The Karen community, for whom 2009 is ancient history, will celebrate the year 2748 this December. Australia is host to a growing number of Karen who arrived here as refugees having fled their homelands in Burma.
In 2007, or rather, 2746, we began working with the Melbourne based Cultural Development Network on an internet video production series, Homelands, for young people from the Karen and Sudanese communities. The idea is to co-produce video pieces discussing their perceptions of homeland with other young people from Karen and Sudanese communities abroad, and where possible, those still living in refugee camps on the Thai-Burma border and / or Kenya and the Southern Sudan respectively.
This afternoon I worked with a group of Karen young people who have formed a web development team to start the work of producing a site that will support, develop and promote collaborative video production amongst themselves and young Karen abroad.
They arrived with a draft plan for their website, however it had not included any scope for supporting the video production project. What it did provide though, was a clear outline of information flows that would inform, guide and promote the project. It just needed the Homelands components added.
I showed them through Vibewire, SlumTV and EngageMedia. As I talked through each of these projects Homelands Project Officer, Kirsty Baird, logged onto a chat room on karen.org and found someone involved with the Karen community in California who not only makes videos but was keen to gather up stills and videos from Karen living there. The pieces were starting to fall into place.
Curiously, Vibewire seemed less representative of an online community of young creative people than I recall. EngageMedia will no doubt become the host platform for Homeland videos and SlumTV demonstrates what is possible when a clear framework is provided up front! SlumTV make no bones about what they do. They teach kids in slums how to make videos and screen them.
The next step was to ensure we could get a website up and running quickly – a site that would be easy to use, a site that supported not only the Karen’s vision, but a collaborative environment from which videos can be produced from. I showed them through WordPress and got their lead web person, Friday, to set up a free WordPress blog and Karen TV was born! It is but a humble beginning…
By the end of the workshop we had everyone signed up as contributors. We covered some basic publishing techniques in WordPress, found a design template everyone was happy with and put together a small production team to re-design a header image.
It was a terrific outcome.
We have momentum!
I left the Melbourne Multicultural Hub, wandered up to a Korean grocery store, picked up some supplies for dinner and walked home in the rain.
Photo: A Karen child from the village of Pilokkhi in Thailand near the Myanmar border. By Brian Adler, Public Domain, Wikipedia.