Aaron Nah – Visual Storytelling Fellow Liberia 2015

Last year, I had a wonderful experience working as a visual storytelling fellow in Liberia for Accountability Lab. It was an opportunity made possible through the collaboration between Newhouse Center for Global Engagement and AL which I was very fortunate to seize upon.

I arrived in Monrovia, the capital city of Liberia, in late May right after completing my coursework at Syracuse University. My initial plan was to stay only for the summer but thanks to an offer from AL, I ended up staying until the end of the year.

Prior to the fellowship, I had never been to Liberia; with only limited knowledge of the place I had come to, it felt daunting at first but nevertheless I was excited to start the journey and working with the staff in telling their stories has allowed me to gain deeper understanding of the Liberian society and the issues that they were striving to address.

As a visual fellow, I was in charge of various projects ranging from documenting daily activities to creating promotional videos for AL’s local partners. One example was a profile story I did on Jefferson Krua, a co-founder of a media outlet called The Bush Chicken, a who is set on bringing quality journalism to Liberian media landscape through his organization.

The highlight and perhaps the most memorable part of my stay was participating in Integrity Idol, AL’s global campaign that focuses on “naming and faming” honest government officials as an innovative way to fight corruption. In collaboration with filmmakers from the Liberia Film Institute, our team went out on a journey to capture those inspiring civil servants at work.

As awesome as it was to be a part of this project, it was by no means all smooth sailing: we were often faced with unique challenges in the process whether it be dealing with a car breaking down in the middle of the night, chasing down an interviewee in an area with no cellphone reception and so on.

It is not a pleasant experience, especially when you are working under tight schedule and you are constantly faced with unexpected setbacks on top of managing the creative side of the production. However, everything worked out in the end: we embraced the challenges as a team and it actually served as a great learning experience to learn how to adapt and improvise which I believe will be an invaluable skill set to have as a visual storyteller. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the team for patiently pulling through difficult situations and also many local friends who eagerly offered their time and energy to help out with the project wherever we went.

I left Monrovia in late December before Integrity Idol Liberia kicked off. Although I was not there during the actual campaign, it was very rewarding to watch people reacting to the films and the nominees being celebrated which made me feel that I had fulfilled my part in this project.

Looking back on the experience, it was an excellent opportunity to gain new insights and increase my capacity as a visual storyteller. Especially, as someone used to a one-man-band type of operation, working closely with a client and running a team really allowed me broaden my perspective in producing and project management.