The Giants lost to the A's while Lou Seal stole the show. Lou Seal, the mascot of the San Francisco Giants, is adored by the fans, the players and the Bay. Swarmed by fans at every step, he even has his own Sealcurity to keep the crowds at arms length. With the 2016 All Star baseball game upon us, Great Big Story produced a series of 4 short videos featuring the history of our nation's beloved baseball team mascots. Probably one of the most exhilarating, fun, and fast-paced shoots, this is one to remember. Check out the short, but crazy, history of the Giants' mascots from the dark days of the Crazy Crab anti-mascot, to the bright days of Lou Seal.
Late last year, I visited Guatemala on assignment for Ripple Effect Images, accompanied by National Geographic photographer, Lynn Johnson, to produce a short film for StoveTeam International. StoveTeam International's unique business model sponsors local factories throughout Latin America to produce and distribute clean cookstoves throughout the region.
Over the course of a week we visited numerous families–many living under extreme poverty–cooking over traditional open flame cookstoves. We heard tragic stories from women and children of burns and injuries caused by these stoves. But they also shared bright stories of change brought by the introduction of a simple solution: the clean cookstove.
EcoComal, a stove factory in San Antonio Aguas Calientes, Guatemala, founded eight years ago by Marco Guerra and Ana Luisa Herrera, aim to eradicate the dangers of traditional cooking methods in their country by distributing safe cooking options to the population. Having forged a partnership with the municipal government and StoveTeam International, EcoComal can sell stoves to its customers at one-third the cost, making more stoves within reach of the local community.
To EcoComal, the clean cookstove represents more than a stove. Rather, their stove is a way to engage the local community, to enter the family household and to begin to inspire change. Most notably was the founding of Paso a Paso, a small elementary school that provides education, hot meals and vocational skills to the children of their clients. What EcoComal has succeeded in creating is an ecosystem of services and support that began from one simple idea: the clean cookstove.
The Minerva Institute is the lesser-known counterpart to the Minerva Schools–a startup university in San Francisco. I have co-directed and produced a number of videos for Minerva this past year that have featured the many unique aspects of the academic model of this school in its infancy. This project was different because we got to not only highlight the unique scholarship and financial aid model that the school has developed, but we had the wonderful opportunity to dive deep into the stories of some of the students directly affected by this program.
I had the opportunity to co-direct this short film with a close friend and colleague, Jessey Dearing, that features the personal stories of three student part of the second freshman class to attend Minerva. Fabiola is the daughter of parents who survived the Rwandan genocide, Coby grew up in the rural South of the United States and Dorotea began to attack the issues of poverty in her home of Kosovo during high school. We had the chance to really explore the diverse life experiences that have defined these students' lives and inspired the trajectory of their studies.
The result is a heartfelt, genuine film about three students whose paths cross as a result of receiving a unique financial aid offer from the Minerva Institute.
September of 2015, I had the opportunity to Northern Tanzania for Ripple Effect Images to report on energy poverty and the tremendous work done by Solar Sister to empower women with clean energy technologies. Solar Sister works in Uganda, Tanzania and Nigeria training local women to start their own clean energy businesses to sell and distribute solar powered lights and clean cookstoves to their neighbors and friends in their communities. Their model has garnered a lot of attention because of its sustainability and real impact on the ground.
After two days of travel from the West Coast, Joanna Pinneo, a former National Geographic photographer, and myself arrived in Moshi for a week of reporting. We worked closely with two Solar Sister entrepreneurs, Julieth Mollel and Fatma Mziray, to dive deep into their stories to truly understand what drives these women to pursue their business, and witness first-hand the tangible impact that their work has had in their community.
Toxic smoke from cooking fires is the single leading cause of death for women and children under age 5 in the developing world. Causing more than 4 million deaths per year it is surprisingly underreported and misunderstood. My reporting focused on Solar Sister's newest introduction of portable, clean cookstoves to the entrepreneurs' product line to tackle this issue head on.
We met numerous women who still cooked on open fires in their homes. What's difficult to fathom is not only are they cooking with open wood stoves, which can cause severe burns and produce thick smoke, but they're doing so inside of their homes in confined spaces. Filming in these situations made my nose run, my eyes water, and permanently damaged my cameras with smoke particles. To experience this myself only emphasized the importance of illuminating this issue, but more importantly, the immediacy of getting this simple technology to the women who cook under these conditions on a daily basis.
The craziest part about this is the solution is simple and not expensive. The technology exists. There is no need for drug trials or prototyping. The clean cookstoves just need to make it into the right hands.
My hope is that this short film can be a part of that solution.
The American Jewish World Service recently released the second video for their Ending Child Marriage campaign. This video features Khushi Prajapati's story as a female taxi driver in the busy streets of Delhi, India. As part of a fleet of women taxi drivers, Khushi is an integral part of the Azad Foundation's approach to ending child marriage. Through Azad's training, women learn to drive, are trained in self-defense, and become financially independent, which enables them to avoid early child marriage.
The video was picked up by Women in the World, a New York Times affiliate, and has received a wonderful response to Khushi's inspiring story.
Watch the full video here.