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Life Stories

The `Unity in Diversity’ Project – Sharing Life Stories

Whenever an elder dies, a library burns to the ground – african proverb

A conversation between an Indigenous elder from Greenland and a Maasai warrior from Tanzania, at the United Nations HQ in New York inspired The Unity in Diversity Project.

It is a pioneering new approach to education that puts students at the centre, allowing them to share their own life stories, experiences and insights.

It aims to:

  • Create a safe space for young people to explore their cultural identities.
  • Give elders an opportunity to record their life stories, knowledge and skills, to share them with future generations.
  • Build self-esteem and confidence.
  • Help participants discover the traditions and worldviews of other individuals and communities, in an environment of mutual respect.

Together people of many different backgrounds have developed teaching materials over the past decade. They include real case studies of diverse Indigenous societies world wide, from Aboriginal Australians to Lapland and Tibet.

The program also includes community-based research, in which the real teachers are the students’ elder relatives.
This helps to bridge the generation gaps that often result from modernisation, as well as ensuring that valuable knowledge is not lost.

In 2003 a United Nations report commended an earlier version of the project (then called the Aang Serian Indigenous Knowledge Programme) as “appropriate education for Indigenous Peoples that can enable sustainable development while being compatible with their traditions”.

They also recommended that governments adopt it as a model of best practice.


Our course materials are freely available for non-commercial educational use, although we’d like to encourage users to donate whatever they can afford to our ongoing projects in return. We also welcome any comments and corrections to the case studies!

Facilitator Manual Overview of the course  Student Workbook