Home News & Stories Stories across Boundaries: The Global Storytelling Festival 2021

Stories across Boundaries: The Global Storytelling Festival 2021

The Global Storytelling Festival 2021 was a celebration of the power of storytelling as a vehicle for creating sustainable impact. Through a storytelling workshop, a mini-story contest, and a showcase, we brought together the brightest storytellers from around the world, bridging inherent cultural gaps!

The festival comprised of three events. It started with the mini-story contest that asked participants to submit stories that spoke about intercultural commonality and bridged inherent differences. The second was the impact storytelling workshop 101 which educated participants in the art of storytelling and the festival ended with a showcase that featured celebrated speakers and storytellers.

Impact Storytelling 101 Workshop –  Demystifying the Art of Storytelling

The Impact Storytelling 101 Workshop was conducted on the 14th of August 2021. This hands-on workshop helped participants understand the importance of creating an effective narrative and taught them the necessary skills, tools, and processes needed to do so. Participants from Nigeria, Pakistan, India, the USA, Ghana, Cameroon, Germany, China, Chile, Peru, and more tuned in for our first-ever Impact Storytelling Workshop!
With over 110 registrants, we saw active participation from diverse groups where budding storytellers explored the ‘knot’ model of storytelling with Melton Fellows and co-founders of Lighthouse (a digital storytelling organization), Ashitha Nayak and Camila Huecho. 

THE MINI STORY CONTEST – Stories Across Boundaries

The theme for the mini-story contest held from July 20th to August 20th was “Stories across boundaries: bridging intercultural gaps”. The contest focused on shining a light on the significance of intercultural commonality. Participants competed to win prizes worth 250$ USD and engage with leading social media publications.

We received an overwhelming response of about 143 powerful and moving stories from 18 different countries! We went through narratives transcending race, creed, and boundaries from all around the world and chose 4 of the best winning submissions.


3rd place – Dilon Bhana from South Africa secured 3rd place for the story “My Grey Skin”.

“Nobody ever told me that when you walk around with your eyes closed, it’s easier to see people. An intonation of their voice or a whiff of their accent. Their language might take you back a generation or two, but you will not be able to categorize a person by the faults of their ancestry.

Walking around with my eyes wide open, it was clear to me that the world around me existed in black and white. Looking down at my grey skin, dressed in sparkling sarees and fed by spices carrying the heat of the sun, I understood that I didn’t fit into the black and white world.

The day that I thought to close my eyes was the same day that somebody asked me, “Do you consider yourself black or white?” Astounded I looked down at my grey skin that was so easily overlooked. I didn’t want to see the black and white world anymore, so in frustration, I closed my eyes.

I smiled as the world suddenly came to me in all its magnificence. I took the hand of my questioner and urged her to close her eyes. “Do you see all the colors of the world?”

2nd place – Lalitha A.R from Bangalore took home the second prize for the submission “A Promise from the skies”.

“It was the first time eight-year-old Arzu was on an airplane. She had dreamt about taking her first flight with Baba for a long time, but this journey was nothing like her dream. Her Baba wasn’t with her. He had been killed by ‘them’, at her home in Quchi. Not long after, Ammi and Arzu had managed to reach Kabul airport where they boarded a flight that would take them to an unknown country as refugees.

The view outside changed her thoughts. The clouds were clearing and she could see her country below. From this height she did not see any guns or bombs, she did not hear the weeping of families or the angry cries of the rebels. From above all she saw was her beautiful Afghanistan. Arzu wished ‘they’ would see her country as she saw it. Maybe when ‘they’ see how wonderful it already is, they would stop fighting to make it a better place, as they claim! She crossed her heart and made a promise to Baba that she would come back one day and take all of ‘them’ on an airplane. Arzu looked on through her window hoping that the day comes soon.”

1st place – Aditya Sengupta from Mumbai won 1st place for the story “Tug of War”.

“No bigger Cricket match- India versus Pakistan! The stadium is packed with fans- one side a sea of Indian blue, the other, Pakistani green, taunting each other as emotions boil over. Virat Kohli sends the ball soaring into the crowd. Two boys spring up. One in blue, the other in green. They sprint towards the ball, eager to win glory for their side. They grab it simultaneously, tugging violently for possession. They see not another kid but a representative of the enemy their fathers rant about. Their image flashes on the giant LED screen.

The commentator’s voice booms out. “How wonderful! Two young fans from the arch-rivals shaking hands!” The two children stand still as some in the crowd around them begin clapping. Their grip on the ball loosens and they look at each other sheepishly, finally seeing each other as people, not just a member of the other side. They’re in their early teens, virtually indistinguishable other than their t-shirt’s color. They grin and toss the ball back into the ground and sit together, watching the match, chatting. Much divides them- history, politics, conflict, religion, but in a small way, they discover that it’s always possible to find common ground.”

Special Mention- Antonia Patricia Herrera Veas from Lampa, Chile won a special mention for her submission, “Yellow Lillies”.

“My brother tells me he wants to fly: all kinds of futuristic cities, robots, flying cars, cross my mind as I lay on my soft, cozy bed. 

Then I look around and find myself surrounded by buildings full of advertisements in characters I do not understand. Over our heads, a gray sky, dense clouds. Masks only let us see our irritated, tired eyes.

I look around once again: there is a plane, gray as the sky. The colonel disembarks, and dozens of boys dressed like him run into a school’s remains. I am scared. The soil we are lying on is dirty and hurts; it has been hours.
But soon, a group of people gets off one plane. Some have beautiful almond-shaped eyes, hair the color of gold or fire. My mom looks peaceful while we get on board.

When we land, I see colorful fields, schools, and kids playing. The turquoise sky fills my lungs with freedom for the first time; the smell of lilies perfumes my heart as it perfumes my home now. I smell freedom in every book I read, but there is a smell I do not know yet: ¿What scent will you give the world?”

Hear from the winners! 


The festival drew to a close with the Storytelling showcase featuring eminent speakers. The keynote address was given by Patricia Smith, the co-founder of Melton Foundation and the founder of Peace x Peace International. She spoke about how she got the idea for founding the Peace x Peace organization and about how storytelling and building a platform for people’s stories to be heard were one of her inspirations.

A few storytellers around the world come together to share some of their stories. Harshinee Rajkumar, a Melton Fellow from Bangalore, performed a spoken word piece called the “Broken Roadmap to Self-Love”. Dave Graham, Director of Stories for Change, UK spoke about the power of stories. Fundación Lirón Lirón, an organization from Cuenca, Ecuador that works in respectful care for children through storytelling and various other art forms, performed a small skit for the audience.

Henrika Muthani-Amoafo from KonneKt world-Ghana spoke about the role of storytelling in her organization. The last presentation was from Kwabena Twumasi Ankrah, a Melton Fellow from Ghana who is a leader as well as a storyteller. The showcase ended with the announcement of the winners of the mini-story contest.

Live the experience that was the Global Storytelling Festival Showcase again here

The maiden #GlobalStorytellingFestival – a 45-day long celebration of stories across boundaries was a fun and fruitful experience! Stay tuned for more such endeavors from us and our partners! Connect with us here for upcoming opportunities and engagements!