a better online Canada.

This post is submitted by Erum Hasan from the YWCA Girls Centre. Erum is a 17 year-old blogger, an active member of the YWCA Girls Council, a long-time member of Hive Toronto and part of the Ca.pture Youth Council. The accompanying illustration is done by youth facilitator and artist Lena Xu.

Our Ca.pture Youth Council got together on Saturday, January 14th for our 4th session. We started by practicing a bit of deep breathing which was helpful as we were all tense in the morning and helped us take in everything around us. It also brought awareness to me, my  peers and the space. We took some time to review our safe words: Disney = timeout and Ratatouille = time out with some assistance. These words were important to establish as we are working with a very sensitive issue – cyberbullying. It was valuable to be reminded about the safe words as it would be easier to acknowledge how we feel without the need to elaborate. We then moved onto a team building activity ; we did the “I am poem” which was a great way to get to know people, see their different creative sides and reflect our own morals and beliefs and to connect with my peers in that way. Following, we all participated in another activity, FIND your match, which allowed us to ask questions and find our partner based on words on a card. For example, mine was Jay Z and my partner’s was Beyonce. This activity gave everyone a chance to mingle with participants to whom we had yet to be introduced. These activities helped relieve tension and create a youth friendly space.

Before we started our story board on Mozilla’s web application, Thimble, we prepared by creating a mind map and made a list of keywords that best express our feelings of cyberbullying. It was interesting to see what my peers’ values and morals are in terms of cyberbullying. While working on the mind map, we started a discussion as to what are the various aspects of cyberbullying. For example: what is it, the various roles people can adopt in cyberbullying, possible places it could take effect, advice from someone who has been affected and how to create a safe place to have discussions on the topic of cyberbullying. These components were an essential part as they would be key in furthering our understanding and having better conversations about cyberbullying. Part of Ca.pture is to understand the spectrum of cyberbullying but also to learn how to communicate better and take preventative steps. Understanding how to work with Thimble and its structure is important to me because it is a form of creatively expressing my feelings and emotions through a tech application. I feel that the Ca.pture Thimble template has great potential in preventing cyberbullying by providing a virtual space for teens to read other youth’s stories and to be able to relate and find a community within that. When the teens view my template they can use it as a guide for their own storyboards. Youth empowering each other and being able to share a story is powerful in its healing and therapeutic potential.

It was crucial to be patient while starting to code since there was a lot of information to process, It was very confusing as to where to input our ideas and understanding what all the 200 lines of code meant. On top of the mind boggling structure, it was hard to relive the past of being cyberbullied and finding the exact words to paint the picture of what it felt like.  Despite the process being difficult, it was helpful to be in a safe space with other members who have experienced the same scope of traumatic events. It felt reassuring knowing that the work we are doing is promising in positive results.

This session really helped develop my way of positively expressing my feelings, with which I can approach teens who are going through or have gone through cyberbullying. I am really looking forward to facilitating and leading conversations in small groups. Some of the challenges I feel are using my story to connect with a broad range of teens and getting them to openly share their experiences through Thimble. My hope is to find mutual ground on which we can all feel comfortable sharing our stories.