Tuesday, 30 August 2011

One Step at a Time

A friend gave me this quote once when I complained about obstacles, "Heavy rains remind us of challenges in life. Never ask for a lighter rain. Just pray for a better umbrella - that is the attitude."
This project has a three-month delay as compared to my original schedule because I haven’t been able to garner together all the resources I need. Volunteers who promise to help are often busy, and so scheduled project activities are constantly in this situation --someone who is free waits for someone who is busy, and then when the busy person finally has the time to meet, the other person can't spare any time for the new appointment!

Despite this, I could see  monthly progress. 

One baby step at a time.
One of the activities of this project is to empower the five women to do video journals on their own. It has not been easy to do this as most people I ask help from mistake the video journals as part of the documentary where we have to script the women exactly what to say and film them, treating them women as passive objects for the documentary instead of active script writers of the documentary.

I want the five women in this project to be empowered with camcorder skills just like the kids in the documentary, 'Born into Brothels - Calcutta's Red Light Kid'

 The kids in this project were taught to use cameras
to record their lives through photographs.
For now, Sulastri and Nisha are operating camcorders after some guidance. They only need a few more trials for better camera angles and lights. Both tell their stories fluently. Sulastri's hair plucking video reveals the funny side of being a transgender. As a woman, I have never thought of the 'grey area' that she has to go through. I didn't realize that I have taken for granted the ease of living as a woman in a woman's body.
Siew Lian was trained by an eHomemakers member, YK, on lighting and camera but she didn't have time to do her journals.  Then she fell down two weeks ago and she has to rest. Got to wait

Lucy is so scared of speaking in front of the camcorder that her video journals need a lot more help. I will need to get volunteers to train her to be herself in front of a camera. Got to wait.

Pong had a surgery in May and she is in need of daily dressing in the hospital until November.  It will stress her out if we train her to operate camera now. Besides, our presence will invariably bring out the mention of her mother's passing which can be very hard on her. Got to wait.

What do I envision for the documentary's ending from the empowerment angle?

Lucy was scared of handphone when I first met her. After we gave her a donated handpone and trained her to reply messages to us through eHomemakers' DWMA application, she began to see that such electronic gadget is not just for men or for educated women! Then we tried to train her basic keyboarding at the computer but she refused to learn. A couples of years' back, SLE Association managed to 'force' her to learn basic word processing so that she could prepare basic documents for Siew Lian. Since Lucy vowed that she would change her life to help others after she recovered from a bad episode of SLE attack about 8 years ago, SLE's need for computer help due to the lack of staff became a strong motivational factor for Lucy to overcome her fright.  Many times, Justina reported to me how she showed Lucy what to do with the computer without 'screaming', "Ah, I am scared!".   Justina told her, "Just do it, who cares!" in her nonchalant attitude.

When I first told Lucy that this project will empower her to learn the camcorder, she flatly refused, "No such heavy thing for me!  Anything else I will help but not this!"   Five months after Justina (who was supposed to be in this project) passed away, I finally took up the courage to ask her again by reminding her that she has to take the place of Justina to tell the world about SLE. Then she relented. I envision the documentary ends with Lucy using a camcorder, her confidence about herself increases and she learns not to be a shadow to others around her. Her overcoming her mental barrier to adopt more advanced technology will surely motivate other women to follow her lead.

As for Pong, at the end of the documentary, I hope someone will be so inspired by her determination that Pong is given a chance to be a motivational speaker, empowering her even further as a model for women of disabilities.

For Siew Lian, I hope she will find time for herself, JUST for HERSELF, and enjoys using the camcorder for artistic expression. She is eloquent in telling her stories, it will be great to see her doing something artistic for herself.

For Nisha, I hope the documentary will give her a chance to be a recognized singer. Sulastri will get a chance to make videos about TS and carry the plight of the TS to the big wide world.

I hope, I hope.

That the 5 women will begin their own citizen's journalism after the  project, that other parties will come in to facilitate their story-telling. It is my intention to help SLE Association and PT Foundation raise funds, dispel myths and eliminate discrimination by bringing the public to closer understanding of SLE patients, sex workers, transgender and women with disabilities  --- that all these women are just like any other women, they like the things we like, they have the same anger or happiness like we possess, and react the same way as any one of us.

For the month of September and October, our intern, Nigel, will put together a team of  other interns to train Lucy and Pong to do their video journals, and help Siew Lian finishes hers.  We will do more blogs and hopefully all the video journals will be done before our creative film director, Morgan Reed, arrives at the end of November from Canada. Louise will write the first draft screen scripts and we will  plan out the whole documentary story and the actual filming using a TV quality camera (I am still praying for one!). Then we will film the final footage for the documentary in December and Morgan will edit it next January and February.

Voila!  My first community-based multimedia project!


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