Frederick Noronha (FN) on Fri, 26 Mar 2004 16:52:43 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Video Volunteers... putting video into the hands of grassroots activists

Video Volunteers                                     
Putting video into the hands of grassroots activists who are leading the fight       
against poverty.                                                                     
VIDEO VOLUNTEERS is a new program dedicated to spreading the use of video as
a tool to alleviate poverty in the developing world.  Volunteer filmmakers
join non-governmental organizations (NGOs), initially in India, for two
months to write, shoot and edit one short film for the NGO.  They also train
the NGO staff to make their own small videos and to use video to give a
voice to the poor. Through the Video Volunteers Program, NGOs have a
powerful tool for promoting their work and spreading their messages.
THE TIME IS RIGHT                                                                  
In the 1990's, a World Bank survey asked thousands of the poorest of the
poor to identify the biggest hurdle to their advancement. Above even food
and shelter, the number one problem cited was access to a "voice". The Video
Volunteers project is about giving a voice to the voiceless, and to the
people who fight for them.
Thanks to inexpensive video cameras and computer editing, the cost of
producing videos is finally within the reach of the grassroots.  For NGOs,
videos can be a great addition to an education program and are an effective
tool for policy action and awareness raising in the media.
NGOs can also now start incorporating the video camera into their daily
work.  We teach them to use video for effective long-term project
documentation.  In addition to our documentary training, we will also teach
them to edit simple sequences together quickly for promotional material, for
example, or to stream personal testimonials from the community on the web.
EMPOWERING PEOPLE                                                                  
Thanks to new digital technologies, anyone can make a film--you may not be
able to write, but you can see and you can talk, and that means you can make
your own video.
In group brainstorming sessions, members of the community decide what
messages the film will deliver, who the main characters should be and how
the film will develop.  Participants in the program are encouraged to get
involved in all aspects of the filmmaking process, from the shooting to the
interviewing to the editing. Why?  Because if it's a film to educate the
community in health issues, the community knows best what will resonate with
its own people. If the intended audience is TV viewers a world away, the
poor have a right to tell their own stories, and not be spoken for.
The goal of Video Volunteers is to help NGOs communicate better, and also to
share vital information both within and beyond their local communities. The
videos will be streamed on One World TV, the leading internet television
station, which will become a hub for those using video in poverty
If the NGO desires, we will help distribute VHS copies of the videos to
other organizations along with educational or other support materials.
CURRENT VIDEO VOLUNTEER PROJECTS                                                   
In autumn 2003, Video Volunteers successfully piloted the program at the
NGOs of two Indian Ashoka Fellows (see .) VV made one
promotional film for Akanksha, the Bombay slum children's supplementary
education program.  They also made an advocacy film for I-CARD, an Assamese
NGO working to strengthen the cultural identity of the Mising tribe who live
along the banks of the Brahmaputra.  I-CARD was given video training and is
now working on its own productions.
CORE MEMBERS:                                                                      
Jessica Mayberry (Program Coordinator) - Jessica Mayberry was awarded a
Fellowship by the American India Foundation in 2002 and spent nine months
making films and conducting video trainings at the Self Employed Women's
Association (SEWA) in Ahmedabad.  She completed a 30-minute film on
women-led initiatives to combat drought, and shot and wrote a second film
about the Gujarat communal riots.  Video SEWA is India's most exciting
grassroots video project: a cooperative of mostly illiterate women have
shot, edited and conceptualized nearly a hundred training and empowerment
films for poor women in Gujarat.  Video SEWA's success prompted her to visit
other Indian NGOs to investigate how their model could be replicated quickly
and inexpensively.  She became convinced that if films about poverty were
made by those who'd dedicated their lives to fighting it, video could become
a powerful tool in poverty alleviation. And thus was born the idea of Video
Jessica worked in TV in New York after graduating from Oxford University in
1999, as an associate producer for documentaries at Court TV, and in
production at the Fox News Channel and CNN. Jessica's interest in media
began as an undergraduate at Oxford University, where she hosted a news
program on college radio.
Dominic Elliot - Dominic Elliot recently graduated with a Master's degree in
Visual Anthropology from the University of Manchester where his research
interests were focused on indigenous media and participatory film. He has
made several documentaries, most recently in Malawi where he assisted street
children in making dramatic re-enactments of their experiences of leaving
home and living in the city of Blantyre. He is currently working with the
support of several organizations to produce a film about the situation of
the Batwa Pygmies in Central Africa. Since graduating from Oxford University
in 1997 (Archaeology and Anthropology), he has also worked as a teacher in
China and as a research analyst for a company specializing in waste
recycling and green energy.
Charlotte Buchen - Charlotte Buchen's interest in India began during a
three-month visit to Mumbai in 1998 when she worked at the NGO Akanksha and
continued back at Vassar where she wrote her thesis on the Hindu Nationalist
political party the Shiv Sena.  Since graduating, Charlotte worked and lived
in Maine and Paris before returning to New York to work at InCite
Pictures/Cine Qua Non, producing documentaries for television about bank
robbers, small town Texas sexual politics, and other assorted projects.  She
most recently helped to edit and produce the video "Independent Media in a
Time of War", a critique of the mainstream media and call for media
awareness that is screening in international film festivals, including
Rotterdam, and is being distributed by the Media Education Foundation.  She
can be reached at
Charlotte was a part of the pilot project of Video Volunteers this past
fall, and helped to produce and edit a film about the NGO Akanksha which
works to educate slum children in Mumbai.
Julia Elias - Julia Elias has been working in documentary production since
1999. As a Columbia Journalism School graduate, she has gained her
professional experience producing factual programming for The History
Channel and CBS News Productions as well as collaborating on various A&E
Biographies and Specials for The Learning Channel. Since 2001 her focus has
shifted to working in and for developing communities. A trained
anthropologist and travel-junky, she has successfully combined her
background in journalism and her zest for social issues in her own
not-for-profit organization called Understanding. Offering her knowledge
through this communication-based vehicle to social projects and NGOs, Julia
directs, shoots and edits herself, involving the local population on all
levels for input and support. "Preserve to be Wild," an 18-minute
documentary in Khmer to teach Cambodian children and teenagers about
endangered animals and environmental issues, successfully illustrates this
approach. Julia lives and works in London.
FOR MORE INFORMATION                                                               
If you're interested in being a Video Volunteer or in helping spread digital
video in the development community, contact
At the moment, volunteers raise their own funds. Click here to donate to
Video Volunteers.
Home | Kathy & Amy | Dan | Projects | Foundation | DEPOT                             
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