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Day Two in Timor-Leste

Day Two in Timor-Leste

Here’s a small secret a communications volunteer shouldn’t really share: I really detest not-for-profit jargon. I fear well-intentioned words like “empowerment” and “transformative” lose their meaning; that we over-complicate simple concepts to avoid seeming dim - so when I asked Geordie just then what the most exciting part of my day was, I’ll admit to rolling my eyes a little when he suggested “shooting in a participatory way”.

Just a bit though - because participatory is a pretty accurate word. What he was talking about was the shooting we did at Ba Futuru’s offices in Dili this afternoon. They arranged for some students from the drama club (a club initiated under the High Schools Transformation Project, funded by Oaktree) to attend their offices and act (fittingly) as students in our filming.

We shot a lot today - from the cameras-out-the-window filming of our morning taxi trip, to the mad, hot roundabout rush of taking portraits of students at Nicolau Lobato high school - and the reverential moment when Woodrow’s drone ascended and the frantic crowd hushed quiet - but Geordie’s right; the filming in the afternoon was something pretty special.

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Yesterday, when I met the star of the campaign video we’re filming for Live Below the Line, I asked her some questions about her life. We’re planning on setting up five or six different situations, which require her and the other students to act in response to prompts from a narrator - and it was fantastic to see the students getting so into each shot, and their drama club teacher, Angelo, directing them. When we set up the first shot, we had Jackson directing, Woodrow directing photography, and Annabal translating - but then we soon realised it was most useful to get Angelo - this gorgeous, smiling, music-loving Ba Futuru staffer - to organise his students himself. Thinking back to those laughing students, our bossy star, and busy Angelo, I reckon Geordie’s right - we weren’t just talking about not dictating education to students: we were really creating room for participation.

Woodrow and Jackson flew in this morning on the same flight I got in on yesterday. Again, Geordie picked them up from the airport, and I blinked sleepily over white toast and peanut paste and black coffee and papaya while we discussed the day - only this time it was me briefing, and I was the one who ordered the taxi in Tetun (we did accidentally go to the wrong school, but that wasn’t quite my fault).

Dare I say it - I felt pretty empowered this morning.

That’s not to say the day was without its challenges - the heat is exhausting; our schedule was long; organising on the fly and trying to match up students giving consent to being photographed is difficult - and I think by lunchtime we were all gritting our teeth. But Angelo pushed back drama club rehearsal to let us film every set-up we need; tomorrow’s schedule is much more organised; and after we wrapped we had a beautiful dinner by the beach, and relaxed back into the warm evening and the full filming day and the fact that we were all here, together, and Woodrow and Jackson looked back over the shots and said they looked beautiful, and we’re really doing all this. I can barely believe we’re here, still. It’s wonderful.