Artist and VCFA professor Frances Cannon shared about storytelling for Mi Vida, Mi Voz over Zoom.
The mastermind behind the vision of Mi Vida, Mi Voz (My Life, My Voice) is a 17-year-old senior at Hinesburg High School, Lena Ashooh of Shelburne. Her project aims to draw attention to Vermont’s migrant community and to rural youth through annual workshops.
Lena is a Vermont native and has deep roots in the farming community. “I have been active in Vermont 4-H for ten years,” she says. “Each year, we get a baby cow and show it at local fairs, but the best part for me has been getting to know the local farmworkers, especially the migrant community. I get to spend all summer listening to stories and different perspectives.”
The organization she founded provides opportunities for Vermont youth, particularly from the farming community, to share stories and build lifelong networks. The organization was awarded a $2000 project grant from Vermont Humanities in 2020 to support days of storytelling and reflection on the diverse cultures, languages, histories, and stories that make up rural youths’ experiences in Vermont.
The first two-day event, held in 2019, was a great success. In 2020, the organization, like many others in the Covid-19 era, had to pivot to virtual programs. Lena mailed supplies to participants and allowed the event to span over more days.
“We had a presenter from Uruguay which was really cool way to expand internationally, and we had people from across the US, including Arizona and Oregon,” Lena said.
Mi Vida, Mi Voz connects the Vermont Migrant Education Program and the Middlebury Bread Loaf Next Generation Leadership Network. The latter helped Lena build a professional student network with mentors that assisted her with grant writing. She transformed Mi Vida, Mi Voz to a 501c3 non-profit before the second annual event.
Vermont Humanities had been on Lena’s radar before she applied for the project grant. “I was intrigued by the events Vermont Humanities held and followed them on Facebook. The humanities seemed to align well with the goal of Bread Loaf and of Mi Vida, Mi Voz. It was a natural connection,” she says.
Lena hopes that her project will help educate Vermonters about the migrant population and the value they add to the community.
“The migrant farmworker experience and community in Vermont must be visible before people begin making impact within it,” she says. “There are many multilingual and multigenerational conversations being had that are rich and important. I am grateful to share space and create these bonds.”
We are accepting Letters of Intent for our next round of humanities grants until February 3.