Voice of Witness (VOW) is an organization that’s changing the narrative of human rights issues and how people deal with traumatic and unjust experiences. For over 10 years, through education programs and storytelling initiatives, VOW has been able to create a deeper understanding of how unjust experiences affect individuals and those around them.
We caught up with Voice of Witness’ Managing Editor, Dao Tran, to learn more about VOW and how having a home in The New Work Project has helped the organization and its work.
Tell us about Voice of Witness.
Voice of Witness was co-founded by author Dave Eggers, writer Mimi Lok, and physician Lola Vollen. We help advance human rights by amplifying the voices of individuals that have lived through and experienced injustice. We’re a small organization of 5; 4 are based in San Francisco and I am based in Brooklyn.
What’s the organization’s focus and approach?
Voice of Witness has focused its efforts on bringing to light human rights crises in the United States and globally. We have various approaches to this, like our oral history book series, which has featured hundreds of seldom-heard voices, including those of wrongfully convicted Americans, undocumented immigrants, and displaced people in Burma, Zimbabwe, and Colombia.
We also have an education program that serves over 20,000 people annually. Our oral history pedagogy plays a key role in this education program, as it helps us train advocates for human rights. Additionally, we also teach ethics-driven storytelling and form partnerships to build agency with marginalized communities.
What motivates what you to do what you do?
I am the managing editor for the Voice of Witness book series and I came to this work through my own experience growing up in a refugee family. I also strongly believe in the power of the story. We can come to a better understanding of crucial issues by listening to the stories of people who are most affected. The process of telling stories can also be a healing process for narrators.
What drew you to the All Good Work residency program?
Since I am the only staff member not based in San Francisco, I used to work from home. And since VOW is a small organization, we couldn’t afford to pay for office space. The All Good Work residency also seemed like a good fit as it would pair me with a workspace full of creative people and energy, something that could positively impact my work.
How has working at The New Work Project changed or impacted your work?
Working at The New Work Project has helped me have a healthier work-life balance. This is key for me, as I tend to work on intense subjects that require that I maintain a certain level of personal wellbeing. Being at The New Work Project has helped me to keep the trauma and “heaviness” of my work balanced with a beautiful space, good light, surrounded by others working, and good vibes.