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Voices from the Field – WaterAid

madagascar2Whilst travelling to Madagascar to observe WaterAid’s Voices from the Field (VftF) project, I was reading an excellent book about photojournalism.

One of the chapters focuses on non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and how many organisations have commissioned photojournalists in recent years, with reference to well-known campaigns.

The chapter critiques issues such as informed consent, representation, branding guidelines, negative vs positive imagery, authenticity, compassion fatigue and editing. It was ideal fodder for thinking about the week ahead.

Why do I feel uncomfortable about some of the debates? I think the main reason is because the majority of the photographers referenced in this particular chapter are of Western descent – but there are some highly talented photographers in the global south documenting the work of humanitarian organisations. Why are so few of them featured?

Maybe this is one of the reasons I was so intrigued by the VftF project when I first heard about it. I instantly wanted to learn more, hence my trip to Madagascar to spend three days in the field with Ernest Randriarimalala, WaterAid’s VftF officer there.

Making a film about Madagascar

During my time observing Ernest he was filming a video about Madagascar from his perspective. After a few general shots of the capital, Tana, we set off towards Antsirabe, Madagascar’s second largest city.

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On the way we made a few stops to take some background shots and the first thing I noticed about Ernest was his natural communication skills. Whenever we asked to film, no one challenged us. Ernest explained that he was making a film about his country and not one single person objected.

Having worked myself in marketing and communications for over 20 years, I often encounter people who do not want to be filmed.

Perhaps the Malagasy people are just too polite to say no, maybe they like being photographed more than some other cultures, or most probably they are charmed by Ernest and his enchanting smile.

Building long-term relationships

In my opinion communication skills are absolutely fundamental for the VftF role. Ernest speaks Malagasy, French and English fluently which means he can genuinely inform people of his work.

He is also able to relate to the communities he visits, as he grew up in a village with no water or sanitation and was often sick as a result.

I visited both pre- and post- intervention sites during my trip and I was heart-warmingly touched by the difference between the two.

The VftF project is about building long-term relationships with communities, documenting progress and creating stories to inform donors that their fundraising efforts are making a big difference to people’s lives.

Helping people thousands of miles away

For three weeks in June, Ernest visited the UK for training and advocacy work.

During this time he spent five days in Northumbria visiting a number of WaterAid supporters, which included speaking at a fundraising ball organised by Northumbrian Water.

To me, the VftF programme has so many obvious benefits, such as language, relationship building, informed consent and effective use of funds, but what I hadn’t thought about was the two-way communication and advocacy work that Ernest carries out each year.

At the ball he showed images of the toilets and access to clean water that have been installed, and more importantly the people who benefit, as a result of their fundraising efforts.

When he returns to the field, he is also able to tell beneficiaries about meeting the many people who have organised balls, raffles, cake sales, sponsored runs, all to help communities they are unlikely to ever visit nearly 10,000 km away.

As Ernest said, “It was great meeting these people in a city in the north of England, who are doing all these fundraising activities to help people thousands of miles away. It is so amazing that they organise so many events to help the Malagasy people.”

A watchdog for WaterAid

The other thing I’d never really considered was the accountability side of this role. Ernest is truly passionate about his work and in many ways acts as a watchdog for WaterAid and its supporters as he documents the installation of new facilities.

As he puts it: “I really enjoy my job. I get to meet all these people whose lives have changed as a result of our work. I’m really glad that I get to see both the fundraising side in the UK as well as the end result.

“If I ever thought that money was not being spent well, then I’d quit my job. Simple as that. I’m lucky that I don’t feel that way at all. I absolutely love it.”

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WaterAid and WorldView launch global film competition

Filmmakers Shekhar Kapur and Philip Bloom are supporting a new film competition called sH2Orts, which has been launched by WaterAid and WorldView for aspiring filmmakers across the world.

This global competition, which will run until 20 February 2015, invites filmmakers to enter one-minute films about what water means to them.

It was launched by British director and filmmaker Philip Bloom, who has worked as a cinematographer for Lucasfilm, Sky, CNN, Discovery and the BBC.

Bloom said: “Water is essential to life. We are made up of it, we are dependent on it, and often we take it for granted. There are so many water stories out there so go out, find one and make a film about it for the global sH2Orts film competition.

“You don’t need fancy equipment to be able to capture a strong story, and so this competition is open for entries filmed on anything from a mobile phone or GoPro to a broadcast camera.”

“Surprise us! Get creative, get imaginative – we want to hear your stories told your way.”

The shortlisted films from the competition will be showcased online ahead of World Water Day in March 2015. The overall winner of the competition will be chosen by a panel of judges, led by award-winning Indian film director, actor and producer, Shekhar Kapur.

He said: “Water is life. We interact with it every day in so many different ways; it is our most important resource, with no substitute. Yet it’s so easy for us to take this basic necessity for granted.

“Through this competition, we’re hoping to see a plethora of ways water impacts on our daily lives through the powerful medium of film. I’ll be looking for individuality and creativity when judging the entries.

“This is a great opportunity for filmmakers to make a mark for themselves and I’m proud to be working with WaterAid and WorldView on this amazing opportunity for budding filmmakers. I feel passionately about helping the younger generation and am therefore offering a masterclass with me as one of the prizes.”

Fujifilm have generously donated five fantastic cameras for winners of the competition. Also up for grabs are masterclasses from Shekhar Kapur and WorldView.

Catherine Feltham, Film Producer at WaterAid, said: “We work in 26 countries around the world and we’ve seen how safe water can transform lives, so for World Water Day 2015, we’re excited be able to celebrate the power of water through the sH2Orts film competition in collaboration with WorldView.

“We’d like to see an original take – it could be through the lens of thirst or floods, a drama set in a car wash, or a portrait of the man who waters plants in your local park. We just want to see your best, creative, quirky or simply beautiful short film all about water.”

Marion Simpson, Project Manager at WorldView, said: “WorldView is committed to supporting filmmakers across the globe to bring the richness and diversity of the world to mass audiences and we are delighted to partner with WaterAid on this exciting project.

“We’re looking for great storytelling told in creative and innovative ways. This is about your imagination, not resources – you can make it on your own or with friends or a crew, using your phone, a top-end camera or anything in between.”

Competition information

The competition is free to enter and entrants can film on their own, with friends or as part of a crew. The films can be sent in either .mp4 or .mov format and can be any duration under one minute long.

The shortlisted filmmakers will be notified at the start of March and the final five winners will be announced on World Water Day 2015 – 22 March.

For full details on the competition and to enter, visit www.wateraid.org/sh2orts and on Twitter: @sh2orts.

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World Water Day and Mustafah Abdulaziz

For the UN World Water Day tomorrow WaterAid have come up with another innovative idea to inject life into their social media channels. To highlight the 1 in 10 people around the globe without access to clean drinking water they have partnered with celebrated photojournalist Mustafah Abdulaziz. American-born Mustafah Abdulaziz is a Berlin-based photographer whose work has appeared in CNN OnlineDazed and Confused and others. Abdulaziz will also take over WaterAid’s Instagram feed for a full week with his stunning images from WaterAid projects in Pakistan.

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Pakistan is one of six countries where WaterAid is working with the support of the HSBC Water Programme. The five-year programme aims to reach 1.1 million people with safe water and 1.9 million people with sanitation in Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan in South Asia; and Nigeria and Ghana in West Africa.

Neil Wissink, Senior Photography Officer at WaterAid, said:

“We wanted to harness Mustafah’s passion for the subject and show water and sanitation issues from a different perspective. We’re really pleased to have the opportunity to collaborate with a photojournalist like Mustafah.”

Follow WaterAid @WaterAid on Instagram from March 22 to view the project

Image Credit: WatwerAid / Mustafah Abdulaziz
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WaterAid increases Instagram following with one Instavid

WaterAid has increased its Instagram presence by over 20,000 followers in just one week after entering a single ‘Instavid’ to Instagram’s ‘Weekend Hashtag Project’ competition.

WaterAid’s film team entered the 15 second Instavid ‘WHP:fromwhereiwalk’, featuring a woman in the remote fishing community of Brubeng, Ghana walking to collect unsafe water in Lake Volta. The clip was selected by Instagram as one of their favourite submissions.

The unique was shot on a GoPro positioned on the woman’s head and angled down towards her feet. The innovative film offers point of view footage that highlights what it is like for millions of women around the world who walk miles to collect water each day and comes from a longer shot of water collection now featured on the charity’s YouTube Channel.

WaterAid Film Producer Catherine Feltham who shot the footage in Ghana said:

“We’re really thrilled to see that the Instagram community has responded so well to our submission; we have not only gained followers, but people are engaging more with WaterAid’s stories on the channel with likes and comments. When we spotted the brief we realised it was the perfect opportunity to be able to raise awareness of the challenging circumstances in which millions of women collect water each day around the world. I think this footage stood out as it was so different to the other entries; people do not expect to see women wading through a dirty lake to collect water in 2014, and yet the tragic reality is that 768 million people still live without access to safe water.”

This is a great example of how charities can increase their social media followers through a simple but innovative initiative.

To follow their updates on Instagram please visit: http://instagram.com/wateraid

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WaterAid – Using video to engage with supporters

On Sunday 16th February it will be the Brighton Half Marathon (BHM) and many people will be running on behalf of charities. WaterAid have created a simple but very effective short video to send with an accompanying email to the 250 supporters running for their cause.

The film was shot in 45 minutes during a lunch break with the help of two staff, Tadg O’Keeffe, Film Producer and Lauren Scarlett, Events Fundraising Officer. It featured Becky Donnelly (a WaterAid staff member who is running the BHM) and staff from their communities and events team Tom Benn, Lucy Cover, Connie Potter, Emma Blake, Hannah Whitcombe and Kirstie Davidson.

Tadg O’Keeffe commented “We wanted to make a fun, personal, and engaging film to encourage all the Brighton Half Marathon 2014 runners who are supporting WaterAid. If this film makes people smile and feel good about supporting WaterAid then we’ve definitely succeeded, particularly considering the terrible weather conditions they’ve been training in. Becky, who works for WaterAid and will be running in the event on Sunday was the perfect person to be the star of this film – I think she really adds the personal touch – and the events team that pop up later in the film show the enthusiasm we have for our supporters’ efforts. I wanted to create an image of the runner being surrounded by the support and encouragement of the WaterAid team – I think the film’s thumbnail illustrates this well.

We want everyone who has been training in the wind and the rain to feel appreciated and thanked for raising so much money for WaterAid. This film aims to be a fun, personal way to incorporate some peer-to-peer encouragement; something I’ll be developing in the future.”

For anyone who’d like to see more of WaterAid’s films, please visit: http://www.youtube.com/user/WaterAid

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