‘Dear World’ Project Features Frostburg State

If you could tell the world your story, what would you say? Everyone has a unique story bottled-up inside just waiting to be shared. Dear World is an organization dedicated to sharing people’s stories through body-written messages. The organization appeared at Frostburg State University on Tuesday, Sept. 27 in the Lane Center. Students were free to come and to create their own body-written messages and to be photographed.

Dear World started its project in 2009 when people wrote “love notes” to the city of New Orleans. Since then it has taken over 50,000 portraits with distinct, heartfelt messages. The Dear World project considers itself to be equal parts business, art project, and social experiment. The organization team consists of founder Robert X. Fogarty, executive producer Jonah Evans, and storyteller/photographer/facilitator Katie Greenman. They travel around the world asking people for meaningful messages to be shared with someone else, regardless of their race, language, or religion. The organization is working towards a world where more people are united through sending messages to others. The motto of Dear World is: “We aren’t changing the world, but we take pictures of people who are.” Their work has taken them across the world, from Boston to India.

The organization traveled to India to work with rescued child slaves. Many of the children didn’t know their birthdays, or even their names. When one child was asked about what it was like being forced to work, he describes one room in which 25 children worked, ate, and slept. When it came time to take portraits the children wrote messages such as “because you are poor does not mean you can’t dream.”

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In another expedition, the organization visited the world’s newest country, South Sudan, which became independent by a referendum held in 2011. Following independence, the country quickly descended into civil war in 2013. Almost everyone Dear World spoke to had lost someone they loved; some estimates place the death toll of the war at up to 300,000 victims. Their heartfelt messages included “loss is painful” and “time to forgive.”

The organization also visited the setting of a tragedy that took place closer to home: Boston, Mass. During the annual Boston Marathon in 2013, a bombing occurred near the finish line, leaving three people dead and 264 injured. About a year after the tragedy, Fogarty asked survivors to return to the finish line to be captured in photos as they reflect on their healing and recovery. Their messages include “love is stronger than terror” and “keep running.”

Dear World extended its project to FSU to connect students and faculty in a traditional way: storytelling. At 7 p.m. students gathered in Alice R. Manicur Assembly Hall to witness the stories and messages of their peers. Jonah Evans explained the mission of the project and showed video footage of the organization’s work in Nepal, Boston, and Jordan (at a Syrian refugee camp). Five students were chosen to come share their personal stories and meanings behind their messages. Each story showed the audience how every person has a story they haven’t shared. The presentation ended with the portraits of students and faculty captured earlier portraying their body-written messages.

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