Togo, Ghana, Mali – 2003
By Kate Wilson
When Sarah Cardey worked with other Crossroaders and partner organizations in countries to develop ways that media could be used to tell the stories of their own communities, she never anticipated such different and inspiring results.
Cardey taught colleagues in Mali, Togo and Ghana about participatory media, which is a process where people and communities can use media techniques and technology to tell their own stories.
In one project, the partner organizations used skits to generate discussion about HIV/AIDS in their community and fight stigmatization. Cardey was fortunate enough to see the results.
The sketches were very popular and afterwards, people started to talk. They soon realized that many people had not been tested for HIV/AIDS not because they didn’t want it but because the hospital was too far away and testing cost too much money.
As a result of the discussion, village chiefs decided to visit a nearby hospital and create a plan to bring free testing to the area. In one day, more than 100 people, including the chiefs, were tested for HIV in a mobile testing-unit made from an old truck.
“As a teacher, it was really exciting to see the final result: seven chiefs going to get tested [for HIV/AIDS] and an afternoon of sketches,” Cardey says. “It is pretty powerful stuff.”
“Participatory media is difficult because it requires you to let go of control and you have to trust the community. It can be hard for people to do, but these organizations gave it a whirl,” says Cardey. “It was really inspiring to see how people took new knowledge, adapted it to their own needs and then just ran with it.”
It was this same openness and willingness to try something new that Cardey sees in CCI’s attitude toward development.
“The philosophy they espouse really fits with my values,” Cardey says, citing an approach that is professional, open and honest. “It was such an intensely positive experience.”