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In my classes, we use documentary as a means to more completely understand the full complexity of a current social and policy issue. For two years, we focused our lenses and audio recorders on individuals affected by homelessness (working in partnership with Housing for New Hope). Last year, we focused on children with health issues related to obesity (working with youth enrolled in Duke’s Healthy Lifestyles program).

It is one thing to read statistics about the causes of a complex issue such as pediatric obesity; it is entirely another to gain the trust of and connect with a person who has lived those statistics.

As the residents related their stories to me, I became personally invested in this dire issue of homelessness that looms over Durham. As one former resident said, homelessness “can happen to anyone…It’s not a matter of moral deficiency.”
– Daniella Choi

I’m grateful that she had the courage and frankness to describe her own battles in the hopes of helping her daughter with the same problem. To me, she has also given a face to a problem that almost two-thirds of Americans now have to grapple with. Ultimately, she has reminded me that there’s much more beyond this comfortable, sheltered Duke bubble and taught me to be more open-minded toward those who share such a different set of experiences from my own.
– Amy Huang


  • "It’s not about statistics. It’s about using individual stories to create that connection, that empathy. Then, rational arguments, like numbers, can play a supporting role."
    - Nicholas Kristof

    "When you’re lost in a good story, it’s not arbitrary, it’s not pleasure for pleasure’s sake. It’s biological, it’s chemical, it’s a survival mechanism."
    - Author Lisa Chron

    "Stories are powerful because they transport us into other people’s worlds but, in doing that, they change the way our brains work and potentially change our brain chemistry — and that’s what it means to be a social creature."
    - Neuroscientist Paul Zak

    "Listening is an act of love."
    - David Isay, StoryCorps