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Meet Annie Worden and Matt Citron of Stories 4 Strength

Today we’d like to introduce you to Annie Worden and Matt Citron.

Annie and Matt, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Annie: We started Stories 4 Strength in 2016 after working with an amazing group of kids in Madagascar. While there, we saw first hand what a profound impact theater, music, and art can have on children’s confidence levels, creative thinking abilities and capacity for resilience amid hardships. We built S4S in order to be able to bring free arts programming to underserved populations of kids all over the world.

Matt: Since it’s inception, we’ve worked with kids in Kenya, Cambodia, and Tanzania as well as kids in refugee camps in Greece. And we’ve just started partnering with an amazing non-profit here in LA called Immigrant Families Together.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Annie: Anytime you’re working with language barriers, there are inevitably a lot of funny mishaps along the way. We’ve had to learn to stay open, flexible and ready to laugh (especially at ourselves). I’d say the hardest part is actually the fundraising because it never stops.

Matt: Yeah. But when you believe in the project as much as we do and you can point to the ways in which it’s making a difference in the lives of these kids, it’s absolutely worth the effort.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Stories 4 Strength story. Tell us more about the business.
Matt: We bring free arts programming and free arts camps to underserved populations of kids around the world. We offer theater, music and art classes taught by working professionals.

Annie: We help kids write original shows based on issues they’re struggling with like bullying, HIV/AIDS, domestic violence, drug abuse and the importance of staying in school. We fill the shows with original songs, dances and anything the kids feel is important (or just plain fun), and then the kids perform the shows for their friends, families, and communities.

Matt: It’s a pretty incredible thing to watch shy, awkward teenagers learn to walk tall, speak loudly and share their stories with pride and strength.

Annie: Absolutely. I think that transformation is the part of this work I’m most proud of. And we’ve been lucky enough to see it over and over and over again with every program.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
Annie: Oh man. I think luck is always a part of any endeavor, especially ones like this. A lot of the time when we’re organizing these programs we’ve never met any of the people involved or even been to the location, so there’s a ton of luck and blind faith that goes into trusting it will all work out.

Matt: It’s an adventure. We try to do a lot of research and vetting before we arrive, but we never really know till we get there. The one constant is that the schedule will definitely change at some point.

Annie: Definitely.

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