UNDER THE SPOTLIGHT is a section where we share with you inspiring stories of telecentre.org members and partners through brief interviews. In the fifth article under this series, we interview Jessica Mayberry, Founding Director of Video Volunteers, a nonprofit organization based in the United States and India.
TCF: Tell us about Video Volunteers—how it started and how big the organization is today.
JM: It was founded in 2006 and registered as a nonprofit organization in the United States. It has a staff of 15 working in offices in the U.S. and Goa, India and about 100 people working as reporters/community correspondents in 24 of India’s 28 states.
TCF: What kind of work does Video Volunteers do?
JM: We train community members to be video reporters, and then we help them distribute their content. They distribute back into the villages by screening it on widescreen projectors or showing the content to government officials on their phones. The purpose is to solve the problem (whether its health, education, sanitation, etc.) that the video addresses.
We also distribute the videos to the mainstream media and online, on our website, where we publish one new video every day made by a different community correspondent. Finally, we partner with other organizations to create campaigns on particular issues, such as the big campaign we are doing now to end untouchabililty.
TCF: Why do you think the work that you do is important?
JM: Because voice is a human right; because there are masses of untapped creative potential in rural areas; and because we must bring the poor into the development discussions that have bearing on their lives, and from which they are now largely excluded. Community Video makes it possible for their voices to be included. Community video also assists communities to solve their own problems.
TCF: During the six years that Video Volunteers has been around, what are some of the more memorable videos that VV has produced? Could you tell us a little bit about some of them?
JM: Stories we have taken up includeatrocious factory conditions in central India and local schools in which children are forced to pay bribes totake their exams. The young boy who reported this story, himself a graduate of this school, got the local authorities to demote the teacher and stop the bribery for 500 students. Other stories include landgrabbing of Tribals in Eastern India, and corruption in programs aimed at helping the poor build houses, and secure rations. A video by our Community Correspondent, Rohini – herself a former farm worker – on the wage discrepancy between men and women farm laborers resulted in 600 women being paid the minimum wage after she helped them to go on strike, an impact she captured on video. This video explains our ongoing campaign on untouchability. We also have numerous videos that document the process of community media, such as thiscompilation of many videos, this one on our program creating hyperlocal Community Video Units, and this one on our training process.
TCF: So, one of the main things that Video Volunteers does is conduct training for individuals/groups interested in learning video production to create videos that expose topics relevant to social issues. How does this work? Could telecentres, for example, sign up to be trained?
JM: Yes! We would love that. We would like to help make telecentres distribution hubs for community media, where community members come to the telecentres to get regular local news and information. So a telecentre organization can benefit by starting community media projects, by having great content people in the community want. This might increase footfall through giving people new and updated content to come back for. One of the great problems for a community reporter, in India at least, is not having internet access – so it also benefits the community reporter to associate with a telecentre.
VV can help telecentre organizations to create community media projects that are low cost and easy to implement. We can simply advise or we can also do direct trainings.
TCF: How long does the training last? How much does it usually cost?
JM: It lasts for about two weeks. The cost is very much case-by-case. Sometimes we invest, sometimes we act as consultants. It really depends on the needs of the project. There is also no fixed cost.
TCF: How can telecentres and organizations interested in working with Video Volunteers or getting training for their staff reach you?
JM: They can send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
TCF: Great. Those are all our questions for today. Thank you very much for your time!