In late 1995, a friend of my partner asked me at a party, “Do you like books?” A softball question to a recently graduated English major. I had just moved to Victoria earlier that year. She was a librarian and looking for a volunteer in VIDEA’s resource centre, which contained thousands of books, workshop materials and school resources for lending out to teachers and others interested in international development. I agreed to meet her at VIDEA’s relatively new location in Fernwood, where it had relocated largely due to financial reasons. Oxfam Canada and the South Pacific Peoples’ Foundation (since renamed Pacific Peoples’ Partnership) were just down the hall. VIDEA and the community of people working with these and other local NGOs obviously captured my imagination because I stayed involved for the following 15 years, and I still try to support VIDEA and keep in touch.
More than two decades later, I would say VIDEA is still in my bones. I have to try to remember the person I was when I started volunteering with the group. And I have to try to remember what VIDEA was like as well, because it’s been re-invented a few times since then. The physical resource centre was already becoming out of date when I started, but I know that VIDEA’s core philosophy of seeking social justice and working in solidarity with local and international partners has stayed intact. I think I was probably somewhat awed by the internationalism and commitment of others when I started as a idealistic young volunteer in early 1996. And I’m still inspired by the volunteers, interns and staff involved at VIDEA, and their commitment to build new programs, reach out to the community and work with partners here and overseas. I’m still an idealistic type as well and I may appreciate even more now how idealism can translate—if not often enough—into meaningful changes in the world.
I recall board members and staff contemplating taking the step of working with Women for Change in Zambia, not knowing where it would lead. Before that, I remember a proposal to try to expand VIDEA’s work in Canada to Whitehorse, Kelowna and Nelson. Both of these moves for VIDEA turned out very well. Volunteers in Whitehorse, Kelowna and Nelson took VIDEA’s work in new directions and would become integral to our future work overseas. Women for Change turned out to be a great partner with extensive experience working for women’s rights, community-building and local economic development in rural areas of Zambia. During the time I was a board member of VIDEA, I felt privileged to welcome a member of Women for Change who visited Victoria and also to visit Women for Change in Lusaka and travel to rural areas where they were working. It was invaluable to see their work and to travel with volunteers and staff from VIDEA who were working in partnership with Women for Change and local communities.
Since my time as a volunteer and board member at VIDEA, I’ve been impressed again and again by the work of VIDEA volunteers, interns, staff and partners. I appreciate both the spirit of the work and the concrete work toward practical alternatives that are urgently needed in terms of environment, solidarity, reconciliation and social justice.
- Richard Morrow
It was a long time ago that I was first introduced to VIDEA. Back in those days VIDEA had a large resource library and did educational outreach through speakers. These activities included the creation of education materials for use in schools, constant advocacy and activism for social justice in South and Central America, against apartheid in South Africa, and for a world where trade was fair and the environment protected.
It was dynamic place committed to working in solidarity with people around the globe struggling to create a sustainable and equitable future. In its early days, VIDEA was one of many similar organisations in Victoria focused on international education and social justice operated by groups like the YM/YWCA, CUSO, the South Pacific Peoples Foundation, and Oxfam Canada working together with several church and trade union initiatives. Fresh out of university, I began work with the YM/YWCA's international development programme and then moved to working with Oxfam's Victoria office.
VIDEA was always a close partner: for many years Oxfam and VIDEA either shared office space or were next door to each other. We worked together to do youth education on global issues such as apartheid, AIDS, and the environment using educational approaches that challenged young people to explore global issues using different media (radio, video, print, painting and open dialogue). Exchange programmes brought youth together from the Caribbean and Southern Africa where they learned about each other's lives, traveled to each other's countries,and shared each other's perspectives on justice and how to contribute to building a sustainable and fair future.
I can remember the energy in those weekend-long multi-media workshops on discrimination and AIDS where VIDEA, Oxfam, and many volunteers came together to explore the issues and give young people a chance to learn about and act on the major issues that would impact their lives. I can also remember working on educational packages designed to fit the school curriculum, with teachers and VIDEA staff like Susan Gage doing the writing and research.
However, as other story tellers have mentioned, things do not stay the same. Funding became harder to find and after much soul searching the resource centre gave way as funds grew too tight to maintain the space needed, or keep the library up to date and the digital age transformed our access to information. I left Victoria for several years to work in Africa and when I came back in 2001, things had changed once again. VIDEA was still an important part of Victoria's social justice scene but it was struggling to find resources and to find new ways to continue its work in a world that was very different, yet still faced so many of the same issues. Most of its previous partners had closed and while a few kindred organisations remained, like the Global Village Store, the local and global landscape was very different.
Nevertheless, when Paul Finkle approached me to join the board I once again found myself amidst the energy and optimism of VIDEAs volunteers - the landscape may have changed but not the purpose or commitment of the people. It was during this time that we advertised for a new Executive Director and found Lynn Thornton. Whether luck or fate, the match was perfect and VIDEA was injected with the energy and direction it needed to reinvent itself without giving up any of its founding principles. Reinvention is a strong word but it describes for me the fundamental changes required to remain relevant without losing touch with those underlying ideals of solidarity, learning and dialogue. VIDEA has done this by working with others to build partnerships with Indigenous youth and community based organisations in Africa in ways that clearly embrace what VIDEA has always stood for, while also making it stronger by rooting these partnerships as much as in Canada's important social justice issues as in global solidarity. It has been quite a few years since I left VIDEAs board and Victoria, but I have continued to be in touch and feel more strongly than ever that VIDEA is a remarkable organisation built on a set of enduring principles and driven by a creative energy that has kept it relevant through good times and bad and across generations.
Happy birthday VIDEA and here's to 40 more.
- Chris Morry
I remember it well. The year was 1977 and my wife Sandra and I, together with our daughter Angela, had been travelling in Central America and Cuba for almost a year and were ready to return to Canada. The question was, where should we return to and what should we do. We had friends in Victoria and so decided to start out there. Having lived and worked doing international volunteer work for four years in India and Kenya, studied international development at the University of Alberta as well as working closely with Development Education Centres on the Prairies for a couple of years with Canada World Youth, I knew that there was only one major urban centre in western Canada--Victoria-- that didn't have what we then called a "learner centre". I wanted to develop a centre that would reach out into the community, get as many people involved as possible, and encourage greater dialogue and concern for international development. While I wasn't sure if I might find support for the idea I rather naively decided that I would undertake to develop one here.
I'm happy to say that what I found in Victoria was a treasure trove of talented, able and willing people who worked together to make what became VIDEA a reality. People like Phil Esmonde, a young Vietnam war vet who became a close friend and ally and introduced me to Howbart and Rosamund Sorensen, a retired drama professor and his wife - Howbart was our first president; a graphic artist from Argentina named Roberto Dosil and his wife Estella - Roberto designed the VIDEA logo, signifying two hands reaching towards the sky; Lee Ann Johnson, our first coordinator, who had lived and worked in Nigeria, Malaysia, the Philippines and Korea, as well as Menziwe Mbeyo and Brycina Mvubu, both South Africans who became active members of our board. Later people like Susan Gage and Laura Porcher joined us and played major roles in the development of VIDEA during the 1980s. Together, with others too numerous to mention, we were able to forge many of the innovative programs that VIDEA became noted for - beginning with a volunteer school speakers program and then branching out into too many youth and adult educational programs to mention and describe here. But for me personally, the highlight of my nine years coordinating VIDEA came when VIDEA was invited by CIDA to create the first ever training program for development education workers, which took place in 1984 on Grindstone Island and involved 98 development education workers from across Canada.
Personally, I am so happy, and inspired, to see VIDEA today committed to many of the same ideals and principles for economic, social and gender equity that we dedicated ourselves to, beginning 40 years ago. Keep up your great work folks - you are making us all proud.
- David Stott
Back when I was a new mom of a 2 year old and looking for a way to “change the world,” or at least do my part to give back to it, I saw an ad posted in the paper for a Coordinator position to create and lead a group of volunteers to twin up with a small community in Zambia. It was a position so filled with promise and a challenge to bring together my community that I just had to apply. With almost no background in international development but with a lot of community development experience, VIDEA took a chance on me and it changed my life.
Over the last 11 years, I have witnessed youth in VIDEA programmes in Zambia overcome challenges to grow and become young adults that would make all mothers around the world proud. These youth have gone on to inspire children and youth in their own communities.
All these years later, I continue to work with youth in my own community to better understand the global village that is just at their doorsteps, and I hope that I have helped inspire some of those same youth to do what they can do to create global equality and gender equality.
Most recently, I was able to help facilitate VIDEA’s IAYI briefing and witness some incredible Indigenous youth rise to the challenge of working in and learning about new cultures while overcoming personal challenges in their lives through VIDEA’s Indigenous Internship program. They have inspired me and so many others to believe that we can do anything and rise to our own full potential.
VIDEA is more than an international development and education agency. It is an agency that offers challenges to youth, communities and organizations around the globe. Through those challenges, and by offering up tools and guidance on how to face those challenges through internships, partnerships with overseas agencies, and community initiatives, VIDEA ensures that the founding principal of global equality, solidarity and social empowerment are more than just buzzwords, but a way to create sustainable change.
I congratulate VIDEA on their 40 years of amazing community work here, and around the globe, and I for one plan on spending the next 40 years with them, striving to make a difference, create lasting friendships, and working in the true spirit of solidarity
- Isabelle Herzig
Hmm. VIDEA and I first met some time in the late 80’s and since this time, I have had an ongoing relationship with VIDEA. I worked as a staff person for a few years (Administrative Coordinator), sat on committees and the Board, and worked as a contractor. In the beginning, VIDEA was “the place” for international development activities. So I would go there for things like press conferences on the Salvadorean defensive. I met those involved with the projects and loved the work they were doing. When people came back from overseas they often had culture shock. They would land at the office on View Street to talk to the VIDEA people who did an excellent job in helping them see how they could fit into their old world with their new perspective. VIDEA offered them work volunteering or supported them in starting up an organization that suited their particular area of interest. VIDEA was a generalist organization and a learner centre – teaching Canadians about our role in international relations and what was happening in overseas countries. We also produced a lot of learning materials for schools and the community, had a speakers program (with approximately 70 speakers), community outreach program, and a great library. We were mainly funded – like all the learner centres across Canada - through the federal government. A change of government led to the canceling of funding to the “too much to say” learner centres in 1995. The organization struggled for quite a few years after that, although I believe in the end it is the only learner centres that did survive the cuts. The struggle and the ups and downs continued until Lynn Thornton took the reins. Even though prior to her arrival it was decided that VIDEA needed to work overseas in order to better inform its work in Canada, Lynn has made that decision real. Overseas solidarity work is now an integral part of VIDEA’s mandate and programming.
And I suppose one could say the rest is history. I am sure that lots of the newer/younger folks will fill in the story since Lynn’s fateful arrival. It has been dynamic and rewarding for all those involved. Although the term learner centre is no longer used, I believe VIDEA fulfils the aims of such centres. In addition, their overseas work and work in Fair Trade has been awe inspiring. Thank you VIDEA, you are home to me.
- Susan Albion
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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