Communicating change: A deaf young leader’s experience

Voltaire Tupaz
Technology is changing storytelling. You don't have to be a journalist to be able to tell your story. Use social media. But tell stories.

MANILA, Philippines – Through a sign language interpreter, 20-year-old Dan Lester Perez listens intently to Rappler’s multimedia journalist Patricia Evangelista as she speaks about giving voice to the voiceless through storytelling.

Perez, who is taking Applied Deaf Studies in De La Salle – College of Saint Benilde, is one of the dynamic and diverse 40 young leaders who participated in the 4-day seminar Communicating for Social Change that wrapped up on Tuesday, March 27. 

The gathering was organized by the British Council, United Kingdom’s international organization for educational opportunities and cultural relations, and Rappler, a social news network where stories inspire community engagement and digitally fuelled actions for social change.

Everyone has a story

Upon hearing about the workshop’s call for participants, Perez immediately submitted his video application, itself a story of passion and determination. 

(Young leader Dan Lester Perez submitted this video application to the British Council and Rappler for the seminar, ‘Communicating for Social Change.’)

Perez does not consider his hearing impairment as an impediment to telling the story of his community. 

I participated because of the theme. It really touched me to know that I can contribute to change. It could be instrumental in making our advocacy for the deaf community more effective.”

Such is the kind of change-maker that the organizers were looking for: driven to effect change and achieve great things not only for themselves, but for their country and the world.  

“Everyone has a story. It may not be important to others, but if it’s important to you then it’s still a good story to tell,” Evangelista said in her speech to the select group of young leaders that included Perez.

Sharing insights on why storytelling is important and examples of what makes a good storyteller, Evangelista said, “For us, the trick is imagination. Not ours, yours.”

How to tell a story 

“Look for a way to connect the mind and the heart to get people into action,” veteran journalist Chay Hofileña reminded the participants in her presentation about how to “sell” and package causes.

Hofileña, who is Rappler’s citizen journalism and community engagement director, emphasized the need for stories to have human faces that tell narratives of triumph, failure, determination and struggle, and that offer fresh perspectives with a clear voice and direction.

She cited inspiring stories of the kids who have to swim just to be able to get to school in a mangrove village in Mindanao and of 2011 CNN Hero of the Year Robin Lim, whose work provides a culturally-sensitive maternal care in Indonesia. These are just some of the compelling stories from citizen journalists posted on Rappler’s Move.PH section. 

“Learning about these communities, their advocacies, and their realizations in life, I felt we could use their experiences in telling our own story. They strengthened our resolve to pursue our mission to give deaf people equal access to opportunities and a better life,” said Perez, who is also a board member of the group Support and Empower Abused Deaf Children (SEADC).

CHANGEMAKERS. Young leaders attending the 'Communicating for Social Change' seminar visit Rappler.

Message and media for change

Other leading communication experts also shared how stories can be conveyed using various traditional and new media.

Steve Lunt, who has worked for CNN as a multimedia reporter, producer, director, cameraman and editor, talked about storytelling through film. 

Creative strategist Michelle Rama discussed principles and practices in digital media and advertising that are useful to advocacies. 

Rappler’s special projects director Michael Josh Villanueva shared how to “supercharge” the impact of advocacies using social media given its exponential value.

“Technology is changing storytelling. You don’t have to be a journalist to be able to tell your story. Use social media. But tell stories. People are going to care more if you are going to tell stories in ways that people will appreciate,” Villanueva said.

Recognizing the new media that the so-called millennial generation uses in communicating social change, advocacy writer John Silva closed the seminar with a challenge: “Im hopeful about our country’s future. Previous generations failed. It’s your turn. You have boundless energy. Whatever you do should be part of the solution: in the elimination of inequity, in democratization.” 

The young change-makers gathered for 4 days to enhance their skills in championing causes, finding support for ideas, getting messages across, and communicating social change to a larger audience. – 

IT'S THEIR TURN. Young change-makers gather to enhance skills in communicating social change