By Rubén Durán

On August 27, 2017, Hurricane Harvey struck Houston. The storm brought destruction, loss, tragedy, and turmoil to many in the Houston community.  At Houston Community College, many of us were affected on a personal level. We’ve long made it our mission to engage not only our student body, but our community at large. Sharing the loss my brother experienced during the Hurricane, and the ongoing struggle to rebuild parts of his physical environment, illustrated further the importance of listening to our community. 

For some time, we’ve been sending training students on video recording and sending them out into the community to collect stories as part of our Digital Storytelling projects. Now struck by a disaster that affected so many of us, we realized we had an opportunity to use some of the tools we’d built to try to help strengthen the community around us. When people go through a traumatic experience, we often feel a deep need to share our story about what happened to us and what we did. Creating narrative helps bring back a sense of agency and control in the face of such powerful forces. We created the Hurricane Harvey Stories project to give an outlet to that need, to help us as a community process collectively what had happened.

Many of the staff, faculty, and students from HCC participated in the collaboration between the Central Campus Counseling Department and Center for Learning Innovation. Using iPad recorders developed by StoryCenter.org and set up on HCC Central Campus, we built Listening Stations that allowed the collection of stories within the HCC community.  These shared, personal accountings have now been released to the larger HCC community. You can watch them yourself on HCC EduTube.

While there is the painful accounting of loss and helplessness within some of the interviews; you will also hear the strength, resilience, and determination in each story; and the compassionate assistance offered by so many within HCC is acknowledged clearly as well.  Let us not only remember the unexpected losses many incurred by nature, but feel inspired by the human courage to face those unexpected challenges, and still make progress toward our goals and aspirations.  There is a collective power within storytelling, and we hope you will collaborate with us as a listening participant.

Rubén Durán is Senior Media Developer at the Center for Learning Innovation and Faculty, Digital Communications at Houston Community College.

Houston Community College has made community outreach through video a major effort in general. To learn more about HCC’s video program, read “Reaching the Wider Community through Digital Storytelling with Video.”