Star In Your Own Stories

The BC Centre for Disease Control’s Chee Mamuk teamed up with Hello Cool World to help First Nations youth, ranging from grades 8 through 12, create their own sexual health campaigns. Star In Your Own Stories is a video workshop project transforming high school students into filmmakers and advocates for HIV/AIDS and sexual health awareness. It gives the students a fun way to explore a serious issue, while gaining skills and knowledge at a time when Aboriginal people in B.C. and across Canada are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS. 

So far, youth have made four films: By My Name, Strong Path, Step Up and Stand True. The project has also produced a fun, animated short on what to expect from STI testing called Don’t Stress the Tests.  What is unique about this approach, is that it treats the youth like experts of their own experiences, and then offering their stories back as positive role models in their own community. By bringing in a professional creative team to help realize their ideas in a polished form, the creative team treats them like the client, and helps them to create their 'brand', and to develop key messages that will be for other youth as well. This is important as part of the process as it fosters an awareness of how and why other people think and behave and helps individuals understand their own potential to have a social impact as well as reinforce community belonging.

Purpose: To engage First Nations youth in HIV prevention, to create messages that will resonate with their peers to help prevent STI's and HIV.  Participants: 4 Workshops with a total of 48 youth participating in the film making. Each video launched with a community feast with around 200 people. Some youth participated in conferences, did media appearances and one film was entered in a festival.  Outcomes: Youth activated, involved. For the first group and evaluator followed up and did a report one year after, there were many positive outcomes for the community identified, including no unplanned pregnancies in that year likely due to the strong condom messaging that film had. Youth from that project went on to become spokespeople at HIV/AIDS conferences and on MTV. In the last year of the project, the youth identified a need to learn their own traditions and as part of the workshop a man from their community translated key phrases for the video, and taught them to drum, many for the first time. After the video team left, the youth worked with this community member to make their own drums, they filmed the process, we incorporated it into the final video and they performed a song they learned on their own drums at the community launch of their film.  

Framework/Philosophy: We used social marketing best practices, namely root cause analysis of the problem to address, working with the intended audiences to create messages for them and their peers, treating the youth as 'experts' in their own experiences, while offering professional support to the video, while adapting all our activities to be culturally appropriate, and as specific to the community as possible. In this way the messages were more 'universally' adaptable, as they were authentic to the experiences of the youth who participated.

Time: Jan 2007 – March 2010 (Ongoing: videos available online and on DVD from Chee Mamuk, project legacy website in development to distribute archived videos from this and other Hello Cool World Youth engagement projects as well to launch new workshops. Hello Cool World is also at work on a documentary co-directed by young adults who are ‘alumni’ of the workshops, to evaluate the impact of projects of this kind).

Location: Kitamaat Village (near Kitimat), Cowichan Tribes (Duncan), Sto:lo Nation (Chilliwack), Nak'azdli (Ft. Saint James)
Resources Available: Videos available from and on YouTube
Art Modalities: Graphic Design, Film/Video, Music/Singing, Storytelling, Photography
Partners: Chee Mamuk (BCCDC)

Katherine Dodds, Hello Cool World Media
Email:| Web:| Phone: 604 251 5567

Image: Stó:lō Nation Youth filmmakers from the Strong Path film; Image courtesy Hello Cool World