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February 11, 2009     Sioux County Index-Reporter
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uunllmlmlmmnL , lUUmUNUlUl, ll ilmlmuulmum 11mnluNllD,lqlnull)li 8 NeWS The Sioux-County Index Reporter Wednesday, February 11,2009 Dordt students begin new year in Philippines&apos; slum Sioux Center -- Ten Dordt students and their digital media instructor began 2009 somewhere over the International Date Line, flying toward an adventure that can only be described as life- changing. Though the travel portion of their experience has been completed, the real work has just begun. Raw video gathered on a trip to the Philippines is now being crafted into a documentary film and other video projects by Dordt's digital media pro- duction professor, Mark Volkers, and an advanced digital media editing class. The completed proj- ects will be used to inform people everywhere about the desperate needs of slum dwellers of the world, as well as mission programs that are attempting to address issues of poverty. The Dordt digital media students spent a week in Manila, capital of the Philippines, gathering video for a documentary film about slums, as well as recording footage for films about the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC) programs for Filipinos suffering from poverty, hunger, and injustice• A documentary film may not change the world, says Volkers, but he believes in the power of dig- ital media. "With our documentary we hope to shine a light on a huge global issue," said Volkers, who has been in over 20 countries as a photojour- nalist and documentary filmmaker while accumu- lating national and international awards for his work. In his travels he's befriended many slum dwellers, and he feels strongly about the issue. "According to the United Nations, one in six of us now lives in a slum. That's one billion people without access to what many of us consider nor- mal sanitation, security, or fights," says Volkers. U.N. projections indicate that by 2030 the number of slum dwellers may swell to two billion• "This is a global issue that must be addressed," says Volkers. He intends to do his part with the Slum Documentary Film Project, an ongoing effort posted online at www.slumdoc.com <http://www.slumdoc.com/> The work in progress will eventually contain footage of slums in three continents: Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Dordt digital media students are partners in the project, helping to create pro bono videos while getting practical experience as camera crews, writers, photographers, and video editors• The digital media student team traveling with Volkers to Manila consisted of Danielle Roos, Alvin Shim and Philip Van Maanen, Sioux Center; Dale Vande Griend, Hull; Luke Kreykes, Sheldon; Piper Kucera, Traer; Evan Gulstine, St. Charles, IL; Andrew Hornor, Houston, Texas; Peter Hessels, Dunnville ON; and Hani Yang, Merida, Mexico. Volkers has also set up a 12-person board of  viso r the documen'proje&,whose wide breadth of knowledge and experience will ensure quality, accuracy, and integrity of the finished product. "We'll look to experts-the academics, the econ- : omists, and more," said Volkers. "But we're also" spending time with the real experts of this story- those who live in the slums." Partial funding for the slum documentary proj- ect has been awarded by Dordt College's Andreas Center, and each student participating in the Manila trip raised personal funds for their travel expenses. Christian Reformed Church contacts in the Philippines were helpful in identifying two additional film topics, locations, and participants, which allowed Dordt students to break into three film teams upon their arrival. One team worked on the slum documentary; a second filmed footage at Grace Community Christian School for promotional purposes; and the third taped inter- views about Micro Finance Cooperative develop- ment among poor rural communities in Southern Luzon. Regardless of their video assignment, each Dordt participant had an opportunity to experi- ence firsthand the squalid living conditions of the slums of Cavite and Las Pifias garbage dump, bor- • dering the bay on the southern end of Manila. • They watched malnourished children scram- : ble through muck and garbage to retrieve trash ) which might earn them approximately $1 or $2 a ) day. ', • They viewed cardboard and iron-sheet struc- i tures under bridges that families called home. • They saw the individual faces of just a few of the one billion slum dwellers in our world, and recognized the fact that each one has hopes and aspirations, dreams, and wishes. "I think there was a cost for us as Westerners to gain this empathy and understanding," says Volkers in his slumdoc biog. "The cost was some of the dignity of the people living in that slum. They knew what was going on. They knew rich people were coming to look at poor people. That's a definite cost." He adds, "Was it worth it? Time will tell. These students are on their way to becoming leaders in many different arenas of life. This experience won't leave them. Perhaps they won't leave the experience. Perhaps one, or two, or all of them, will use their considerable gifts and talents in the years to come to make a difference." For an entire week Volkers and his student team of Piper Kucera and Peter Hessels filmed a family that lives under a bridge and tries to make a living at the city dump. This volunteer family, Jose and Elvie Alquino'Jr., has six children, three 0fwhom sort through garbage with them, looking for recyclable plastic, aluminum,, tin, and copper. AEi'ving garbage trucks are swarmed by residents equipped with short, curved metal hooks to help them snag recyclables. On a good day, the family can make about 200 pesos, or about $4.25. They can only afford to send one of their six children to school. The family sleeps on bamboo slats strung between bridge girders, just inches from traffic rolling over the topside of the bridge. "Each day we had to haul our equipment through a garbage dump, through a small town square, up and down hills, along a major highway, along the steep, rocky fiver bank, and under the highway bridge to the house of the family we were filming," recalls Piper Kucera, a senior digi- tal media major from Traer, Iowa. "The living situation is horrible: the river serves as the community's laundry, bath tub, cook- ing water, trash can, toilet, and food source• But the people are so happy; they always smile and are willing to lend a helping hand. They loved to show us everything about the way they live." Kucera said hundreds of children greeted them each day, following the film team around and call- ing them by name. "They spoke what little English they knew, and the rest of the time they were content to speak to us in Tagalog [even though we couldn't understand]." Kucera said the people are what she misses the most and what she will always remember. The team visit to the slums is also the most vivid memory for Alvin Shim, a junior English writing major from Sioux Center• "Seeing piles of garbage as big as dorm halls, and entire families rooting through them, and children smiling and naked and braised, it's difficult to say that we did- n't expect it, but I dofft think there is any way we could be prepared to experience this glimpse of their lives•" Shim was particularly struck by the joy and thankfulness exhibited in the lives of a family liv- ing under a bridge and digging through garbage every day. "It angers us that they're struggling to feed their children and can only afford to send one kid to school. That's injustice•" "As a missionary kid, I thought I had seen enough poverty, but this was still astonishing," adds Hani Yang, a junior digital media production major with a journalism minor from Merida, Mexico• "As soon as I stepped out of the van, stinky smell surrounded me." But despite garbage literally everywhere, she remembers distinctly the giggling and smiling children. Seeing and smelling the slums, mingling with the kids, play- ing basketball, and running with the kids were all remarkable in their own way, said Yang. "I am glad we didn't just visit the Philippines and go to the tourist places," said Dale Vande Griend, a junior digital media production major from Hull. "The Philippines is amazingly beauti- ful and spectacular, but the heart of the Philippines is in the people that live there. Filming, talking, and hanging out with the people really makes it more worthwhile than just touring the sites• We worked all day, every day, butwe got to see the Filipinos for what they actually are, fun loving and good hearted people•" He noted that the people were extremely friendly "and they 'all just seem happy they are alive•" Luke Kreykes' team spent most of their time in the Philippines working a promotional video for a micro finance co-op• "The members of the co-op all keep track of their own savings, and after they save their first 1000 pesos they can take out a loan for double what they have. Kreykes said the goal of the organization is to help people start their own business and take control of their finances• The funds they hope to raise with the promotion- al movie will help them become self sustaining. Kreykes is a junior digital media production major and music minor from Sheldon, IA. Andrew Hornor's team worked on a promo- tional video for Grace Community Christian School, a school in need of monetary support and hoping to attract more students. The finished product will be 5-10 minutes long, edited down from about 18 hours of footage that was shot. Homer has been to Honduras and lived in Papua New Guinea as a missionary kid for the first few years of his life, but still found the pover- ty shocking. "It didn't seem fight that people would have to live such a miserable life," said Homor, who is a digital media production and graphic design major from Houston, Texas. The Slum Documentary Film Project is an ongoing effort posted online at www.slumdoc.com. Visitors to the.site can view a video and photo gallery of slums in Nicaragua filmed by Professor Volkers a few years ago; find additional facts about world poverty; and read Mark Volker's blog about the trip to the Philippines. Photos and film clips will be added as editing and production work continues. Filipino children surround Piper Kucera at Las Pifias garbage dump. A young boy in the foreground is holding the metal pole he uses to snag recyclables as they are Unloaded from garbage trucks. Peter Hessels wades through garbage with camera equipment to set up another shot for the slum documentary. i; ¸- 04 " Professor Mark Volkers helps with positioning cameras under a Las Pifias bridge, where many families have built makeshift homes constructed of bamboo and discard- ed tarps they've found. If you make less than $42,000, find out about the Earned Income Tax Credit. It could mean up to $4,800 extra back from the IRS when you !ile your taxes. Wouldn't that lighten your load? Visit irs.gov/eitc, or call 1-800-829-1040 to see if you qualify. Lifds a little easier with @eit00