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Anchorage storytelling workshop provides outlet for young refugees

By Liz Raines Photojournalist: John Thain - 9:24 PM August 11, 2015

Dozens of Anchorage teens participated in a workshop Tuesday to hone their journalism and storytelling skills. They come from different parts of the world, but they have something in common: they’re all refugees.

The idea behind the three-day workshop is to give the teens a creative outlet to share what they’ve been through and an opportunity to explore journalism in the U.S. The project is the result of a partnership between the Alaska Teen Media Institute, Storyworks Alaska and the Refugee Assistance and Immigration Services.

On Tuesday, participants brainstormed story ideas. Wednesday, they meet with journalists from different fields to learn how to construct their stories into news pieces which will be showcased on Thursday afternoon.

Some of the teens attending say they have a special interest in becoming journalists.

Justin Ndyambaje from Rwanda just moved here with his family. He says he wants to work as a multimedia journalist to give a voice to those in his community who don’t have one.

“You can help people, I mean, to speak for them because they are not able to speak for themselves,” said Ndyambaje. “I can be there for them.”

According to Ndyambaje, journalists in Rwanda have to be careful about what they say.

“Some people get killed, get imprisoned, sometimes they vanish because of what they expressed,” Ndyambaje said. “The press there doesn’t even compare with the press here.”

Stories like Ndyambaje’s are the reason organizers say they created the event.

“I think it’s important to help them learn to express themselves, said Liza Krauszer with the Refugee Assistance and Immigration Services.

This is the first year for the project, which wraps up on Thursday.

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