Storytelling for Advocacy: Amplifying Sanctuary Voices

Amplifying Sanctuary Voices timeline

Amplifying Sanctuary Voices is a community-based oral history project centering the stories of Bay Area residents who have migrated to the US seeking sanctuary. 

Amplifying Sanctuary Voices (ASV) is a storytelling initiative led by East Bay Sanctuary Covenant (EBSC), a long-term partner organization of Voice of Witness (VOW). ASV consists of a coalition of community organizations that includes East Bay Sanctuary Covenant, Voice of Witness, the Public Service Center at UC Berkeley, Inside the Living Room, Youth UnMuted, and 1951 Coffee. The project aims to create space in mainstream political conversation for the diverse voices and experiences of those impacted by immigration policy decisions. 

Amplifying Sanctuary Voices has implemented a number of projects in the last few years. In February 2020, the coalition facilitated its first immersive event, “Journeys to Sanctuary,” sharing live readings of people’s stories of displacement, migration, and sanctuary, and hosting a discussion on advocacy actions. In March, ASV debuted a Sanctuary Timeline and Oral History Exhibit in UC Berkeley’s ASUC Student Union.

Collective belief in our theory of change—that sharing stories promotes empathy and compassion and inspires real policy action—is what powers the project.

ASV’s co-directors, UC Berkeley student Matt Matusiewicz and alum Rebecca Gerny

They also cite the dedication of the team—many of whom are immigrants or children of immigrants—as one of the things that holds ASV together.

As a member organization of ASV, Voice of Witness’s main role is to conduct oral history trainings and provide guidance on how to ethically and strategically structure and curate oral history projects. In April 2021, VOW conducted workshops for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders to share their stories and use storytelling as an advocacy tool. (Learn more about the TPS campaign here.)


Most recently, Amplifying Sanctuary Voices secured a grant from The Green Initiative Fund at UC Berkeley. The grant will fund ASV through the next year as it focuses on climate refugees and the impact of the climate crisis on immigration. On the motivation for this shift, Matt and Rebecca stated that “Climate-induced displacement is the single greatest environmental justice issue of our time.”

The new focus will include documenting and amplifying first-person narratives from climate refugees, as well as developing educational opportunities related to VOW’s upcoming book, Mi María: Surviving the Storm. ASV also plans to expand its support for Temporary Protected Status holders through additional storytelling and advocacy workshops.

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