When I told my elderly neighbour in Ireland recently that I was returning to visit Malawi, her response was:
“Oh! Isn’t it terrible out there, the poor little guys, you see them on the telly, little babies with flies in their eyes, all sick and skinny and everything”.
I can’t blame her. What she knows of the developing world, she learns from the television and what she sees on TV are stories of war, famine and corruption. Images of desperate people waiting to be saved by us. As has been a recent topic of conversation on BFP, too often the discussions around aid and development are told with a western perspective and decisions are made without engaging those directly affected. However, not only are the voices of the poor not heard, but the story told on their behalf is invariably one of misery.
The Ethical Volunteers’ primary focus is on improving the way international volunteering is carried out today and this involves filming the activities of various organisations throughout the developing world. However, along our travels we often come across stories of success through business, stories that relate the beauty, diversity, resilience, hard work and ingenuity of people living in the developing world. People who are working hard to make the world a better place for themselves and those around them. People who have experience of working in developing world and stories of success often in spite, rather than because, of aid. People who have something important to say & want to have their voices heard far away from their local community. People running local businesses that are having a positive impact on the local community.
The more people we meet and discuss these issues with the more we hear “aid is not working”; “we don’t want donations, we want jobs and education”; “we want to stand on our own with relying on the west”. Never forget that these are a proud people. An intelligent people held back by the circumstance of their birth. Increasingly they are getting access to western media and internet. They are acutely aware of how the media portrays them and they are not happy about it. They do not want to be portrayed as helpless.
But how is someone in a small village outside Lusaka going to access the western media? And even if they could gain some level of access, how will they navigate this flood of noise without getting drowned out? How can they demonstrate their willingness to help themselves out of the difficulty they find themselves in.
And so we are creating a series of films to help them tell their stories.
We come across these stories ourselves, but we would also like to invite the BFP community to help us find these stories. For the next six weeks (from August 21 The Ethical Volunteer will be filming in Zambia. If anyone knows of success stories, either business or other, please let us know so we can check them out. Check out the link to a film we created in Malawi to get an idea of what our Good News Network is about. http://vimeo.com/66626526
I look forward to someday bumping into that same neighbour and having a conversation about a comedian in Mozambique or a great novel I read by a Ghanaian women, and how I found xmas presents for my family from a business in Livingstone. We can make that happen.