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.
Every other 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 across the United States. 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 scheduled for the summer of 2020 and will focus on deforestation in Eastern Africa.
It feels like I never left, I need a vacation, sigh. The complexity of life has already hit full force and the memories of the trip seem like they are from a distant past. Short of feeling sick still from the trip, it feels like visiting Africa happened months ago. Summer break is coming…right?
Being back is bittersweet. On one side, I am thrilled to have a hot shower and a variety in my diet. I am most pleased to spend time with my lovely partner again, I missed her. On the other hand, I miss Africa. I miss the simplicity of it, the sounds and the smells.The experience was amazing. It opened my eyes and gave me a whole new understanding of the world in which I live. I encountered so many new things, especially the first couple of days that we were there, it left me unable to really form a complete thought to express it in words. Even now, trying to describe my experience, I am at a loss for words. I don’t know where to begin or end when telling others about my trip. The easiest way would be to start at the beginning and walk someone through day by day, but beyond the length of time that would take, there is no way to describe everything I took away from Africa.
The best way to describe my experience is wrapped up in my sketches. They are simple moments loaded with meanings. From the excitement of looking out the plane window, building new relationships, exploring the landscape, and simple pleasures in life, to the dark moments of life and death in the stories we heard during the interviews and the observation of a cat playing with a dead mouse.
Now that we are back, it is time to take those experiences and make a short documentary as a group to tell the stories of not just our experience in Africa but to share the stories of those who live there. It is time to get back to the grind of everyday life, but taking with us these amazing experiences to help shape our lives and others into a more positive environment.
I’m not exactly sure what to make of this feeling I’ve had today. It’s 3am in the morning, I can’t sleep due to my internal clock thinking it’s around 11am, and I’ve been feeling this way ever since I landed in Eppley around nine hours ago.
Adjustment is a pretty close friend of mine. Having moved 13 times in my life, I became pretty good at being able to adjust to new situations and lifestyle changes. On top of that, between my parents being ultimate tourists and my proprietary strain of travel itch, I’ve taken lots of trips to different places, and have gotten used to the feeling of coming back from that kind of trip. Usually, I take a shower, eat a meal I missed, then within a few hours it’s back to how things were before, and besides knowing a little bit more about some place I just came back from, things are pretty much the same as before.
This feels different though. It doesn’t feel the same as it usually does when I come back from a trip. I can’t really pinpoint when it happened, but I feel different. I feel something changed in me back in Uganda, something that has changed the way I look at things around me. I was pretty unhappy before I went to Uganda, and I couldn’t really figure out why. The strange thing is, all the things I was dreading about being back are still here, yet it doesn’t make me feel the way it did before. Now, I feel a kind of inner strength that allows me to see past all the little things that used to worry me to death. I feel like my eyes see a little bit clearer, or that I somehow just know something that I didn’t know before.
Maybe it was the fact that we saw poverty everywhere, or the fact that we met people whose lives are vastly different from our own, or the fact that I know that those kids I played with who were wearing tattered shirts and looked like they were barely surviving are still there right now. All I know is, I was brushing my teeth and was annoyed that the water was too hot, and realized that I wouldn’t be able to look at things the same way again.