Making the Video: “The Peace Corps Effect”
By Erica Burman on Tuesday, December 21st, 2010
When NPCA conceived of the My Piece of the Peace Corps video contest, we really hoped we would receive submissions from host county nationals who had lived and worked alongside Peace Corps Volunteers. It’s one thing to tell our own stories about the Peace Corps, but it’s so much more powerful if others can speak to the Peace Corps’ impact.
We were not disappointed, as one of the very first submissions came from Moldova. The video titled “The Peace Corps Effect” features a sweet-faced teenage girl talking about the impact that Moldova Peace Corps Volunteer Matt Rasmussen had on her life. Current Volunteers Marlene Nancy Lopez and Matt Jones produced the film and shared the back-story of their submission with us.
“We initially saw the ad for the competition on National Peace Corps Association’s website, and I immediately thought it would be a fun project,” writes Marlene. “We were in the middle of filming another project so we knew that if we did it, it had to be with someone that was so great we could do all our filming in one day. Another Volunteer in our group, Erin Flynn, suggested Irene Iacoban, and indeed she was just that amazing.”
Irina had grown close to Matt during his two years in her community. When Erin had replaced him, Irina immediately befriended her as well. She and Irina began teaching English together and it wasn’t too long afterward that Marlene met Irena. Irina’s “amazing English skills” immediately made an impression on Marlene. After hearing about her volunteer work and seeing her “awesome” photography, Marlene “became a huge fan.”
In the film, Irina tells how Matt inspired her to go out and do something extra for her community, and how exposure to the English language and American culture opened her up to trying new things. Her steadily improving English skills led to her volunteering, and now she has taken it upon herself to do for her peers at school what Matt did for her. Irina is a peer health educator and runs the English program at the Casa de Creatie, a community center for children.
“We wish to say that stories like Irina’s are more common than we realize,” writes Marlene. “It’s the small things we [Peace Corps Volunteers] do, like spend time with someone or talk English to them, that makes all the difference in the world. That’s the story we want to tell.”
Marlene never thought she would get involved in film making. She has never studied it and had only ever done a short film for an anthropology class project prior to Peace Corps. “For this reason and more, Peace Corps is so amazing,” enthuses Marlene, “It’s full of surprises!” Her Moldovan film group, Mahala Films, has partnered with 3 Roma NGOs and created a mini-film about the Roma in Moldova. The film will be at the center of a new media education campaign there, will be used in community discussions as didactic material for children, and will be shown at the European Union Council to help illuminate the current situation of the Roma minority.
Mahala Films has also been invited to participate in Aljazeera’s documentary film festival next year and asked by the International Pestalozzi Children’s Foundation to enter seven Roma communities to create media projects with the children.
“We are so excited,” writes Marlene. “Peace Corps created the environment to experiment with my talents and I discovered things about myself I never knew existed. This is not the exception, this is norm! Long live the Peace Corps!!”