Sweden's Ministry of Storytelling seeks to lift children's spirits

Sweden's recently established Ministry of Storytelling has launched an initiative to inspire underprivileged children through storytelling.

Courtesy of Berättarministeriet (the Ministry of Storytelling)
A child participates in a storytelling workshop in Sweden.

• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

Despite its Orwellian clang, the newly established Berättarministeriet (the Ministry of Storytelling) in Sweden encourages children from economically deprived suburbs of the capital, Stockholm, to express themselves freely and creatively.

Inspired by author Dave Eggers’s 826 National program – workshops held for children in seven cities across the United States – Berättarministeriet recruits volunteers to help schoolchildren tell stories about themselves, and about real and make-believe worlds. “Anyone who feels that storytelling is part of their job and who wants to inspire children and be an adult role model for them can volunteer,” explains project manager Dilsa Demirbag-Sten.

Berättarministeriet recently ran well-received workshops at a school in Södertälje, a small town south of Stockholm with high unemployment rates and more Iraqi refugees than the US and Canada combined.

Ms. Demirbag-Sten is one of Sweden’s most prominent authors and journalists. Of Kurdish origin, she was 6 years old when she and her family arrived in Sweden as refugees. She was a special adviser to the previous Swedish minister for integration, Leif Blomberg.

“Xenophobic and religious extremists alike are gaining hold in Sweden today, especially in the areas where the children we engage with live. We hope to be an antidote to such anti-democratic forces,” Demirbag-Sten says.

It makes a world of difference for children, Demirbag-Sten suggests, to meet inspiring adults who are willing to engage with them.

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