humans of sackville by Aloma Jardine T here is a saying Ian Chew loves: “Everyone is Buddha — except me.” It speaks to how people tend to believe everyone else, apart from them, has an interesting story to tell. They are perfect words to live by for Chew, a third-year international relations student from Malaysia. For the past year he has made it his mission to share stories of the people of Sackville with the world through his Facebook page, Humans of Sackville. The page chronicles the extraordinary stories and thoughts of ordinary people. Chew often asks deeply personal questions and his subjects give him profoundly honest answers. “I think it is because they don’t know me, so they don’t have any reason to be embarrassed. They feel they can reveal something intensely personal,” he says. “And I kind of assume people are lonely to a certain extent, to different degrees. There is always the need to connect and questions about feelings, about personal experiences, those are the ones that connect us, that make us the most vulnerable, the ones that bring out the most beautiful moments.” Chew started the page in September 2012 on a whim, based on the Humans of New York page. “It has been good so far,” he says. “You always have about half of the population that doesn’t want to be photographed at all, so you always face rejection.” Chew says several encounters stand out for him — the half-hour lecture on the evils of alcohol by a recovering alcoholic, the former Mount Allison custodian who gave him a bear hug when he found out Chew was a student — but says he doesn’t have a favourite picture. “Everybody is equal to me,” he says. “Everybody has love, they have hate, they have fear, they have anger. I value equally every story they bring to my life.” Chew has an extraordinary story of his own: he has a serious social anxiety disorder, bad enough that walking down the street is tough. Approaching total strangers is terrifying. “It is always a constant struggle, always a fight to approach people,” he says. “You need a motivation to keep on approaching people, so it has been a really personal project.” Despite that challenge, Chew has added more than 550 pictures to the page — averaging more than one a day. He now works with another photographer, Feona Seerattan. He knows he will not be in Sackville forever, so he is beginning to think about the long-term future of Humans of Sackville. “I’ve thought about how to make it bigger, so Humans of the Maritimes, or make it region-wide so it would carry on in the absence of my partners or me,” he says. In the meantime, he hopes to grow the number of posted photos to at least 1,000 — one story at a time. “I have many passions, but my main passion is human communication — how we can connect with each other, inspire others.” “ Everybody has love, they have hate, they have fear, they have anger. I value equally every story they bring to my life ” /9