Where it all began | Uganda Water Charity
Our first foray into charity video production
In a moment of reflection recently, I was thinking about how I ended up creating a company which would, among other things, help great social organisations, charities and NGOs tell their stories. Actually, it makes perfect sense in a way. Back in 2005 I moved to Uganda to work for the Busoga Trust. The Trust is a water, sanitation and hygiene sector NGO, which has constructed over 2000 water sources across three decades of work. At the time, I was the only Westerner working for the organisation in Uganda and my role, among other things, was to be the eyes and ears of the Director, Trustees & Donors in the field. Quickly becoming aware that there was a great deal of great work going on, but no real communication of that to the people who funded that work, or might potentially fund it, I spent the first three months of my contract filming as much as possible with my camcorder.
I left the camera behind in Uganda after my second contract there but I think it was a Samsung VP-D10. Whatever it was, I chose it because it was the cheapest camcorder in Argos. A few test runs over the final year of Uni and I was packing it for a life abroad.
Idealistically, impractically but nobly, I wanted to capture true documentary footage from rural Uganda, showing what the water which people actually drank. This meant a lot of time spent waiting, a lot of miles driven and one very eventful night spent camped out in my hammock in the bush. The tarp above my head was great in cases where the rain fell vertically but alas, East African thunderstorms are not so obliging. Happily asleep one minute, with only one cobra and a cow as company in the valley, I soon found myself drenched. However, the storm passed quickly and I lay there in the hammock watching great forks of lightning ripping across the sky. Calm restored, a quick fire dried off my kit and back to bed until the dawn.
The reason dawn was so important was to catch the first children arriving at the well. The truth is that the burden of collecting water falls on children and women almost exclusively and the distances involved means that early morning collections are necessary if school is to be attended. Most of the initial shots in this video are from that morning, where a young boy scooped filthy, contaminated water from a small spring.
Christmas leave allowed me the time to pull it all together in a basic version of Premiere which came with my laptop. To look at it now, it is awfully cliched and cheesier than a 2 stone block of cheddar. But at the time, we had nothing else and now we could show people the work which was going on. It worked too, as the Director would show it to people in the UK and in the end, it was the key to unlocking six figures (GBP) in multi-year funding from a large company after the founding CEO watched it. Not a bad return on investment for a £200 camera. I don’t take credit for that, nor do I think Coldplay can either. In truth, it was just that the story of the amazing work which the Busoga Trust did had been told, however crudely.
So years later, in 2013, I was now working as the UK manager of the Trust, dealing with fundraising and donor reporting. My old film was out of date but we still had great stories to tell. I enlisted the services and skills of John Duncan Filmmaker to co-produce a series of films to bring these stories up to date. Working through the process with him and witnessing him take my brief and shotlist and turning it into beautifully crafted films which told fundamental stories made me realise just how valuable a service this would be for so many other organisations … and here we are.
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