The Global Reach of Illuminaid…
This month, Enjoy spoke with Matt York, executive director of Chico-based illuminAid.
Enjoy: What is illuminAid’s mission?
York: illuminAid equips and trains organizations in developing nations to produce and share low-cost video content to help educate and safeguard local communities facing our world’s most pressing challenges. illuminAid’s mission is to help educate the world’s poorest billion people through low-cost video technology.
Enjoy: Who are some of illuminAid’s partners and for what kinds of projects has the organization provided training?
York: We have a really robust presence internationally in this niche space and are always networking with non-government organizations like Mercy Corps, UNICEF, Save the Children, World Vision and many others in the 70 poorest countries. Sometimes we work with ministries of government.
The biggest project we ever did was with the Centers for Disease Control Foundation and the State Department, training about 80 people from 20 small non-government organizations to help foster behavior change regarding the spread of Ebola. We’ve worked with Catholic Relief Services in Togo on child nutrition, in Liberia to empower persons with disabilities, and last year in Mozambique on COVID-19 pandemic response. Our recent project in Pakistan promoted democratic governance.
Enjoy: Why video training?
York: Video is an excellent tool for behavior change communication, which is essentially any interactive communication strategy that promotes positive behaviors that help solve the world’s most pressing health, agricultural and education problems. Specifically, illuminAid is focused on the use of video technology to encourage behavior change for the empowerment of rural populations in developing nations. Video’s unique storytelling potential allows our partners to convey complex ideas to illiterate populations.
Enjoy: How does this work in very remote regions?
York: The most challenging communities lack reliable access to the internet or the electrical grid. illuminAid provides technological solutions to these obstacles by loading video directly onto the projectors, eliminating reliance on internet access, while the solar panels provided in our Recharge Kit allow for the charging of all the equipment provided (projectors, speakers and camera) without needing to plug anything in. Additional accessories allow users to charge the equipment via the cigarette lighter in a car or a scooter/motorcycle battery. illuminAid’s partners are able to load a series of videos onto a projector and send an outreach worker to remote regions, holding community screenings as they travel from village to village.
Enjoy: How does illuminAid bridge cultural and language differences?
York: Trainings are delivered in English, French, Portuguese and Spanish. illuminAid’s goal is to provide its partners with universal storytelling and video production skills, as well as the equipment needed, so their staff can create hyper-local video that address any issues unique to the targeted communities.
Enjoy: How does a typical project unfold?
York: illuminAid’s four-day workshop walks the non-government organization participants through the entire process of creating and disseminating a behavior change video. The participants break up into small groups of seven or eight, and by the end of the workshop each group has completed its own video. The instructors are there for guidance and to provide any technical assistance, but all the hands-on work is done by the attendees.
Enjoy: What was the most meaningful project for you personally?
York: Our project with Pathfinder in Mozambique focused on creating videos addressing health and safety concerns of girls and young women. Many of the targeted communities are so remote and impoverished that they struggle with basic health and sanitation concerns such as accessing safe drinking water. The quantity and quality of videos that their team has produced since the training is an exciting example of our intervention working at its full potential.
Enjoy: How long do you see yourself doing this work?
York: For the rest of my life. With any luck, illuminAid will continue long after I am gone. •
illuminAid • www.illuminaid.org • (530) 343-7868
Article Written by:
Claudia Mosby is a Redding-based freelance writer. She is the founder and director of The Expressive Spirit, a wellness company in Mt. Shasta offering spiritual direction, arts and nature-based activities and consultancy for grief and loss.