September 21, 2016
The Strangers Project, an ongoing collection of more than 20,000 anonymous "journal entries" shared spontaneously by passing strangers, kicked-off its first national story tour at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) on Wednesday, September 7.
Brandon Doman, Founder and Director of the Strangers Project, and his film crew assembled a pop-up canopy tent in the Dining Center, strung with rope and clothes pins, hanging up more than 100 previously collected stories. Curious SNHU students, staff and faculty, passing by to purchase lunch, stopped to read some of the stories that have been collected over the past seven years.
The stories ranged from inspirational to humorous, to thought-provoking and personal. One journal entry on display told the story of a young woman whose boyfriend passed away four years ago, leaving her a single mother of two.
"At 21, I was now a single mom of two boys without a college education, living with my mom," she wrote. "I felt like a failure to my children, to my family. This was the darkest point of my life. Through motivation and the support of those around me, I'm now a(n) honors student at NYU who maintains a 3.9 (GPA)," signed 'young mom with dreams.'
Moved by the stories, several SNHU community members decided to share their own story with the Strangers Project. Their stories will be part of an anonymous collection of SNHU stories, which will be gathered by Doman and his team during the national tour.
SNHU decided to co-sponsor the Strangers Project's story tour, after Paul LeBlanc, SNHU President, visited a gallery in New York in late August.
"I had the good fortune of visiting (the Strangers Project) in New York when I was at a gallery, and found myself at times tearing up and other times laughing. They're stories that take your breath away, and I think it's really powerful," said LeBlanc, "SNHU students have amazing stories, and I'm happy that they're going to be a part of this project moving forward."
LeBlanc says the Strangers Project will collect stories from SNHU students as they "hopscotch across the country."
"We're going to be reaching out to our SNHU students in all of those cities to say, 'come down and answer this basic question; what's your story?,'" he said.
Doman started his exploration to uncover the commonality between strangers and "explore the connections that make us human," in 2009. He was sitting outside of a coffee shop, curiously watching hundreds of people as they walked by. He found himself thinking, "what's your story?," so he decided to find out for himself.
"I've always been deeply curious of other people," Doman told the NH Union Leader. "I decided to do something about it. I started asking people to write about anything they want, as long as it's true, and I started collecting and displaying the stories."
Doman says he reads every story that is shared, but is typically 100 stories behind due to the amount of entries he receives.
Up until recently, the Strangers Project primarily lived in parks or galleries in New York City. Now, the Strangers Project will be traveling across the United States, documenting the journey along the way.
To learn more about the Strangers Project and its national "story tour," please visit http://strangersproject.com
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