Over this past year, ETL produced a documentary on the spiritual and cultural significance individuals have with water. The two stories the team chose to parallel were from the perspectives of Hindu individuals in India and the band of Chippewa Native Americans in Red Lake, Minnesota. Both of these stories explored the connection people share with water, either by religious or cultural practice. Throughout the film, we identified the presence of a gap within American ties to water. The gap, we learned, is not a failure in forming a connection, nor understanding the significance of water, but that individuals struggle to perceive the connection they have with water. In failing to form connection, we succeed at forming apathy towards the water we survive by.
Following our documentary premiere, ETL worked in partnership with 13 other campus clubs and organizations ranging from Women’s Leadership and Campus ministry to Chemistry Club and College Democrats and Republicans, to put together Water Week, a week-long journey allowing students to see the importance of and connection we share with water as we walk along our everyday lives. This initiative is one that will continue every year with these clubs, and we hope will expand to even more as the years continue.
The birth of technology has made staying in touch with one another simple, but in staying connected with each other, there has been a loss of the connection with our planet. The increasing amount of electronic waste around us daily has demonstrated the failure in finding sustainable ways to dispose of it. Fascinated by this issue, ETL traveled to Hong Kong to document what is happening to our e-waste, and what we can do about it.
After sharing the documentary with our community, ETL was able to partner with the sustainability offices at CSB/SJU to begin a sustainable depository for e-waste within our immediate community. In addition to the depository, we also researched the best e-waste deposit centers within the Twin Cities, where the majority of our students are from, so that sustainable e-waste recycling doesn’t end upon graduation.
In January of 2016, ETL traveled to Rwanda to document the role that women play in agriculture as a force for economic stability and gender equality from Minnesota to Rwanda. Ubumwe, meaning “unity” in Kinyarwanda, explores the difficulties presented to women farmers, as well as the immense strength the women gain economically, socially, and personally within their communities.
In May of 2014, the ETL team determined that the project they were to focus on for the following academic year would be on Indigenous Issues. In researching indigenous populations, it was decided that the story should capture issues of the Sàmi people. As the only recognized indigenous community of Europe, the film explores the modern history of the Sámi people as they create their own pathway in the modern world. In a story about both resistance and survival, the documentary shed light on dying cultures and the necessity of tradition and the interconnectedness of all people. The subtle approach to the issues of indigeniety, cultural diversity, and heritage loss provided a stark contrast to the previous films efforts at presenting an issue of social justice.
In years preceeding the debut of this documentary, it had become apparent to ETL members that the Sterns County area, the region of Minnnesota CSB/SJU resides, had a clear misunderstanding of refugees. As a result of the hatred and misunderstanding, ETL to chose to focus their documentary on the refugee crisis. With a large population of Karen refugees in Saint Paul, Minnesota, the team focused specifically on the Karen population, a group of people who live on the border of Burma and Thailand as a result of a drawn out civil war and genocide. The documentary parallels refugee issues both in the United States and abroad.
In January of 2014, ETL traveled to Thailand to document a camp of Karen refugees, the struggles and hopes they have in their journey to find a better life for themselves and their families. Following the premiere of the documentary, the team decided to begin an annual $1,000 scholarship for Karen refugees to attend university.
Finding passion in the stigma against mental health, in January of 2013, ETL members traveled to India to investigate the comparison of mental health stigma to that of the United States. Specifically, the documentary focused on the Angali Mental Health Rights Organization and how they combat such stigmas. This film explores what can happen if charity starts in the home, and how individual’s response to others with or without mental illnesses is taught and can be relearned.
During the conflict of the 1990s, Bosnia and Herzegovina faced horrible acts of genocide that were labeled as the worst genocide in Europe's history since the Holocaust. After learning about these atrocities, ETL members wanted to unveil the story to a greater audience. The team traveled to Bosnia and Herzegovina to film the rebuilding after the war in December of 2011. This documentary explored history through the lens of the young and how they are working together to rebuild their country.
For the production of our fourth film, ETL members traveled to Nepal to examine the issue of human trafficking. The film features Padhma Creations, an innovative social venture that empowers human trafficking victims by providing knitting and business training. "Pragati," which means "progress" in Nepali, truly showed the progress occurring in Nepal, and generated discussions around human trafficking on campus, encouraged our community to buy Padhma products, and engaged CSB/SJU students in several volunteer opportunities with nonprofit organizations throughout Minnesota.
The documentary-led action coupled to this film was the availability of Padhma Creations products in the CSB/SJU bookstores starting in Fall 2011. The interns at Padhma Creations were recruited through CSB/SJU Career Services network, and the products are still available for purchase in the bookstores today. In 2011, ETL's work with Padhma Creations was also featured on Dosomething.org and in The New York Times.
In January 2010, after nearly 8 months of researching and planning, the ETL team traveled to rural Uganda to discover, understand and foster student activism regarding the plight of child-headed families in Africa. Our team partnered with the Uganda Rural Fund and Hope Academy to interview doctors, teachers, politicians and, most importantly, the youth left to take care of younger siblings all while attending school and maintaining jobs.
Following the documentary, a benefit concert at CSB/SJU helped ETL raise $1600 for the Academy. Additionally, after the premiere, a group of inspired students set up a social enterprise selling jewelry made by students at Hope Academy. In December 2011, a second group of students from SIFE returned to Uganda to film an update piece on Hope Academy and evaluate progress made over the past two years.
The second project centered in Chile and was specifically aimed at capturing the importance, and necessity, of micro loans to female entrepreneurs in South America. Throughout the fall of 2008 team members researched the benefits of these lending opportunities. In December of 2008 six students traveled to Chile where they conducted interviews which documented the benefits of micro-loans and the challenges of obtaining them.
Upon returning to Minnesota the team spent the next four months editing footage for an April premiere of the new documentary at CSB/SJU. After premiere, the team decided their call to action was advocacy and support for Banco Esperanza, a women's micro lending organization in nearby Cold Spring, Minnesota.
In ETL’s first documentary, the organizations founders traveled back to Guatemala with 4 of their peers who shared in the founders’ passion to spread the significance of fair trade coffee. Documenting their journey, the group created Somos de Café, which told the story of impoverished coffee farmers in the highlands of Guatemala and the difference a Fair-Trade organization, Mundo Verde, was making in their community.
After the success and enthusiasm generated by the first film, the students were inspired to take action. ETL collaborated with Students in Free Enterprise, a CSB/SJU organization granting micro-loans for student empowerment projects, to raise awareness through fair-trade coffee sales on campus. The work done by ETL in collaboration with the student-run coffee shops on the CSB/SJU campus led to a movement and eventually a commitment to serving 100% fair-trade coffee in these coffee shops.