2018 marks VIDEA's 40th Anniversary! To celebrate, we will be highlighting some of the people who have been instrumental in VIDEA’s journey over the past 40 years, and their reflections on VIDEA’s work. As an organization, we are only as strong as our supporters, partners, interns, volunteers, and as the Indigenous and non-indigenous communities, in Canada and overseas, with whom we work. Over the coming weeks and months, stay tuned as we share the stories of those who have helped to build the organization that VIDEA is today.

It’s hard to believe we’re celebrating VIDEA’s 40th anniversary. It seems like just yesterday when we celebrated the 35th anniversary. Times were tough that year and to top it off, the venue for the 35th anniversary fundraiser fell through at the last minute! Who would have thought that we could pull off the event - but we did.

In true VIDEA form, we found a new venue and just in the nick of time, but…we had to cook all the food ourselves! The staff prepared a menu and went shopping, a long-time VIDEA supporter handed over her kitchen, and the cooking began. Sixteen hours later, the food was prepared and the event went off without a hitch.

I think I always knew that VIDEA represented commitment, persistence, and resourcefulness but after this experience, I felt it in my heart. VIDEA staff and volunteers make the organization a great one to be part of. Being able to support VIDEA’s amazing work to end poverty and create a more just and equitable world is an honour. VIDEA has come a long way in 40 years- there’s no telling where it will be in 40 more but it will be great

- Alison Brophey

I encountered VIDEA at a pivotal point in my life. In the mid 1990s, I'd given up on my diamond drilling career, no longer being able to do the job, both physically and morally.  I was in the grips of grief as a result of trauma and resurrection, following two decades of serious addictions' issues. At the age of 39, I was on fire and going places to revive my passion of photography,  boost my skills, and go back to those places where I saw sorrow and damage.

Surely, I reasoned, if I could shine a light on what was going on, people would wake up and pay attention.  Were people apathetic, uniformed or too busy to care?

My clear-minded energy must have surprised a few people, including myself. When I returned back to Canada from numerous years working in South East Asia and South America as a writer/photographer for a large international NGO , I was settling into a routine life (as much as this is possible in rural Yukon) with my new partner Suzanne, when culture shock set in strong.

This was the time frame when VIDEA came north for a visit, looking for volunteers to join in their Harnessing the Wave: Community Action for Africa initiative. The goal of this project was to build on the generosity, public interest, and increased political will generated by the recent tsunami and turn it into long-term, sustainable community action for Africa.  I jumped at the chance to get involved in this project.

This project included a two-week Zambian exchange to gain an understanding of the effects of AIDS on the communities, of community-based initiatives underway, and a broader knowledge of the advancement of the Millennium Development Goals. In 2008 myself and fellow Yukoner, Tracey Wallace, were to participate in another VIDEA project, Breakthrough for Africa - Communities in Action. I was able to also include my own component to this project which was a month long participatory photography workshop, working with a group of female youth in rural Swaziland.  This photography project empowered youth to tell their stories through their eyes while at the same time raising their self-esteem and confidence. VIDEA provided assistance and enthusiasm through all components of this project.

The highlight of this project was that it coincided with the 1000 Women March on International Women's Day and the first Grandmother's to Grandmother's Gathering in the capital of Swaziland, Manzini, organized by the Stephen Lewis Foundation.  This was a very empowering experience for these youth as they walked, sang and danced in solidarity with the hundreds of Bogogo (grandmothers) who are raising their grandchildren as their parents were lost to AIDS. None of this would have happened for these youth without VIDEA.

For me, the term "public engagement" is a straight forward appeal to get off the couch, get involved, educate yourself, ask yourself hard  questions, look around you, and get out of your comfort zone. VIDEA stands for solidarity. In the next 40 years I hope VIDEA continues to work collaboratively with communities on such issues as gender equality.  I'm especially enthusiastic about VIDEA's International Aboriginal Youth Internship program and hope it continues for many years to come.

A comfort zone is a beautiful place but nothing ever grows there.   Karen Salmansohn

- Rob Bales 

I will always remember my experiences gained during my internship in Uganda. I met wonderful people, stepped beyond my comfort zone, and developed as a person.

One thing that really impacted me while in Uganda was how happy everyone was in the midst of such poverty. It showed me that one does not need material goods to find happiness, rather it is a good community that one needs. I was amazed at the pure resilience of the human spirit which, ever since, has given me a new lens through which to look.

I hope to see VIDEA offer more opportunities to young Canadians. Unfortunately, there are many countries in the world that need positive support in various ways. But these things are also needed in Canada. To have a ‘force for good’ such as VIDEA is truly a great thing!

VIDEA values I agree with include how they operate on at a local level and small-scale, and the importance of women empowerment. As a smaller organization, I feel that VIDEA has a unique opportunity to really get involved and ‘pinpoint’ specific areas which could greatly affect a particular community.

Keep up the good work!

  • Adam Weaver 

Read Muriel's Full Story

VIDEA…where to even start? To me, the organization does more than advocating for social justice, human rights and gender equality in Canada and South-East Africa. VIDEA is a family that cares about the relationship with their international partners as well as the wellbeing of their interns. My experience with VIDEA made me understand that international development is also about making connections in the field with the population I am working with.

Most importantly, VIDEA allowed me to reconnect with my roots on the continent I have always called home. I was born in Burundi and immigrated to Canada with my family at a very young age. Going back to the motherland with VIDEA gave me the opportunity to live and to work with people I culturally identify with, which helped me to strengthen my identity.

In 40 years, I hope that VIDEA will be recruiting culturally diverse groups of interns to represent Canada globally. From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU VIDEA and happy birthday!!!

Muriel Harushamagara

Read Bud's Full Story

In the 1970s, I was active working with many of the development education centres that had been supported by CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency), to provide learning opportunities for Canadians to learn about life, global challenges and ways of being in solidarity with countries of the global South.  VIDEA was one of the original Development Education Centres that were located across the whole of Canada. I recall doing a key-note, during my time as the Secretary-General of the International Council for Adult Education to the assembled activists from across the country engaged many years ago. It was an impressive gathering of passionate and well-informed women and men.  The development education centres provided a critical assessment of the world of international development, an assessment that ultimately included a critique of Canadian aid itself.  CIDA facing internal criticism about continuing to fund the Centres and in spite of considerable outcry from an engaged citizenry, withdrew funding from the programme. As a result, most of the centres closed down over a period of years.  To our great surprise and delight, the international activist community of Victoria refused to give up, found creative ways to keep going and we are now able to celebrate 40 years of imaginative, respectful, and hopeful contributions to a world that needs our kind of energy and vision.

Note that I said, ‘our’ in my last sentence? I say that because I have come to feel part of the VIDEA family.  I became reacquainted with VIDEA nearly 10 years ago when Lorna Williams and I paid a visit to meet Lynn Thornton, to see if VIDEA might have an interest in supporting our work with the Mpambo Afrikan Multiversity.  Lynn was interested and we began a collaboration and a friendship that continues to this day. As I have come to understand over the years more of the work that VIDEA does, its vision of human rights based development, its priority of women’s issues, engagement of youth and support for Indigenous youth, my respect for the VIDEA vision has grown.  VIDEA has remained a strong partner with Mpambo in gaining more respect and visibility for Indigenous knowledge and spirituality.  But VIDEA has also been able to build its work with Indigenous young people from Turtle Island, providing internships for work in Africa, and following up with them upon return.  The VIDEA philosophy about how they support women’s organisations such as Women for Change in Zambia is so refreshing.  VIDEA does not tell Women for Change or any of their partners what they should be doing.  They respect the vision and work of these organisations and provide support to them to do what only they know is the best way to work in rural East and Southern Africa.  In a world where colonial practices persist in relation to collaboration with Africa, VIDEA is an exemplary example of how we can work together across the distances and the differences as equals. We sometimes hear people from other countries saying that “the world needs more Canada”.  We might more accurately say, “The world needs more VIDEA”.

- Budd Hall

Read Salome's Full Story

What comes to mind at the mention of VIDEA is solidarity. All the years I have interacted with VIDEA staff, Board Members, and their network of volunteers and supporters nothing has been far from this fact. Among the partners Women for Change (WfC) has worked with, VIDEA is one of the longest. They were there when I joined WfC 10 years ago and they have been an unwavering partner in good and challenging times.

Personally I have been greatly impacted by VIDEA having had the privilege to interact with the organization both in Zambia and Canada. In Zambia, the many times I traveled to our operation areas located in remote rural areas, highly challenged by lack of basic amenities like running water, electricity, proper shelter and good roads; the long hours spent on the road to reach the communities some as far as 900km bring important lessons from and experiences shared with members from VIDEA. The dedication to work was always an inspiring experience. While in the field, every visiting VIDEA team lived with us in the communities never at one time complaining about the lack of basic amenities! As a gender focused organization using women and girls as entry points, WfC's approach of living in the communities and sharing in the lives of the community members has helped to engage communities on gender and development. Representatives from VIDEA visiting us have all, without exception willingly agreed to join us in - eager and ready to assimilate into Zambian rural life. For me, I see this as VIDEA's greatest strength. This has made it easy to talk to them openly, confident that they understand our context and the challenges in our operating environment.

In Canada, the warm welcome shown by the VIDEA family and readiness to share their personal lives and resources has been humbling. Every time spent among them epitomised the shared values that tie us together as one despite our living in different continents defined by different cultural practices. The reception VIDEA provides its partners in their country testifies to VIDEA's belief that we are all connected as global citizens regardless of our diverse backgrounds. The recognition of one's intrinsic value and entitlement to be treated with dignity accorded each person resonates with me. In the years I have known them, it has been amazing to witness VIDEA family endeavour to live up to this principle.

For an organization that does so much work, the challenge of funding, especially to support the work of partners in the South has revealed what they consider most important to the organization. They have had to give up their office space and sacrifice personal benefits to keep the organization afloat. They have remained steadfast and committed to the mission of the organization and this has been worthwhile. It is heartening to watch them spread their wings around youth programming especially in their reach among First Nations youth. I was deeply honoured to have been invited to share their work among Aboriginal youth leaders in my recent trip to - Canada.

The focus on the youth points to the great future that lies ahead for VIDEA. The value of global responsibility being cultivated in the youth is a great seed that points to promising results and a stronger positioning of VIDEA as one of the leading organization that fights to create a more just and equitable world for all. Hearty congratulations to the VIDEA team on this momentous occasion. The light shines brightly as you move ahead to leave a mark in the next four decades!

- Salome Nakazwe

Read Meaghan's Full Story

I joined the “VIDEA family” over five years ago as an intern in their International Youth Internship Program—and I still haven’t left! I’ve since been involved with VIDEA as a staff member, volunteer, and supporter. To me, VIDEA really is a family: it’s a close-knit community of dedicated individuals working together to create positive global change, who don’t give up on each other or on the organization’s mission even in the face of overwhelming challenges. 

As a recent graduate, my internship with VIDEA was my first dip into the world of global development and social justice. It was so much more than just a work experience—the program included a significant training and educational component focused on intercultural understanding and inclusivity, inspiring critical thought on global issues. While placed overseas in Uganda, I was able to see how VIDEA supports its partner organizations through a truly collaborative, human rights development model. 

I came back from my internship not only equipped with practical employment skills, but with a global perspective into the issues marginalized communities face, and I continue to carry that with me through my career working with First Nations and in community economic development, conservation, and health care. I’ve seen how VIDEA inspires young people to turn thought into action and tackle issues in their communities ranging from environmental protection to gendered violence. 

VIDEA showed me what an organization can accomplish when it works collaboratively in equal partnership with communities. VIDEA has deep roots in its local community with First Nations partners and global reach as it supports international development in eastern and southern Africa. In just 5 short years, I’ve seen the ripple effect it has both locally and abroad by delivering impactful mentorship and supporting young leaders to flourish. I’m looking forward to seeing what it accomplishes in the next 40—as part of the family.

- Meaghan Hume

Read Sabreena's Full Story

In early 2012, I was looking for a co-op to complete over the summer as part of my University degree. Six years later, I still volunteer with that organization, and am even on the Board! How does one become so attached to an organization that after a short co-op term? They continue to remain engaged with them. Good people, common interests, and shared values.

 Also, in case you haven’t figured it out, the organization is VIDEA!

 VIDEA believes in gender equality for all, a human rights-based approach to development, and social justice based on fairness, equality, and respect for diversity. Although every single one of these resonates with me, two aspects of VIDEA’s programs have stuck out more to me over the years and truly touch my heart: access to education and gender equality.By supporting VIDEA, I know that I am helping to provide children with the tools to realize their full potential. I know that I am helping to provide a space for women to demonstrate their knowledge and skills while also acquiring new ones. I know that they are doing this on their own terms, and that no one, including VIDEA, has told them how to learn and grow. What is more important than being allowed to learn in your own way, and grow to be a person you are proud of?

 So, how has VIDEA impacted me? They made me second-guess myself. Normally, that may not be a good thing, but since working for VIDEA, I have learned to take a step back and consider whether or not I am expecting someone to learn/behave/develop in the same way as me. I have learned to question what I say or think, and consider why I expect someone from another country to be the same as Canadians. It is beyond challenging, and even more wonderful. It means that I am growing too. I am learning not to project my expectations on to someone else no matter where they are from, and I am learning that their knowledge and culture is important to me and to the world.

 In another 40 years, I hope that everyone has learned this lesson from VIDEA. I hope that everyone has learned to relish our differences, and appreciate our similarities. Of course, I also hope that VIDEA is still charging on, and impacting people’s lives all over the world!

- Sabreena Thouli