Backpack Journalism at Creighton University is a collaboration between the Theology Department and the Journalism, Media, & Computing Department. It came about because of a theologian interested in social justice and filmmaking and a journalist and an artist interested in filmmaking and social justice.
Each summer, a small group of students travels to a community in search of a story. Led by professors Dr. John O’Keefe, Tim Guthrie, and Carol Zuegner, the students immerse themselves in the communities, interviewing, filming, recording, and writing. When they return to Creighton, they take the stories they have collected and develop them into a short documentary film. The Backpack Journalism documentaries have been accepted at several film festivals, including the Omaha Film Festival. The class has traveled to such far-flung places as the Dominican Republic and Uganda, Bethel Alaska and Nogales Arizona/Sonora. The next project is tentatively planned for Northern Uganda in 2018.
I asked the students to write a blog post about what they are learning in our whirlwind week of video, theology and feature writing. It made me realize how much I learn every time I embark on this adventure.
I learn how deeply rooted Jesuit values are in these students and I am thankful for that. I learn how quickly a community can form, one that is accepting and open and really funny.
I learn how glad I am for Father Daniel Hendrickson’s Creighton Global Initiative. Backpack Journalism received one of the grants and I am thankful for that. But this year I am thankful that A.J. Olnes was on the committee AND decided to join Backpack Journalism. I’d call that Creighton Global Initiative in action.
I learn how generous and connected the Backpack Journalism alums are as they read and comment on the blogs and show up for our reflection send-off.
I learn the power of saying yes to things that challenge and scare you.
Thanks to all who are helping me learn this important lessons.
It’s our last day in Bethel…cue the tears. The list of things I will miss about this place is much longer than the list of things I won’t miss (i.e. the excessive mud and the lack of available showers).
Last night we all tried Eskimo ice cream. It sounds yummy…but it wasn’t made from actual ice cream. The only three ingredients in said “ice cream” were Crisco, sugar, and blueberries. It wasn’t bad, but one spoonful was definitely plenty.
Also, this morning we were given two salmon by this sweet lady on the left. One King Salmon, and one Red Salmon..YUMMY.
So today we had our last two interviews, which means we are officially DONE recording interviews. Tomorrow we leave early in the morning to fly to Anchorage, then onto Seward. Once we get there we’ll be able to see some more mountainous Alaskan landscape, rather than the flat tundra. We’ll also get to do some tourist activities (such as hike a glacier, woohoo).
Speaking of interviews, I compiled a few of my favorite quotes from various interviews that we’ve conducted throughout these past 11 days.
-“Cut through the bullshit and live intentionally”: Dr. O’Keefe’s daughter told us she learned that during her time here as a Jesuit Volunteer. Everything people do here has a purpose, they don’t waste time or resources.
-“What you share you’ll get back even more of.”: John Active, a Yup’ik we interviewed said this of the philosophy of his people. We’ve seen that firsthand here in Bethel, so many people have shown us kindness and have share with us precious fish and food to make us feel welcome.
-“You must face the pain to overcome it.”: A native Yup’ik, Rose Domnick, focused on that idea during her lecture to us about cultural trauma and the repercussions felt by her own family as a result of the Catholic missionaries trying to convert the natives.
-“It’s not about religion, it’s about how you practice your beliefs.”: Ray Daw, a behavioral health specialist that spoke to us, said this during his lecture last week. I think it can be difficult to remember that just because people may not practice spirituality or religion in the same way we do doesn’t mean that there is a wrong or right way.
-“If you follow Yup’ik spirituality, you’ll be the best Catholic in the world.”: Cecilia, a Yup’ik elder that we interviewed, said this. Yup’ik spirituality puts an emphasis on the sacred value of all human life and of all nature. They see everything as valuable in some way, and therefore have immense respect for both humans and nature.
…Also, a bit of what I’ve personally taken away from this trip so far:
-Gutting a fish is fun, but the fishy smell is hard to get rid of
-Moose stew is my new favorite type of stew
-I actually can get tired of eating peanut butter
-People are more often pretty great than not
This list could go on forever, but I’m happy I could get to know so many Creighton people that I probably wouldn’t have met otherwise… I am so grateful for my 16 new friends.
Quyana (Thank you), Bethel, for all that you’ve taught us.
I think I learned more about the world and theology than anything else on this trip. I’m already a journalism major so I had the whole blogging part down – ask Carol. To be honest, the theology part I was only really doing for credit, I didn’t expect that I would actually learn more by living through the experience while learning it.
When I envisioned this trip I thought I would learn more about shooting video by experiencing Uganda first-hand. Shooting video is kind of one of those things you have to learn by actually doing, not just reading a manual or a how-to book.
Theology is not my strong point by all means. Even in a normal class setting my attention span is limited. But in Uganda, learning theology made sense. And okay, maybe reading about the models of the church was a bit dull, but reading Katongole, discussing a new vision of the church in Africa and talking about the option for the poor and the “crucified people” definitely made more sense through experiencing Ugandan culture and lifestyle. I think I learned more in the sense that this is something that will stick with me for the rest of my life and not just something I get tested over and conveniently forget about.