Wednesday, 20 November 2013


Welcome to Opening Lines! This blog is about opening lines and getting people talking. If you read or see something here that makes you think, inspires you, makes you angry, sad or joyful, share it with a friend and open up a new conversation

My name is Helen Patuck and I am a writer, ghostwriter and photographer, currently based in Beirut, Lebanon. For the past two and a half years I worked as a ghostwriter and literary consultant in Geneva, Switzerland, and over the past six years I have traveled extensively in Europe, the Middle East, South Asia, East and West Africa. I'm a big fan of the expression ‘make of yourself a light’: be the friend you want to make, throw the party you want to go to, write the novel you want to read, and in this case, start the blog you want to see started.

Since June 2012, I have written on a freelance basis for the International Labour Organization’s Special Action for the Prevention of Forced Labour Unit, its affiliated NGOs, and the UK’s Department for International Development on anti-human trafficking initiatives. Learning how to interview people and writing to represent their voices has left me with a growing interest in vocalizing the thoughts and experiences of others.

This blog is my next step towards making that interest something useful and empowering.

Opening lines...

As a writer, I’m always trying to find the best opening line for whatever story I’m writing. The same goes for conversations with people: how do we start to build a dialogue with someone, that sometimes life-changing moment of exchange we call a conversation? It’s something that fascinates me.

How can we make someone feel comfortable enough to talk and share with us?

How do we open up conversations about subjects that are taboo?

Why the silence on certain issues?

What makes us talk to strangers on buses, planes, and trains?

And more interestingly, what makes them talk to us?

Our world is made up of lines and boundaries, some we can cross, others drawn so deeply that we can't even begin to imagine how we can build bridges. I’d like to think that we can, though - imagine, that is - with our language, words, and kindness. I define kindness in the wholehearted sense of the word: recognizing every human being as someone worthy of my respect, thought, and time, and the earth as something worthy of the same.

I’ll never forget chewing bubblegum near three girls cutting crops in their father's field in the small mountain town of Karimabad in Pakistan, NWFP. By blowing a bubble and making those girls laugh, I ended up helping them in their field, collecting apricots, which eventually led to an invitation back to their home. There I met their mother, who offered me dinner and spoke enough English to explain how she helped to run the medical centre in town. As I said to a friend recently, whose work takes him far from home to situations that warp his sense of normality, we can always find common ground, with those closest to us and with those furthest away. Perhaps common ground can be as simple as a piece of bubble gum. We just have to be a bit creative about how to find the ground we share with each other.

Vocalizing our individual contributions...

One aim of this blog is to take stories from all walks of life and demonstrate the many different ways in which each of us contribute to the world we live in. My hope is to prove that not only do we have agency as individuals, but also that our seemingly small contributions do contribute to a whole. Let’s celebrate those.

To kick start your reading of this blog, please go to the Blog page to read 'Human Trafficking: Learning to Listen', the story of Nepali NGO POURAKHI and the benefits of communicating on issues previously treated with shame and silence...

1 comment:

  1. Excellent blog Helen. I was sent this way by Sarah Garrett who thought I might be inspired. Once again she was right. Thank you.