Experiencing community media with Video Volunteers

- Séverine Lenglet “We don’t write to delight or to blame people but to put the pen inside and reveal the lives of others”, said Albert Londres. This famous French writer left his foot print on the 20th Century travelling the world while pioneering the field of investigative journalism. When I was 12, his name and exploits had me dreaming of being a journalist. Exotic lands, different peoples and foreign languages filled my mind. Working for Video Volunteers evoked these same feelings in me. My dream is to utilize the media skills I have to support vulnerable people around the world and to accompany them in building better futures. At the beginning of March, I left Berlin, Germany, where I live and work as a journalist, to volunteer three months of my time with Video Volunteers’ (VV) IndiaUnheard program.  I just wanted to give from my time and my skills to this wonderful media development NGO. Five years ago, a Spanish filmmaker told me about VV and I always kept it in mind and I knew that one day, I would manage to go to India and take part in this great adventure. Until now, it has been incredible. I took part in two-week training for the Community Correspondents (CCs) of Video Volunteers’ new program “IndiaUnheard”. We were in a small village, 30km from Ahmadabad, and met people from all over India: from rural areas and slums, be they Dalits, tribal, sexual or religious minority. I can't go into all their personal stories but let me try to describe some of them. One of the CCs is a transgender. He was born a female but knew he identified as a man. During his childhood, he was so abused at home that he tried to commit suicides many times. After leaving home and living on the streets, he met another person who identified as being transgender. Through this, he was finally able to realize he was not alone. I also met amazing women who championed women’s rights even after years of severe domestic violence. There was this particular Muslim woman who told us that this training was the first time in her entire life that she had not been forced to wear her hijab. I had the opportunity to work with all of them while creating scripts for their "profile videos" (for those who spoke English). Additionally, I filmed all the footage for the video profiles as well as videos during the training and when they were reporting. We, my boyfriend Javier (who has joined me in this great adventure and is creating the website for IndiaUnheard) and I, want to visit the CCs in their home communities in June when we will be travelling around the country for 20 days. In Ahmadabad, I was also working with all the VV team members and we had a lot of fun. I love intercultural work and was quite moved during the training; I realized the chance that been given to be there, to meet these incredible people, the real India…With some of them, I have built steadfast friendships. From all the footage of the training, I produced a promo film for the IndiaUnheard program which was published on the website a few days ago. We had a lot of discussions about the ways of doing this promo and everybody had different opinions and likes to debate about them. Thus, sometimes the work did not go as fast as I am used to when I work for mainstream media. But while editing, I learned more about using Final Cut Pro and doing some graphic effects. Here, I also learned about working for an NGO and with Indian colleagues. The VV team is also very helpful. When there is a stressful situation like the IndiaUnheard launch, they kept relax. Indian people are relaxed when under stress which is really different from most of the Western countries where I worked. In a stressful situation in the west, colleagues would start to become very unpleasant most of the times… Throughout this experience so far, I am really enjoying myself and don’t feel like going back to work for mainstream media. In fact, I now want to continue to work for NGOs, foundations or institutions engaged in social change or in environmental issues and to create documentary films about their issues. Here I want to thank VV for all of this, for having given me the chance to realise my dream and more energy to continue in this way. Before coming to India, I read books about cultures and traditions in India. Most of the time, they just described the Indian culture as very traditional and patriarchal. I knew that the people from VV would be very open-minded and different from what was stated in the book. What I did not realise was that their passion for their work, their ideas and ways of seeing the world and just the way they are would be so innovative and would give so much hope for a better future and change for poor and marginalised people. Thanks also for this! [Read more about Séverine Lenglet ]
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