Mandi Kujawa’s storytelling has brightened and challenged young and old minds alike across the Bow Valley. She uses her rousing talents with music and speech as a way to inspire and entertain, but also to confront tense subject matters such as suicide directly, and in a profound way. Part of that has to do with having been affected by suicide herself, and raising a daughter.
“I just want to make it so there’s more of a conversation around
suicide,” Kujawa said. “A really close friend of mine committed suicide and that was a real shock, I just had no idea.
“It just had a huge effect on me and part of that was wrestling with the fact I should have known what to say or do to keep him alive. I think a lot of people have a picture of ‘who dies by suicide’ and he just didn’t fit that profile of what people would imagine.”
She has done suicide prevention storytelling, in conjunction with Family and Community Support Services and Alberta health, over the past six years at high schools in the area. She says it gets the students talking more and helps make the grey subject area less taboo.
Having lived in Banff for almost 30 years, Kujawa has worked extensively with children in the daycare, elementary school and after school programs. And now at Banff Public Library, Kujawa is passionate about connecting people through books and illustrators.
“It’s exciting to share books with a group of kids and to see how it unites and maybe gets them thinking a bit differently and to imagine the world differently,” she said.