From Storytelling to Nation Branding - Seung Ah Kim's Story



Seung Ah Kim is the founder of Arirang Storytelling Concert. Inspired by the folktales her grandmother told her as a child, Seung Ah tells Korean folk stories in a dynamic and interactive way that is engaging for audiences of all ages, backgrounds and nationalities. Her performances combine traditional Korean folktales and mythology with contemporary stories from her own life. As a pioneer Korean professional storyteller, she has travelled across all the continents to bring Korea to the world through her stories and tales, and has developed “K-STORYTELLING” as a new facet of Korea’s nation branding. This world tour includes various performances, workshops, and events focused on Korea, its culture and its people, extraordinary and ordinary heroes. Recently Seung Ah Kim shared Tiger Stories from Korean Folktales at Gyan. Manch,Kolkata organised by Wild Strawberry.

What inspired you to come up with the idea for K-Storytelling World Tour Project?
 
Storytelling is my passion and my life. I truly want to share Korean stories and my love for storytelling with more people in the world. That has been my dream so I have been travelling many countries to share Korean stories and culture since I became a professional storyteller. In Korea I have been trying to introduce storytelling as an art form and to establish a storytelling association and a K-Storytelling Center for 10 years. But I couldn’t make it happen. One day with broken heart I was crying. I lamented “God, why people in Korea don’t appreciate storytelling more than ones in other countries? Why nothing happened even though I tried so hard?”

At that moment an idea hit upon me. “Seung Ah, just think of bright sides. Look you have many friends and fans outside of Korea. They all appreciate what you are doing. Just go and tell stories and share stories with 1 million people. 1 million people out of the whole population of the earth are nothing. If 1 million people appreciate your storytelling and donate money to support your dream, you can establish a K-Storytelling Center in Korea.” Then I started to contact my friends in different countries and told them about the K-Storytelling World Tour Project. Since they are storytellers and story lovers, they all supported my idea. That’s why I am here in India. India is my third destination after the USA and Taiwan. Since June 2017 my world tour started. I was the first donator for this project. I cleared my house and put my things in a container near Seoul. I set off my journey. Through this world tour project I have learned so many things and met so many people. Working with my storytellers friends in each country I visited is a lot of fun. We could understand each other more and sharing ideas about promoting storytelling to people. Automatically all of journey is full of adventures and stories which give people more understandings about storytelling and storytellers. We all believe that we will make it happen. Do you why? We are all small heroes.
 
Why is storytelling important to children in this digital-world?
 
Storytelling gives us chances to see images through our mind eyes, to feel the vibration of the voice of our storyteller, to make eye contact and interact heart to heart. These are all the things we have lost in the digital world. 

It is often said that storytelling and story-listening can contribute to children’s intellectual, emotional, and social development. Could you please throw some light on that?
 
Storytelling and story-listening are like the sunlight and the moonlight in our life. As the sunlight makes trees grow bigger, storytelling and listening help our knowledge and wisdom grow bigger. As the sunlight gives warmth to the earth, storytelling gives warmth in our life. As the moonlight guides you in the darkness, storytelling enlightens your life.

Do you have advice for parents looking to try storytelling with their kids?
 
My advice is “Never feel burden when you tell stories to your kids”. Most of parents feel that storytelling is a duty as good parents. But storytelling is a heart to heart communication. It delivers not only stories but also feelings. Telling stories to your kids should be the same as making food you like and sharing it with your kids. If you simply think sharing your favorite stories with your kids, you will feel more comfortable. When you learn something new from your daily life, you can share it with your kids. If you heard something fun or touching from your friends, you can share it with your kids. Also listening to your kids’ stories are good. After listening to them, you can share your opinions, feelings or other stories which come up your mind. If you really want to share stories with your kids, your kids will feel your passion and love even though you don’t have any skills in storytelling.

What role, according to you, does storytelling play in the classroom? How can teachers use storytelling in the classroom?
 
In old days, even nowadays storytelling is one of the most powerful tools in education. We can Google information so easily now. That means people can get knowledge everywhere. But not so much wisdom. Storytelling is all about wisdom and inspiration. So in this digital era, the function of schools is focused on more human things and more social things. In the classroom through teacher’s voice and eye contact students can get more inspired. If teachers tell stories that could be more fantastic because storytelling creates very strong connection and motivation. Let’s just what smartphones cannot do for students. The answers will be what only teachers can do.

People have forgotten how listen, tell and share a story. Stories are endangered and, I fear, if not shared will get lost. As a storyteller what are your thoughts on this?
 
Yes, we are losing the oral tradition. But luckily there are storytellers and story lovers in the world. In Canada I came across to read a slogan from a poster of ‘the Parent-Child Mother Goose Program’, it has been in my mind as a storyteller. “Stories are treasure to share.” In modern society when people think about treasure not many people consider stories as treasure. As a storyteller I have found that stories and our tradition are blessed heritage. I feel like I am a billionaire heiress. We cannot measure the value of stories as we cannot measure happiness. Since I became a storyteller I have been experienced happiness simply by sharing stories and culture. I have seen smiles from my audience’s faces and lights from their eyes. I know we cannot buy those things with money. That’s why I want to devote myself to keep storytelling tradition alive. I strongly believe as long as storytellers exist in the world, we will keep telling stories and the stories will be spread out all over the world. 


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Volunteering: A Life Changing Experience


Angela Chen studies at the Taiwan Fu Jen Catholic University. She is a freshman at Mass Communication. She is also a children art class teacher, teach magic, modeling balloon and board games. She was one of the co-leader for TAIndia 2017.

In Grace Ling Liang English School,
we taught them the colors meaning
 of Peking Opera and made masks.
How did you get involved with TAINDIA ?

When I was 17, I wanted to do service learning abroad to gain more life experience, and I also learned some cultural differences between India and Taiwan at school. Before entering Fu Jen Catholic University, I met a girl who was anex-member of this India group. She recommended me to join this team, and so I took the chance.

What's the most rewarding part of your experience working at the Shanti Dan?

At Shanti Dan, the living and health condition of the children are worse than those of my country and I am ashamed that I complained all the time. I really appreciate it that the children who made me realize how lucky and blessed I am. From their happy faces, what I have done at Shanti Dan seems meaningful.

In Pei May Chinese High School,
we played a memory game after
we having a 
transportation class.
What are the main challenges you faced?

The main challengeI faced was feeling uncomfortable. I had diarrhea for many times when I was in India. Although I felt uncomfortable during work, I still did my best to do everything I could. I just don’t want my learning and service to be affected.

Can you share with us one of your best memories here?

I was surprised when the students of Grace Ling Liang English School tried to chat with me by using Chinese. Their teacher said they were very shy to speak Chinese because they thought their Chinese were not good. Therefore, I was so happy that they tried to practice Chinese with us though they needed a little bit of time to complete a sentence. It was touching. It meant our program is useful for them.

Students also made their own
wood airplane and design it with Chinese culture.
What is your advice for young students who wish to do volunteer work?

If you want to do it, do it. Don’t waste any chance that you could widen your horizon. The result will be something that you can’t imagine.
I want to share one thing that I didn’t notice when I did service learning in India for you. That is everyone who volunteers to help people abroad can be a good ambassador for Taiwan and Fu Jen because we do what we can to help and we represent our country.

On June 20th, TAIndia assigned me as a representative of 106Youth Overseas Peace Corps and met with the president. There were many representatives from different schools. In her speech, the president said,“When you do international volunteer work, you are the international image of Taiwan and our best representative.”

Although we are small parts in the world, with our heart widely opened and our shoulders squared, a small part can be crucial in helping people in need. For this reason, don’t sell yourself short.


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Helping Hands


Zoe Lee studies at the Taiwan Fu Jen Catholic University.  She is a sophomore at Mass Communication. She is also a DJ. She was one of the volunteers for TAINDIA 2017.

What attracted you to TAINDIA?

Being a DJ has more complicated life than others, sometimes it's really stressful. I came to join TAINDIA because I wanted to do something for the society and find some peace for my life and my heart.

Was there a difference between your expectations and the reality of your experience in India?

I didn't expect that India has so many poor people. I can't even imagine how they can live by this. And the other culture shock is the dirty environment. They have no any perspective on recycling and dealing those garbage.

Can you tell us about a happy memory or what has been your best experience in this trip?

The best experience of this trip is definitely the service experience in Missionary of Charity. I had been sent to Shanti Dan, I've never thought that I could have this deep relationship with the patients there. Although they don't understand our languages, but I can feel that they really appreciate our serving. Once I helped a patient to go to bathroom, she can't move by herself. She was really uncomfortable because she peed on her pants. After we cleaned up her body and changed some new clothes, she used her whole strength to say "Thanks" to me and smiled. It's the moment that I realized that I can really do something for others. And I always realized that I might not be able to give them a better life, but I can do my best and be their company, giving them some happiness and joys. That's the most beautiful thing ever!!

And what has been the greatest challenge?

The greatest challenge must be the difficulty of language. In Shanti Dan, they won't tell you what to do. Even when they ask you to do something, you still won't be able to understand... All you can do is "watch and learn." You got to do it all by yourself.

What is it like being a female DJ in Taiwan? Do you feel DJing has emerged as a full-time career option now?

Being a female DJ in Taiwan is really interesting but also difficult. Mostly, female DJs are more commercial. Unfortunately, for many people "a good looking face" is necessary. And most people will expect you to play those pop songs they like, you can't play in way you like, you have to follow the flow. But for those who really understand electronic music, they won't care about your gander or how you look; all they care about is the design of track. So having your own style is the most important part of being a professional DJ. But this kind of DJ normally won't get high paid. On the other hand, in this community, you have to be really socializing; you got to have the wild and strong friend’s network. The more people you know, the more opportunities you'll get. For me, I prefer playing songs in my own way, so it would be hard to make it become a full-time career. Although I really want it, but I think as long as you start to be a commercial DJ, you would never be a professional.


What impact do you anticipate your India experience will have on your future?

This trip has given me many ideas on music. I would like to do a city sound record to remember the image of those places I have been to. We all have our own way to remember things, some by pictures, and some by writing. For me, sounds are the tools to tell stories. And I want to try to remix Tagore's songs to express my feelings for Kolkata. 

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Clarinet Calls


Aljaž Beguš  was born in Ljubljana, Slovenia. He began his musical studies at the age of seven in the Music School Ljubljana Moste-Polje with Joze Kregar and Franc Trzan. Aljaž Beguš has been awarded several prizes and honours. Amongst them are five first prizes in the Young Musician Competition of the Republic of Slovenia TEMSIG (1995, 1998, 2001, 2004, 2006 ), with three additional special prizes for the performance of Slovenian compositions. He was also the winner of International Competitions such as Città di Carlino and Marco Fiorindo in the Junior Category (Italy, 2002). In 2004 he was awarded the 3rd Prize in the Senior Category in Citta’ di Carlino. In 2007 he was also a semifinalist in the International Competition EBU New Talent in Bratislava. With the woodwind quintet Spirito he was semifinalist of ARD Munich competition 2014. In 2005 was awarded with the Preseren Student Prize. He has been a member of orchestras such as English National Opera, Orchestra da Camera di Mantova, Spira Mirabilis, European Union Youth Orchestra, and the Gustav Mahler Jugend Orchester. He was part of the Mantova Chamber Orchestra which performed at Western Quadrangle of the  Victoria Memorial. It was presented by the Italian Embassy Cultural Centre, New Delhi and the Consulate General of Italy in Calcutta.


What is it about the clarinet that first sparked your interest?

My first contact with the clarinet was at a very young age, when I first listened to my grandfather practicing. And soon I wanted to do the same, so I started playing a small e flat clarinet. And this is how it begun.

What are your musical inspirations?

My musical inspiration is the music and the history - the composition itself and the research of the surrounding, history when the piece was composed, what was going on at the same time in other branches of art such as theatre, painting and literature.

This is what inspires me mostly when I practice. But when I perform the piece I get the inspiration from my colleagues with whom I am playing!

What do you find most gratifying about being a clarinetist?

A clarinet is for me a sort of a media through which I express my and composers feelings... many times I also imagine that I am playing the oboe or some other wind instrument. Maybe the best is to imagine you are just singing through it.   So as much as I love the clarinet sound...sometimes I think is also good to forget it and listen only to the inner voice.

How has playing in the Mantova Chamber Orchestra affected or changed how you play chamber music?

Playing in the Mantva Chamber Orchestra opens all the best in you. The energy and spirits are very high when we rehearse, also thanks to amazing Carlo Fabiano.
Plus we mostly play without conductor, so our playing relies on LISTENING and observing, which gives you more freedom, but also the responsibility to know the score we are performing much better, because you cannot rely on a conductor.

What’s been your most memorable musical experience?

I cannot say which was the  most memorable musical experience...maybe the last one was when I listened the late Nicolaus Harnoncourt conducting Schubert 8 and ROSAMUNDE.You are so much in the music..That you forget about everything.

What exercises have you personally developed that would be useful to the developing clarinetist?


I have played many exercises during my musical life... the best is to invent an exercise for the problem you are having... mostly I hear people practicing long notes. But they don’t even know why.It is like if you are searching for something you have lost...but you don’t know what it is!

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Adding new flavour to old songs


The fusion of bangla folk and western music is quite popular these days. Many young artists have created musical magic by blending home ground notes with different world music genres. One such Bangladeshi band Bunokriti is making waves. They are not your run-of-the-mill ‘Bangla band’. The sound of their music is going places. The band describes its sound as Classical Fusion & Versatile. Bunokriti believes in experimenting with different types of genre and trying to make good music with good composition. Bunokriti means The Credit of Creation. Music is a part of creativity and they are here to show their attempt and creativity.

“We mostly sing old bangla songs and folk songs in our style giving them an unique modern touch. We also perform a number of traditional songs which we have rearranged. The songs are really melodious. We keep the flavour of these songs intact and at the same time give them a modern touch.” says Raju, drummer and founder member of Bunokriti.

For Nusrat Jahan Kriti, talented vocalist of the band, the theory is simple- “We are entertainers; we want people to have a good time”. Her dad has been her inspiration and a big fan of Lata Mangeshkar. She believes that more and more female musicians are carving a niche for themselves in Bangladesh.  Nusrat says “We call ourselves a versatile band. We are very creative in our approach to each and every song we perform. As our name Bunokriti suggests we try to weave a new form of dream for our audience through our version of the old songs. Interestingly when I sing old songs most of them feel its our own composition. When I tell them that they are old songs form the 60s/70s they get inspired.”

“We keep experimenting even when we perform live. Actually our music keeps evolving with time and the choice and demand of listeners.  I believe music should be promiscuous and should transcend all sorts of man-made boundaries .We are reaching out to the listeners worldwide and is not just limited to Bangladesh.” adds Raju. Shanto, the percussionist of the band says “our sound mesmerise the mind, captivate the heart and uplift the soul.”

Band Members

Dmr Raju Jami (Drummer & Manager)
Nusrat Jahan Kriti (Vocal) 
Saif Sohan (Keyboardist Music Arrangement) Shawon Rahman (Rhythm Guitarist & Back vocal) 
Nawaj( Bassist) 
Tamim Rifat (Lead Guitarist)
Shanto(Percussion)

Though they have faced criticism initially. “Some people thought we were trying to be disrespectful with our “experimentation,” which was very far from the truth.  They didn’t understand the concept of classical fusion. But our songs have been loved by the audience. Most of our songs have got loads of likes and sharing on social media. Our Official Trailer Song Akash Meghe Dhaka have been a huge hit.”

According to him the members of the band are like a family. They often spend time together-hanging out or shopping or travelling. But while doing music they have a strict professional approach.

Talking about their favorite show till date, Raju says “It was definitely our show at the Ntv old school beats. It was a huge hit. We were flooded with messages and live-in phone calls. Finally the authorities had to stop taking any messages or calls.”

While Nusrat’s memorable moment is quite interesting! Nusrat explains “I joined the band few years ago. After one year or so I had an argument and decided to leave the band. The band members came to my home. I didn’t receive their phone calls initially. After several calls I received their call. They requested me to come to balcony. When I went to the balcony I found them standing downstairs and requesting me to join the band. I found it very sweet. So I joined the band.”
Talking about the present music scenario in Bangladesh, Raju says “Bangladeshi bands are a lot more ahead of Kolkata musically, since they’ve been into this for a longer time. The music scenario in our country is constantly evolving. But for most bands sustaining by making original music only is an uphill task. Even in the age of the internet, where musicians can put up their work online for public viewing, things are not so smooth. The film industry is where the greater chunk of the business is, and hence the greater parts of the funds are invested in movies. Though in the long run only the truly talented bands will survive and others will be filtered out.”Nusrat adds, “The Bangladeshi music scene is very lively and we have brilliant musicians.
Her word of advice for aspiring musicians- “Be passionate about your music. Learn the kind of music of you like to perform. Music is such an ocean of ideas and philosophies that you have to go towards and chase. It will never come to you easy. “

Bunokriti has been travelling extensively, doing concerts and corporate shows and have performed in Kolkata. They believe more concerts should be organized where artists from both India and Bangladesh get to perform which would promote greater harmony, understanding and brotherhood between the two nations.

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Going Beyond Boundaries


Nirab Hossain is the second Bangladeshi actor after Ferdous Ahmed to have acted in a Bollywood movie. Nirab played the lead role along with Kavita Radheshyam in the horror thriller film, Sheitaan .The film revolves around two lovers who besides being Muslim were from two different communities Shia and Sunni, how they struggle to survive is shown in this film. Jointly produced by controversial film maker Faisal Saif and Ali G, Sheitaan it also stars Pakistan actress Meera.

Model-actor Nirab Hossain talking about his experience said, “The character (CBI officer) was quite thrilling .It’s been a great experience working with Faisal Saif. He is very talented and mostly chooses controversial themes and stories for his films.  Bollywood is more professional. My director read out the whole script infront of our whole team the night before our shooting started. He encouraged us to share our views and opnions. You have people with specialisms. Specialist people are taken for specific jobs.”

Nirab is also very proud of his pivotal role in the Malaysian movie Banglasia by controversial director Namewee. Namewee is one of Asia’s most well-known entertainment personalities, being multi-talented and wearing many hats as singer, songwriter, director, actor and YouTuber.

The film was made in the context of prevalent animosity towards Bangladeshi workers in Malaysian society after the 2013 elections. The film was banned in Malaysia after 31 scenes in the movie that were deemed inappropriate were cut off by the Malaysian Film Censorship Board. Nirab said “The film received worldwide attention for being the first Malaysian banned film to screen at major international film festivals.”

                                                      SHEITAAN - Movie
Talking about his journey in the glamour world, Nirab said, “I went to a friend’s house and was impressed by the photographs of his hanging on the wall. He had done a photoshoot for modeling. It got me interested in doing a portfolio for myself. I managed to collect some money from my mom, brother and sister and did a photoshoot. I started doing ramp modeling. I came in touch with Amitabh Reza Chowudhury, a prominent advertisement and filmmaker in Bangladesh.   He liked me a lot. I am the only person who has done 9 TVCs for him. Whatever I am today is because of him.”  

Nirab won the heart of millions of people by performing in advertisement of Banglalink. “The response was beyond imagination” laughed Nirab. He started getting offers from theatre. In 2009, he signed 5 films and all of them were with Shakib Khan. All of them were super hit. So far 24 films of Nirab have been released. “Some of my memorable roles were in the movies- Mon Jekhane Hridoy Sekhane(Nirab’s first film), Shaheb Name Golam,  Raja Surjo Kha and Guru Bhai. 
Nirob feels technology has brought about a sea change in the quality of films. The Bangladeshi cinema industry is only beginning to explore its potential. “Today the storyline incorporates the use of digital content and visual effects. More digitally enabled movie theatres are needed in Bangladesh” said Nirab.

                                    BANGLASIA - Movie
Excessive amount of entertainment based films being churned out these days. Does the audience prefer mass films over movies with a message? 
“People come to cinemas for entertainment. People in the subcontinent love to live in the realm of fantasy. The middle class audience has been watching and patronizing cinema which reflect the middle class emotion, sentimentalism and nostalgia and a feel-good factor. Commercial films help you to reach a wider audience and doing independent films keeps your artistic side happy. Producers are skeptic about unconventional movies.” said Nirab. Nirab feels that cinema can be a very important tool of regional co-operation and social harmony and welcomes joint production of films if done in a proper way.
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Spreading Smiles, Breaking Stereotypes


Ismail Roqai Chaoui is 23 years old and is from Morocco. This year he decided to
take a break from university to travel around Asia. Having a very limited budget, he uses hitchhiking for his transportation and that helps him to know more about the culture of the countries he visits. He documents his travelling experiences in his blog I Smile Around TheWorld.

What inspired you to start the blog-I Smile Around The World?

I always loved to travel and discover other countries, other cultures. When I travel, I try to live in the local way. That starts with little things like taking city buses or eating in popular places. I also hitchhike and find local hosts using the website Couchsurfing.



That helps me understand how the locals live and I learn a lot about the culture and the country this way. My blog is a tool I use to share this vision of traveling. I write about what I do, but mostly about the people I meet. I try to break stereotypes. People are more and more scared about others. That fear starts with lack of knowledge of the other cultures. For example when I decided to go to Russia and to Siberia, some of my friends told me : "Are you crazy to go there ! People are very racist in that country; you will not be safe etc..." But I only met very friendly and helpful people there and got one of the biggest support of my trip in Siberia. Some of them even spent their day off helping me get out some bureaucratic issue. Instead of being leery and suspicious, I try to trust in every person I meet and that makes my experience of traveling much richer.

Of all the places you've been, which country have you found to be the most hospitable?


It is hard to choose one country. In every country I have been to, people opened their homes to me and treated me like family. Everyone I have met has been incredible with me especially when I talked to them about my project. They make this question really hard for me... I will pass!

What has been the greatest joy of your journey so far?

My biggest joy was fifteen days after I had a motorbike accident in Vietnam. I had several injuries, broke my left arm and had to wear a plaster cast for six weeks. But the hardest part was that I had to stop hitchhiking because my movements were limited. For me, it meant also I had to abandon one of the purposes of my trip. But after fifteen days, I felt like I could hitchhike again even if that would be a big challenge. So I did, and it worked! It was one of the greatest feelings of my life! I felt like I was reborn again and I almost cried of joy in the truck! Nothing could stop me at that moment! Since that day, I use hitchhiking every time I have to go from a city to another!

What have been the biggest challenges?


My biggest challenge is not to get lazy, always be curious to discover new places, new cultures. Every day is a chance to discover new things and to meet new people with sometimes incredible stories. When I had my motorbike accident in Vietnam, I had to rethink my travel. I had to change all my plans to adapt my journey to my physical condition but keep my objective to always discover more. I also work hard on my blog to share these experiences and conceal it traveling is also one of my biggest challenge.

Was there ever a time you wanted to quit and go home?

I sometimes miss my family and friends of course. But the idea of quitting had never crossed my mind. I am living something I dreamt of for a long time.

Do you agree traveling opens your mind and heart to the world’s challenges?

Of course! The globalization is a reality. The world is getting smaller and smaller. Understanding the different cultures is a start to understanding the challenges of the world today. All my experiences made me realize the importance of strengthening the dialogue between civilizations. Instead of building walls, we should build bridges between people of different communities, religions, and cultures. In that way, we can learn how to live together and face the different challenges the world is facing.

What was the greatest lesson you’ve learned on your travels?


The greatest lesson I have learned on my travels is that from one community to another, there are more similarities than differences. No matter the country, religion, or color of the skin people aspire for the same things, and have the similar joys, sorrows and fears. I learned how to trust people and be more confident about myself.

What advice would you give to young people who are thinking about going travelling, but may be feeling uncertain or intimidated?

Traveling, especially alone, may be intimidating. People can be afraid of the unknown and prefer to stay in their comfort zone. But getting out of this comfort zone has many benefits. It helps to be more confident and do things you would never think possible before. Traveling is the best way to learn about others and about yourself. I learned more in the passenger seat of a car than in any university class I have been to.

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The Face in the Mirror


Briana Banos graduated from the University of Florida with a B.A. in English and minors in Anthropology and Mass Communications. She worked as a performer and aerialist with a cruise ship line before she began showing signs of Red Skin Syndrome. Once into her withdrawal, Briana sought to raise awareness about her condition. Through social media, she used her voice and pictures to show others of this extremely traumatic, yet preventable, syndrome.

She has been featured on The Doctors show, as well as accompanied ITSAN (The International Topical Steroid Addiction Network) to Capitol Hill in Sept. 2016 to help build bridges in the dermatology community.

Her biggest hope with Preventable: Protecting Our Largest Organ is to bring awareness to the medical community and patients about Red Skin Syndrome and to spur a reform in how topical steroids are utilized.
 
Tell me about the emotional/psychological impact of red skin?
 
As time goes on with this condition, the emotional pain and destruction is almost worse than the physical pain. In the beginning, we are focused on the physical because it is the most prominent thing, but when the healing is slow or we find friends and family start to doubt the process, or if it takes away our job or a relationship we are in, the loss of identity sets in. You become so anxious with every encounter, you can't look people in the eye, you start to doubt yourself, the hopelessness can set it, and ultimately, your self-confidence is no longer present. And even when you are healed from this, that anxiety doesn't just go away. You are scarred, and there is a fear that may never leave when it comes to steroids. I know for me the thought of needing a future surgery or if I am ever in a life or death situation and am told I need a steroid to survive, I think the first thought in my mind will be the immense suffering that drug has caused me instead of thinking about my life being saved. That, in itself, is what we are robbed of when we are steroid-dependent. This drug will no longer be a comfort to us in times it is truly needed, but a deep-rooted distress. 
 
What would you tell anyone going through a condition that affects their looks?
 
It's never easy to look in the mirror and not recognize the person staring back at you. It's a sadness that you can see in your eyes, like part of you has died. But, you know what? Looks pale in comparison to the remarkable strength you are gaining through this process. And when you are on the other side of this, you not only get your looks back, but you have transformed into an invincible human being who overcame heartbreaking loss and agony. It tore me up inside the day I shaved my head because I allowed my looks to define a part of who I was as a person, and that's ok, but we must realize that we are so much more than our outer beauty. During this time, let your inner beauty shine. Let these dark hours transform you from within. Focus on that aspect instead of the physical and I think you will be a much stronger and more resilient person for it. 

Where did you find support?
 
I found support in the arms of my family, my friends, and the online community. I am very fortunate to have a family that stood by me 100% and that never allowed me to drown in the physical or mental anxieties. They were compassionate and never made me feel ugly or unloved. And yes, I am now divorced from my husband which happened during this difficult healing time, but even he never once made me feel that I was disgusting or gross. As important as it is to have support for the physical aspect of this condition, the mental is just as important. The online community is definitely there for the mental support of this. It's amazing to be connected to thousands of men and woman who know exactly what you are going through. 

Briana Banos with
 
Kolkata-based Dr Koushik Lahiri.
Do they know why getting off steroids triggered this reaction?
 
With anyone curious to my health condition, I try my very best to explain why I have Red Skin Syndrome. Since I am a huge advocate, most all of my family and friends know why topical steroids should not be abused or overprescribed. 

What would you tell someone thinking about using steroids for a skin condition?
 
 Steroids are such a strong drug and do not get rid of the cause of why your skin is irritated. Is it a bandaid masking the true problem and, if over used, it can create even more problems that are bigger than the reason you began using them in the first place. If someone really wants to fix their skin, then they need to see a doctor who will take their time and truly invest care into a patient. You could have an allergy problem or a contact allergy to something, could be weather triggered, stress triggered, could be an infection, could be leaky gut... so many things you can test out before rubbing a steroid on the skin. 
 
What do people from the medical or pharmaceutical establishments think about your campaign? Have you come up against resistance?
 
I haven't encountered resistance to any pharmaceutical companies yet since I am still a very small cog in the machine when it comes to spreading awareness. Have I received resistance in general? Oh, yeah. I've had my fair share of mean comments or pushy comments on my YouTube channel. And I'm sure any pharmaceutical company who sells a steroid would combat our stories as much as possible since it would be devastating to their sales, but I'm hoping as time goes on, the public will become more educated and advocate for themselves and stop relying on these types of drugs. Steroids are not the problem, it's the excessive and blanketed way we use them for everything. They were never meant to be utilized in such a fashion. 
  
Do we have alternatives to steroids? What are the pros and cons of those?
 
There are definitely alternatives out in the world other than steroids for our skin problems. Alternative medicine has been coming a long way and integrative medicine is a mix of both worlds. These avenues may take longer than conventional medicine, but they can be safer and better for the body. As of right now, there are other Western drugs as well that are being researched and used on eczema and psoriasis patients instead of steroids. However, they are very new and could also come with dangerous side effects in the long haul. It's up to the discretion of the patient to use these drugs. If someone needs to be able to provide for their family and continue living life, then one of these newer drugs may be a better option for them. 

What we need, in general, is better patient care and more time understanding that each and every human is made differently. One thing will not work for everyone. 
 
 
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