This is Clare Rutz reporting from Goa, India.
During my travels one of the most concerning issues concerning the INGO world is the lack of communication between a project and well, everyone else. Very rarely do charities work with one another or have the proper relationship with their funding organizations. Video Volunteers go against this unfortunate trend entirely. Their mission is to organize Community Video Units (CVUs) that produce a film on a certain topic chosen by the team with the purpose of empowering the community and educating them on how they, as regular civilians, can make a difference. In seven of the eight states of India, Video Volunteers work with other non-profits to train their staff on how to make a film pertaining to the NGO’s mission which can be anything from women’s rights to ending government corruption to safe water issues.
During my visit to the office of Video Volunteers I was first led up slippery steps and it felt as if I was taking a tour of a jungle. The India heat made the tiny climb immediately discomforting, but by the time we got to the offices I realized the benefit of being tucked up away in the woods. Let’s just say it had a different vibe than most cubicles we know so well. I had come just in time for lunch (not intentional, I swear) so the entire staff sat down for a family style meal and we talked about the development work India needs to see and Video Volunteers’ role in all of that.
In the 15 CVUs there are 130 community filmmakers who are trained by the Video Volunteer staff. The staff goes to the NGO by train and spends six months with the CVU to teach them about filmmaking and also what comes after the video is made. When there is a screening of the film, the community is invited to come and participate in watching the film followed by a discussion of how they can help. The goal is to create clear solutions that are feasible for the community to take on. On average, about 250 people attend the screenings and only two people take action, but change is slow. To plant the seed in the minds of the community that teaches them that they are able to make a difference, and to also create an awareness of the societal problems that are happening around them is crucial for every developing country. The media is a powerful force and often times when there is proof of an issue that can actually be seen it holds much more weight in the community and also puts a greater pressure on the government and players.
I’m concerned that I’m making the job of the staff at Video Volunteers look easy. It’s far more complicated than the mere filmmaking training. Monitoring impact is an important part of their work, but it’s easier said than done. How does one measure a rise in the sense of empowerment of a community or the rise of self-esteem among women in India? These are the issues they are working with and more often than not, numerical and quantitative data don’t really get the gist across. Video Volunteers follow the community’s progress as well as the NGOs they are partners using qualitative data as well as quantitative in hope to measure the impact of the film screenings.
It’s also a thorough and long process to determine which NGOs become CVUs. A partnership with Video Volunteers requires the non-profit to be well established because the program costs a fair bit of money. It is also vital for any partnership to share the same mission and long-term goals as Video Volunteers. By creating this criteria the end result is an entire community stretched across India working together with the people of India to build a stronger, fairer, and better country. I can definitely get behind that.
If you’d like to “get behind” it as well visit their GlobalGiving page at www.globalgiving.com/1524.
When asked what she would tell her friends about this project, Clare said: "Incredible: You need to see this!"