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.
Having lived in the midwest my entire life, it’s always been baffling to me that there are so many beautiful plants that thrive off of little to no water in the desert.
The vision of brightly colored flowers blooming alongside pricklies on cacti is like dipping french fries in a milkshake — two things that you’d never think would go together, but seem to complement one another beautifully.
Every time I would see beautiful flowers on cacti, I would stop and take a photo. I started thinking about parallels of plants that adapt and thrive beautifully in the desert, realizing that people have done the same thing in the borderlands.
Hearing stories of extreme poverty from migrants and Kino volunteers, it was constantly inspiring to me that everyone still remembered how to smile and laugh. Just like the cactuses have a beautiful flower here and there, the people of Nogales have learned to live beautifully, with joy, hope and faith despite such hardship.
Today we met up with two of Carol’s friends at Saguaro National Park. One is an accomplished herpetologist and the other is currently a journalism/magazine/editor professor at University of Arizona. They took us around the park and taught us many things about the plants and animals of the park. It was really a nice day and a beautiful park.
After the park we went to a restaurant with both of Carol’s friends. One of Carol’s friends is named Carol as well so we called her Carol 2. I got to sit next to her at lunch. We talked almost the whole time. She applied twice to work at National Geographic out of college as a writer and the second time she got in. She did some time in the office then became the editor at National Geographic for their travel magazine. She was telling me stories of the places she got to go and what she wrote about. Also she was on the launch team of the National Geographic web site when it first came to the Internet. I loved talking to her and seeing how excited yet humble she was. My teacher Carol told us that Carol 2 has won just about every teaching award possible.
Later in the evening Father Pete, Ivan, and a new guest came over for pizza. The new guests name was Mario. We talked one on one for a while before dinner started and then at the table. His story went a little like this. He was born in Portugal then did his undergrad in the states. Then he went to the University of Europe in Belgium to receive a masters. Their master programs are only 1 year so it is super intense. After that he served in the United Nations as a diplomat for 28 years. He lived for at least 2 years in 12 different countries and is fluent in 4 languages. He was telling me how he chose to live a life in service for others and how he always wants to give back. He said that that is the way to live a life and I totally agree with him. After his 28 years with the U.N. he got a call from the Vatican to serve there for 2 years. He did that and said it was a really good experience and now he is in between Spain and Boston in retirement. He is here in Nogales to do some consulting work for the Kino Border Initiative. I think it was God’s plan for us to meet because he left an impression on me and we had a great and meaningful talk.
Tomorrow is our last day in Nogales before we head back home. I continue to meet these amazing people and there are so many stories that will be left untold. I am now a witness to the raw reality of life on the border. I alone can not change this reality but I highly encourage you to spend time reading testimonies or to even come to Nogales if you ever have the opportunity.