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Rebel with a cause

September 7, 2011

I’ve never really been the rebellious type. I grew up to always obey my parents, follow rules and respect authority.

Yet, somehow I find myself a bit of a rebel here in the Horn of Africa. As a former journalist, I was always trained to shoot video with certain rules … hide the microphone, frame up the shot, use a tri-pod. But here in Africa as I gather stories via my ‘flip cam,’ those rules just don’t work anymore. It seems the appeal for many on social networking is that content is typically more “real” or raw. I am shooting unedited moments in the field that take viewers straight to the frontlines.

World Vision UK's Justin Byworth has some fun with a group of Somali children.

World Vision UK's Justin Byworth has some fun with a group of Somali children.

If you were to watch how “the sausage is made” when it comes to producing these vlogs or field interviews, you would see that there is no dry-run, no rehearsal, no editing. I just find someone interesting to talk with, ask another to hold my camera, give brief instructions to follow my lead, then push record. It’s that simple … and yes, that raw. You’ll see a shaky shot, the mic cord and us flub up words. Yet, I think that’s the audience social networking appeals to right now.

As a relief worker, I am also apparently breaking traditional still photography rules as you will notice in many of my Facebook pictures that I or my colleagues are in them. And we aren’t just sad but sometimes happy! And so are many Somalis.

Out here, I’ve been told I am really pushing the envelope when it comes to relief work and how we relay that information back to our donors. Granted World Vision is not working in south central Somalia right now where famine has been officially declared now in six regions and malnourishment rates and fatalities are at their worst. Perhaps the mood would be significantly different there than the camps I have visited along the border or up in northern Somalia.

Yet, it’s my belief that social networking has opened doors not only for more of us to communicate but to also be more transparent, more real, more engaged and more raw.

The reality of the situation here in the Horn of Africa is grim, for sure. I just met an 80-year-old Somali man living in harsh conditions who said he agrees with the news media that this IS the worst drought he’s seen in 60 years. I’ve also met countless hungry, thirsty and frustrated people. Yet, I also can’t tell you how many more are still genuinely happy, joyful and generous.

When I am out here in the field, I’ve made it my goal to throw out any pre-planned agenda and assumptions, and I really try to just capture World Vision working, the situation and the people here in the most real way I can. I see my role as a bridge between two people groups … those I am meeting and those back home. And when you see pics of me or my World Vision colleagues with people in their unedited contexts here in Africa, I think it’s often more genuine, natural and relatable.

Sometimes I will capture sick children who are malnourished or faces of desperation because they lack food but other times you’ll also see a sea of smiles. I didn’t expect this. I assumed I would show up to absolute misery. And while I am not trying to understate the severity of this drought crisis, the reality is that I am finding Somali people everywhere who like to laugh, sing, giggle, tease, play and say “Hi, hi” repeatedly … just like me!

Is it right for me to show that side if relief work? I am not sure, because I do want people back home to realize this situation is serious. Plus, I want to always show the utmost respect for those we are trying to serve. Yet, while I still have much to learn, I have also begun to think that respecting them means not stripping them of their natural joy and resilient personalities.

I guess I am breaking the rules, but I am meeting people who aren’t totally broken … they just need a little help and a way to share their stories. The irony is that most Somalis I am meeting have never even heard of Facebook. They just know to tell me to remember their faces.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 9, 2011 6:55 pm

    That life continues, sometimes joyously, is a wonderful addition to reality reporting. Thanks for sharing it, Mindy. I’ve also experienced this in a refugee camp, with street kids subsisting from a garbage dump or playing soccer, in just about every place where humans truly connect.

    • Reportergirl permalink
      September 10, 2011 8:56 am

      Thank you for your encouraging comment!

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