Funded! This project was successfully funded on January 1, 2013.


John Lyden wants to convey the power of youth interfaith storytelling with his film.

Note from Paula Weiss,  Director of Children at the Well:

Children at the Well is our storytelling program for young people in the Capital Region of New York State. We got our start in 2006 after receiving the Brimstone Award from the National Storytelling Network for our program proposal. Each year since, we've gathered a group of young teenagers from many different religions and cultures to work with professional storytellers. The participants select, or create, stories based in their own traditions, and they work weekly with the storytellers over several months to learn to tell those stories and prepare them for presentation to an audience. We hold community performances, bringing together families and friends to celebrate the kids, their stories, and the wonderful diversity in our communities.

John Lyden, a 20 year old filmmaker, was one of our C@W participants. He is now in college, studying film, and he's been working tirelessly on this film, with vision and a passion, to portray the community-building and healing force that is C@W. A number of John's fellow C@W interns assisted in various ways, as have staff members. We were thrilled when Kauthar Umar agreed to serve as editorial consultant, and we're really glad for her assistance. 

John is calling the film "Stepping Toward the Lion; Finding My Story", which refers to the journey made, and the story told, by another of our former storytellers, Alaudeen Umar, brother of Kauthar.

In order to tell this story, John has depleted his savings account, worked summers, borrowed money from his parents, and accepted donations from OUR parent organization, the non-profit Interfaith Story Circle of the Tri-City Area. To recoup some of those expenses and enable him to fund the fial editing phase, the sound and color correction passes that need to be done, and the duplication, packaging, and distribution of the DVD, he is asking you to help us reach our goal. After seeing his trailer for the film on this Kickstarter page (if you haven't seen it yet, click the "PLAY" button above!), we hope you'll agree that John has what it takes to make a very powerful movie.

This Kickstarter campaign is our one attempt at fundraising for this film project. Donations are tax deductible- the Interfaith Story Circle has 501(C)3 status. We have until December 31st to collect pledges to reach our goal, and if we don’t succeed we will end up with no donations at all, and may not be able to complete the work needed on the film. So, you can see that your pledge would be very valuable to us in reaching that goal!

At C@W we are proud of the energy and talent of all of our storytellers, and we proudly acknowledge benefits to our participants and to our community from our program. As a result, we would very much like to encourage storytellers around the country to develop similar groups. We are writing a discussion guide, available as a donation “reward” along with the completed DVD, which can be widely used along with the film to look at issues it raises. We believe “Stepping Toward the Lion”, along with the discussion guide, would be of use for anyone interested in interfaith peacemaking work. It can also help to encourage growth of “C@W-like” groups elsewhere, spreading peace and understanding across the land.

Will you take that step...become a backer of "Stepping Toward the Lion; Finding My Story"? Will you help us share our story? 

Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts.

Note from John Lyden, filmmaker:

When I began this project, I came up with the following mission statement:

I want to show how interfaith activities can help us to connect to other people and develop a better understanding of what it is to be human through the art of storytelling.

As I worked on the film with this in mind, I came to the conclusion that in order for this documentary to resonate, I would need to show the effect Children at the Well has had on one person’s life. I decided to choose one individual who had overcome a lot in his young life. 

Alaudeen, who is a good friend of mine, has an amazing story. He had dealt with years of prejudice and harassment after he graduated from an Islamic school and went to a public charter school in Albany. I came to the conclusion that focusing on Alaudeen would be the most meaningful way to convey the power of interfaith storytelling. I believe the footage captures his emotional journey from being a target of prejudice to becoming a versatile storyteller with a personality that endears him to almost everyone he meets now.

Stories have a healing nature and can make all the difference in our lives. I encourage you to donate so we can show the world how stories can help us love, grow and heal. 

- John Lyden

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

Some of the risks and challenges that came up during the making of this film are the complications and delays that beset the lives of all students, and especially the lives of student filmmakers. The time crunch for John has been pronounced throughout, and the process of acquiring advanced film-making technique while making this has caused set-backs at times, though John's very high standards and his dedication to honing his craft are yielding professional results.
We have also faced down the challenge of coming to consensus about the direction and content of the film, which very much comes from John's personal vision, but is also meant to represent our storytelling program. Many many meetings, conversations and emails later, we know that we are on the same path together, and that it's leading to very good things.
We are all confident in John's commitment, talent, and resolve to see the project through. Your support would not only help launch our movie, it would help launch a very promising career in film making.


  • Please contact me, Paula Weiss (I'm Director of Children at the Well). I'd be happy to hear from you and happy to answer your questions! My email address is paulabweiss(at)

    Thanks for stopping by~ thanks for your interest!

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- (30 days)