Innovative Charity Uses 360 Degree Video to Inspire Change in Africa
Impact Network launched the world premiere of I Am Because of You, a virtual reality experience that transports viewers to rural Zambia, at the organization’s annual fundraising gala, Chefs for Impact, at the Eventi Hotel in New York. The experience simultaneously launched online on Huffington Post, YouTube, Facebook, and was featured on virtual reality platform Vrideo.
I Am Because of You communicates a sense of place and beauty in Zambia’s remote Eastern Province. Janet, a ten-year-old girl who dreams of being a teacher, narrates the story, leading viewers on a day-in-the-life journey, from her family’s thatched hut at dawn to school and dance practice.
Impact Network, a Brooklyn-based non-profit organization that operates education programs in rural Africa, funded the film, which was directed by Ben Bernstein and produced by Emily Anderson.
“VR tells stories and connects people in powerful new ways” said Emily Anderson, the film’s producer and VP of External Relations at Impact Network. “Short of bringing people to Zambia, this experience transports them to a remote village where they become immersed in a new way of life.”
While VR is emerging as a mainstream communications tool for corporations and large foundations, I Am Because of You represents an early attempt by a small, low-budget NGO to use the immersive medium to engage audiences. The film presents a documentary-style view of life in rural Zambia, rather than focusing on the non-profit’s mission. “We are using VR to tell a different story about charity in Africa,” said Anderson.
Shooting conditions were unusual. “The entire production was powered by a solar panel,” said director Ben Bernstein. “We had no room for anything to break or malfunction. We shot it as an open-ended exploration, following our eyes and ears. On the last day, a school staff member told me that he enjoyed our presence, and that’s when I knew we had done it right.”
The premiere at Impact Network’s annual fundraising gala, Chefs for Impact, held at the Eventi Hotel in Manhattan, featured a gourmet tasting menu prepared by seven top chefs from New York restaurants. Impact Network provided the 250 guests with a cardboard VR viewer and instructions to download the Vrideo app on their smartphones.
“This project was very ambitious for an NGO of our size,” Anderson said. “VR can be a force for change and social good, and we hope the experience will inspire people to take action and improve the lives of vulnerable kids around the world.”
Impact Network, a 501(c)(3) organization, serves 2,200 students a year in Zambia through a model that combines e-learning technology with teacher training, weekly management, and solar power. To learn more about the organization visit: www.impactnetwork.org
Contact: Emily Anderson
Producer, I Am Because of You, and VP of External Relations, Impact Network
203-216-7508 // firstname.lastname@example.org