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  • Writer's pictureSeed Waikato

Creating stronger communities: The impact of meaningful storytelling.

Updated: May 24

 Featuring Storyo founder, Elina Ashimbayeva 

 

Storytelling has the power to unite people and open people to new ideas. Elina Ashimbayeva, founder of Storyo and local healthcare professional based in Tamaki Makaurau (Auckland) uses storytelling to grow and strengthen her community. 



Storyo is a storytelling platform which originated from Elina's curiosity about her friends' lives. Through conversations about their jobs, relationships, and personal experiences, she uncovered similarities and new perspectives. This evolved into a way for Elina to deepen her understanding of her community and nurture relationships organically. 


Elina noticed a lack of representation of these stories in mainstream media, prompting her to create Storyo. 


“My partner was doing marketing, and he was sharing stories of people who were like small businesses and stuff in New Zealand. And he noticed because I would always talk about diversity, and you know inequities. And he was like, “Hey” you’re right. Everyone he was interviewing were men with very similar stories. He was like, what if we did a different platform? [Storyo] was his idea actually, but I really liked it.” 


Elina observed that conventional media often overlooks diverse narratives, including many within her community. She connected with the power of storytelling, including the importance of having access to a diverse range of experiences and knowledge. 


“That’s so interesting, how we perceive what kinds of stories are worthy or not...Every story is cool and interesting and worthy.”


Elina noted the reactions of her friends when asked to participate in interviews. Many questioned why they were chosen or felt their experiences weren't noteworthy. However, Elina believes that everyone deserves to have their voice heard.


Over the past four years, Storyo has featured over 200 women and gender-diverse individuals, sharing their experiences through various mediums. Elina aims to empower both storytellers and audiences by spotlighting underrepresented communities.



 Impact is not just measured in the number of people who read, watch, or listen to a story. It is about the number of lives changed. Elina spoke to us about the power of keeping things local. Storyo has been a place where people have met their best friends and had deep conversations which drove them towards new experiences. It has been a place of connection, reflection, and love, for a smaller and more tightly knit community of people. 

Elina has shared the stories of hundreds of women and gender diverse people through Storyo and like all, she has her own story. Originally from Kazakhstan, Elina moved to New Zealand 14 years ago to pursue biomedical science and enhance the lives of people.


“[I am an] eldest migrant daughter, paving the way for the rest of the family to come and join”

 

During her studies she learned that there are many ways to make communities stronger and share knowledge. With healthcare as a day job and Storyo as a passion, Elina shows us how to take inspiration from our wider lives to create rich experiences. She shared that one aspect of her life is always influencing and strengthening another. Her roles as a healthcare practitioner and as a storyteller always influence and shape each other. 



Recently Storyo wrapped up their video series around sex and health stories. The project was inspired by the lack of knowledge about reproductive and sexual health – especially in minority communities. The series shed light on important topics and provided valuable information to those who may not have had access to it otherwise. 


Elina shared with us her love of endings and closure. Knowing when to let go of something and allow the next thing to rise and take its place. After the sex stories series, Elina is taking a break from Storyo to refill her cup and give her energy to healthcare. She hopes that Storyo will return after the break with a new vision, story, or medium.

 

This is not the first time Storyo is set to change their direction, and it will not be the last. 

Setting new challenges, reimagining storytelling, and feeling comfortable with moving forward is the regenerative nature of creating strong and lasting local communities. 



Written by Annika van Driel 

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