Behind the Scenes of Quadrid’s Video Shoot in East Africa

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For the last couple of years, Quadrid has developed a relationship with African Road. You may recall a post we wrote about a fundraising event we held toward the end of last year.

Recently, I was lucky enough to spend three weeks in Kenya and Rwanda – some personal time and some time spent working. Here are a few of the most memorable moments from an amazing trip.

Safari – A Much Needed Break

My wife, Sara, and I haven’t had time to take a true vacation since our seriously cute daughter, Ridley, was born two years ago.

Not ones to let a good opportunity for adventure pass us by, we headed to Africa to go on a safari the week before I was scheduled to work with African Road.

Unsure of what lay ahead, our expectations were completely shattered in the first 30 minutes of our first day. We were witness to a lion and her playful cubs – along with another group of lions – devouring a buffalo they’d just taken down. Along with countless other animals we’d only seen behind bars at a zoo, we experienced the best of African wildlife – literally feet from our van!

Despite such excitement, the entire experience was a relaxing time to recharge our batteries and get some much needed quality time with just the two of us.

Such a great trip with Sara Wessel Spinks - well needed time away.

Posted by Craig Spinks on Sunday, January 24, 2016

Sinai Slum in Nairobi, Kenya

On the first shoot day in Kenya, we visited one of African Road’s partners in the Sinai Slum. Sara was also able to be there as we captured the stories of three small businesses started through a women’s cooperative.

Because these women were able to take business classes and start community banking through the co-op, they were able to create a streetside grocery, a hair salon, and a baby care provider. It was impressive to see how these women had considered niche markets and were able to differentiate themselves with few resources and little business experience.

A Brush with the Police

Photographer Katie Garner and I made an early morning trip to downtown Nairobi for photos and a sunrise timelapse. Fifteen minutes into setting up our equipment in a public park, an unmarked car pulled up. Two men identifying themselves as police officers (yes, we checked their badges) told us it was illegal to shoot photos before sunrise (it’s not) and that they needed to take us to the police station. We refused to leave without one of our Kenyan representatives present.
The men then told us they could charge us with illegal photography of a government building (based on recently passed anti-terrorism legislation) even though the government building in question was far in the distance.

In the end, the situation was settled (or, a solution was reached). We walked away without a trip to jail but with no timelapse.

The Wonderful David Clemy

David Clemy, the founder of Village Community Bank (ViCoBa) was well known to me in advance of our meeting (finally!). ViCoBa is a business training and community banking organization in Uganda founded on one central value – to use what you have.

People take Clemmy’s training very seriously and it was wonderful to see some of it in action. Beyond loving David’s warm personality (he even almost appreciated my sarcasm), I was impressed by the way he’s been able to take the strengths of micro loans and build a training program that helps people think more strategically about their loans and businesses.

David’s trainings and microloans have benefitted a large number of communities and people in Kenya and Rwanda, including the All Souls Cooperative.

Craig Spinks and David Clemy in deep conversation during our video shoot in East Africa.

All Souls Cooperative

It’s one thing to hear stories of change, but it’s another to see it first hand. The All Souls Cooperative had taken Clemmy’s ViCoBa training just six months before we arrived. They were already doing amazing things by the time we got there.

First, they bought a few pigs and sold their offspring, making enough profit to rent some land for farming (and to put all that pig fertilizer to good use!). They also used the profits to issue a few small loans to individuals in the community.

One woman, Sidat, was a recipient of one of these loans. Using a similar model, Sidat purchases a few chickens and sold eggs, using her profits to buy goats and a bike taxi for her 20 year old son. Amazing progress for small businesses in just six months!

Witnessing the power of education and a small amount of funding showed me the power of teaching long-term sustainability rather than simply providing charity. It’s also a great example of the effectiveness of empowering local leaders – David’s training, filled with East African nuance, is way more effective than traditional Western approaches to training.

Seeing this first hand, I’m more sold than ever on the power of the African Road model, now realizing that people like you and me actually can make a tangible, long-term difference for these communities.

In the meantime, I’ll focus on what we do best – making videos that capture these stories in powerful ways. It’s our vision that viewers in the West will feel as if they’ve experienced the stories first hand – just like I have – and be moved to action. I think we’re up for the challenge!

Team Breakfasts

The co-founder of African Road, Kelly Bean, has brought together an amazing team. This was most clear in Rwanda as Kelly, project manager Jennifer, photographer Katie, and myself worked through the details of each day and beyond over breakfast each morning.

One of the fun outcomes of this collaboration led to reimagining the African Road website header. As we tried to figure out simple wording and single image that would best introduce new visitors to African Road, we came up with the phrase “Meet the Changemakers,” but were stuck on an image. That’s when I suggested a short html5 video background image.

A week later, our vision is in place – check it out below!

Continued Rwandan Friendships

As part of Quadrid’s fall fundraiser for African Road, our friend and founder of the Togetherness Youth Cooperative in Rwanda, Steven Turikunkiko, traveled to Denver to spend time at my family’s home. The significance of having him visit us after having visited him on several previous occasions had apparently been lost on me back in the fall.

But as Steven and I worked closely together – at his home – to solve problems, tell powerful stories to highlight African Road’s work, and hung out overnight at the Togetherness Youth farm, I fully understand the impact of these visits. My bond with Steven holds a deeper meaning now.

It was also great to continue building my friendship with Emma, our driver and local expert in Rwanda. After inviting a small group of us to his house for lunch, our soft-spoken friend said he wanted to tell us something. In a presentation of sorts, he shared with us how much we meant to him. He wished we lived in Rwanda so that he could give us a cow (a symbol of friendship in Rwanda). A few days later, we found a cow figurette at a local market and gave it to Emma to let him know how much he meant to us too.

Hearing First Hand Stories of the Unrest in Burundi

We were originally hoping to visit Burundi again on this trip, but decided to play it safe after the recent unrest resulting from last year’s elections. After changing the constitution to allow him to run for a third term, Burundi’s President has caused violence and unrest in his country. (For a much better depiction of the seriousness of this situation, please read our partner Jean Claud Nkunwa’s article in The New York Times. It’s a year old, but remarkably still spot on.)

In lieu of traveling to Burundi, we asked some of our Burundi friends and partners to visit us in Rwanda. While it would have been nice to see our friends on better terms, it was good to have everyone together in one place.

We were thankful to hear that none in our circle of friends have been hurt during the country’s unrest, but we could see the stress the situation has had on them. We were also reminded of the power of working with grassroots leaders who don’t leave when the going gets tough and who are committed to serving their community.

The African Road projects and partners are making a difference when most other organizations have stopped their work in the country.They ask that we continue to make others aware of their situation, knowing that international onlookers have great power in situations like these. (You can do you part by reading that NYT article and passing it along to raise awareness).

Goodbye for Now

This video shoot in East Africa solidified and deepened the partnership between Quadrid and African Road.
It’s sad to leave a place that has come to mean so much to me, but it’s also reassuring to know there is a larger story at work. This isn’t a one time project for an isolated effort.

Together, we are working to introduce our friends in the West to amazing changemakers in East Africa. Stay tuned as we start editing and releasing videos in early May.
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