How reporting opened my eyes

April 26, 2009

Kara Schneider writes: How I reported the story –Our Hands Are Not Tied

In December of 2007, Megan and Jillian, my two partners, came to me in a burst of excitement and explained that they had this great topic for our radio documentary for the next semester. They continued by saying they already had interviews lined up. I thought, “Awesome, you guys can do the talking, I’ll just sit back and when it comes my turn to edit the audio-I’m there.” Little did I know that as I shook my head up and down, my entire life would change because of another school project.

Let me take you back a little before December. The first interview, Megan and Jill conducted without me because I wasn’t involved in the project yet.  Robert Makunu, a Catholic Relief Services Staff Member of Kenya, sat with Megan and Jill and a few others from our school newspaper, The Loquitur, and was questioned about children orphaned by AIDS in Kenya.

Once the interview was completed and Jill and Meg were set on this topic, I came on board. We had our next interview set up for us- Ken Hackett, The President of Catholic Relief Services and Joan Neal who, was the time, was the Vice President of United States Affairs for CRS.

I’m going to have to give you a little bit of background about me before I go any further. Up until that point, I was completely intimidated by news- don’t ask me why, I just was. There was something about learning what was going on in the world that I thought was just not for me. However, this was around the time that I stepped out of the bubble around myself and took a little peek at the world around me.

We decided it to be a good idea to learn about AIDS in Africa, since that’s what our topic was about.  Together, we learned about PEPFAR, The Presidential Emergency for Aids Relief and that it was a great program that offered 30 billion dollars over the next five years to AIDS relief in Africa. We agreed that PEPFAR would be the basis of our interview with Ken Hackett.

With Ken Hackett came Joan Neal, the Vice President of U.S. Operations, with whom we interviewed. They were great interviews because they fed off of each other and we were able to use them a lot back to back in our documentary.

It was made clear in Hackett’s speech on Cabrini Founder’s Day that we were doing extraordinary things at Cabrini by not only being so curious about our topic and really knowing the issues at hand, but by wanting to do something about it. We knew we wanted to fix the problems we were learning about, but we didn’t really know how to. After we thought about what Hackett said, Jill, Meg and I, decided okay “that’s it, we are going to switch our documentary around and switch it to advocacy!” What others can do to help the issues we are learning about right now.

As the semester continued, the interviews grew more intense. Through Catholic Relief Services, we contacted Bridget Chisenga of Zambia. Ken and Joan told Bridget’s story to us when we interviewed them. As soon as they left we knew we had to get in contact with Bridget. We obviously didn’t care what it took to get an interview with Bridget because we were at the studio pressing that record button at 5 am when we had just gotten to bed after a long night of editing.

In April, my Working for Social Justice class and I went lobbying in Washington DC to our Senators. There, we spoke about our concerns for the Farm Bill and how we would like to urge our senators to help pass it. Through this process, I learned that our government actually listens to us. I feel that my generation has become so stubborn in saying and believing that our lawmakers don’t care about what we have to say or what our opinions are because they feel that our government has failed them. Well, let me tell you that they do care and they do want to listen to us. It’s their job! How could they not care what we have to say? Writing letters to your Congressmen or Senators will make a difference, and I believe that our class together did make a difference.

We then got in contact with Ryan Keith, Founder of Forgotten Voices and Nicolas Demey, Communications Supervisor of The Global Fund.  These two interviews took us to that next level of advocacy and gave us examples of local people helping global issues to global foundations helping local people.

Once we collected all of the interviews, we locked ourselves in the edit bay with some water, canned food, and a change of clothes, and edited our documentary until it was complete. Well, it was never really completed. We always wanted to change something because all three of us are perfectionists.

We just finally came to the conclusion that it was time to get our voices heard. We wanted to change the world and this is how we were supposed to do it. We had to stop being perfectionists and get our work out there because we knew that if we believed in something so passionately, that there are others that believe in it too.

Our mission, that we believe we completed, was to inform and educate others on HIV/AIDS in underdeveloped countries and what American college students can do to help. I believe that we did this by exploring diverse situations and interview various people that were helping communities in different ways.

I thank God everyday for the chance that I had that absolutely changed my life into working for the common good. People are out there, and we need to listen to their voices and reach out to them in ways that you can because I know that our hands are not tied.