Video Volunteers Announces 'IndiaUnheard' - The World's First Community News Service: Making Change By Bringing Untold Stories from the Farthest Villages of India to Impact a Global Audience

An innovative business model for the 'Creative Poor' to democratize the media from the bottom up

NEW YORK and GOA, India, Dec. 8, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Video Volunteers today announced the release of the 150th video made by its IndiaUnheard Community Correspondents. One of the most significant, growing collections of content ever created by rural communities reporting on – and changing – their realities, IndiaUnheard is Video Volunteers' flagship "Community News Service." A network of people from slums and villages in India who have been trained to make video news reports on corruption, human rights, health, sanitation and other issues, IndiaUnheard is making an impact in these villages and across the globe. Since the program's launch on May 1, 2010, one new video has been released each day on Video Volunteers' online portal www.indiaunheard.videovolunteers.org and through Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites.

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Video Volunteers has created the largest, most diverse network of full-time, salaried "Community Video Producers" anywhere in the world. The Producers' videos have been seen by more than 300,000 people in outdoor screenings in thousands of villages and slums. More than 150 disadvantaged citizens – former diamond polishers, rickshaw drivers and day laborers – are currently working as Community Producers across nearly every Indian state. Most are women, Dalits, Tribals and Muslims, who are members of the most silenced communities in India.

"These 150 videos are stories by the poor, not just about the poor," says Video Volunteers' India Director Stalin K. "Community Correspondents report on human rights violations they live through, and this gives their videos new perspective and power.

"The work has inspired thousands of poor people to organize and take action," he continues. "This has halted corruption, exposed human rights violations, increased understanding between communities in conflict, enabled women to speak out and created permanent platforms for community dialog and discussion."  

The 150th video is about a particularly strange community of beggars in India. It was made by Rohini Pawar, a 25-year-old woman from a poor rural farming family who was married at age 16. Ms. Pawar interviewed the beggars, living on the outskirts of her small village, who flagellate themselves in exchange for money – one of the thousands of unusual customs and sub-castes in India that are largely undocumented.    

Working with Video Volunteers has transformed Ms. Pawar from a silenced housewife into a community leader: "I just took a loan from my microcredit group to purchase a computer," she says. "Now I can do all my Video Volunteers work from home rather than traveling 40 minutes to the nearest Internet cafe. I am the first person in my village to own a computer and all my neighbors are coming to see me use it. This will help me earn more as a Community Correspondent."

Another IndiaUnheard Community Correspondent, Mukesh Rajak, a young man from the so-called "Untouchable," or Dalit, community, says: "My videos are making an impact on the education of children in my village. I made a video on corruption in the local schools. Because of it, the headmaster was demoted. People in two other villages heard about this – I am the only reporter for about 100 miles – and asked me to make videos on the corruption in their schools. In one village the school was not even built and there hadn't been a teacher for six months. Yet all the teachers were still being paid. I led a rally of angry villagers and showed the video on my cell phone to the authorities as proof. They put a stop to this."

An Innovative Business Model

The IndiaUnheard Community News network is an innovative business model for democratizing the media from the bottom up. Developing countries have very few "stringers" in rural areas, thus major newspapers and TV stations have extreme difficulty in reporting on issues that happen outside the major cities. Video Volunteers sells the content made by Community Correspondents to different media partners such as NGOs and foundations as well as major TV and online news networks such as MTV, Current TV and various CNN properties.

"We believe the 'creative poor' can be real winners in the changing media landscape," says Stalin K. "It's not just that our Community Correspondents are paid less than other freelancers the mainstream media can hire. With the advent of citizen journalism, the world is hungry to see content they've never seen before. Our Community Producers can deliver stories from areas it is difficult for the mainstream to access, and provide a window into the real India."

"We plan to expand nationally to a point where there is one Community Correspondent in each of the 626 districts of India, and internationally, in partnership with different NGOs and media companies."

In the longer term, this low-cost, innovative model is a way for every village in the developing world to have someone trained to use the latest technologies to advocate for their rights. There are now video-enabled cell phones in all corners of the world, and a model like IndiaUnheard can allow these technologies to be used to capture human rights violations and bring them to the attention of the world.

About Video Volunteers

Video Volunteers' mission is to empower the world's poorest citizens to participate in the community media movement so they can right the wrongs they witness and become players in the global media revolution. Active in India and Brazil, Video Volunteers is a winner of the Knight News Challenge, a prestigious journalism award, a TED Fellowship and an Echoing Green Fellowship, which is the premier recognition for young social entrepreneurs. In 2008, Video Volunteers was shortlisted for the International Development Prize of the King Baudouin Foundation of Belgium.

Video Volunteers has worked with or been funded by many leading organizations, including UNDP, Witness, Fledgling Fund, Art Action, the Global Fund for Children, Pangea Day, International Youth Foundation, HIVOS, Creative Visions Foundation and Goethe Institut, among others. The concepts that Video Volunteers has developed have been supported by USAID, UNESCO and the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust. Video Volunteers' work has been featured on MTV, Nickelodeon, The Star Network, Pangea Day, several CNN platforms and Current TV. The founder of Video Volunteers has been recognized as an "Architect of the Future" by the Waldzell Institute of Austria and honored as a "Young Person of Distinction" by the Junior Chamber Osaka in Japan. Video Volunteers has won the NYU Stern Business Plan Competition, a Tech Award, Manthan Award and Development Gateway Award shortlist. In May 2010 Video Volunteers was the community media partner for the UN's World Summit of the Information Society, the primary gathering for global agenda-setting in the communications arena.

For further information, please visit www.videovolunteers.org, follow us @twitter/videovolunteers, or fan us on Facebook.

To speak with Stalin K., please contact Chair of the Board Davia Temin or Trang Mar at 212-588-8788 or news@teminandco.com.

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SOURCE Video Volunteers / Temin and Company



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