Our purpose is to illustrate a social tragedy through an exceptional project by showing how a widespread national affliction is fought by means of the passion which embodies the pride of the country: namely running. By filming and accompanying the blind and partially-sighted women and men who will explain to us what it is like to be living their lives in darkness in an environment where nearly no organized facility is provided to help them surmount their handicap. We will show how an NGO, doctors, trainers and the runners themselves mobilize for the cause by organizing and taking part in a grand athletic adventure on the mythical high plateaux of Gheralta. Your support will allow us, by the end of February, to leave for Ethiopia and spend ten days there to carry through this project. We thank you in advance!
Our objective is reached. This buget will allow us to leave realizing this documentary. We nevertheless need more money to assure the post-production and the development. Do not hesitate to donate or to spread the project. More there will be money, better will be our documentary. Thank you !
Blind Runners : Description
Blind Runners will be a web documentary. We intend to follow during the ten days of our stay the protagonists of a project called "Accelerate Ethiopia". This project, introduced by an NGO called The HIMALAYAN CATARACT PROJECT, aims to bring professional care to the blind and partially-sighted women and men and to perform one thousand operations that should make it possible for them to improve or recover their sight.
Funds needed will be raised thanks to the running of a half marathon organized on the high plateaux of Gheralta. Stars such as Gebre Gebremariam, winner of the NY marathon, Verknesh Kidane, the world Cross Country champion, and Scott Jurek, the Ultramarathon champion, will compete in the race. The legend of long distance running, Haile Gebreselassie will also be there.
These champions, all of them stars in their respective countries, will measure their strength against hundreds of high-level Ethiopian runners. Together, they will make their way through the stony landscapes of terraced fields and old churches, competing to win this mythical race drawn in the heart of a region considered to be the cradle of humanity.
An avoidable plague
Ethiopia, a country of 90 million inhabitants, has 1,2 million blind people, 2,8 million people affected by impaired eyesight, and no less than 9 million children between the ages of 1 to 9 years old are affected by trachoma, an infectious disease causing blindness. The main causes of blindness in Ethiopia are known to be cataracts (49,9 %), trachoma-related corneal opaqueness (11,5 %), refraction disorders (7,8 %), other diseases of the cornea (7,8 %), and glaucoma (5,2 %).
According to doctors, 80 % of blindness in Ethiopia is avoidable. Lack of hygiene, poor nutrition and the absence of properly structured health care as also of ophthalmologists (one per one million inhabitants) explain the endemic dimension of this evil. Besides the physical and human suffering which it engenders, the handicap excludes or prevents sight-impaired people from working and thus accounts for the socioeconomic devastation experienced by numerous communities.
The running, a vector of integration
Just like the kids of Rio de Janeiro's favelas kick soccer balls while dreaming to be Pelé, the children from the suburbs of Addis Ababa run to look like Gebreselassie. Ceaselessly, on the immense Meskel Square, thousands of young people train.The best will succeed in joining the elite training centers and may in due time represent the prestigious nation of runners in world competitions. But more than a social elevator, running is a tradition - the only means of locomotion for numbers of villagers for whom road transportation does not exist. They take to the tracks from their youngest age. By running, because walking would take too much time. At more than 2 000 meters above sea level, their unique capacity for running will increase and develop naturally as a gift brought about by necessity.
To collect the necessary capital for fighting a national plague thanks to the national sport: what could be a more real and potent symbol?
On February 23rd, we will embark on the "caravan". Departing from of Addis Ababa, the capital, in the direction of the mountains of Gheralata, the 900 km trip will be made in several stages.
The first stage will take us to Dessie, then on to Woldiya, where, during a period of three days, doctors of the Himalayan Cataract Project will perform their eye operations on the blind and partially-sighted people. The choice of this place is not gratuitous: it is one of the locations where the highest incidence of bilateral blindness (both eyes being affected) has been noted.
The journey will continue, passing by Mekele, to reach the mountains of Gheralta. It is there that the half marathon will take place. In the course of this trip, we will interview Gebre Gebremariam at length on the reasons for his commitment, his perception of the problem of blindness and the hope that he has that his sport can contribute to resolving this endemic affliction. Job Heintz, the person responsible for the Himalayan Cataract Project, will explain its activities to us. Together, we shall reflect on the genesis of the project, its results, and the importance of such initiatives. A trainer of a Running Center will also intervene in our documentary for the purpose of explaining the importance of running in the country generally and for this project in particular. The blind runner will be the heart of our web documentary. He will talk to us about the sensations he experiences by running. His guide / trainer will also intervene.
Our objective is triple: to illustrate the hardness of life in a difficult socioeconomic context; to produce a work of pedagogic intention - by explaining these diseases, their causes, the solutions that can - or could - be found; to report on a unique occurrence where hundreds of recently operated persons will probably recover their sight during our stay. An atmosphere of exceptional excitement will mark this journey. That's why we believe that it is useful to deal with the subject in a multimedia shape.
This web documentary will last between 30 to 40 minutes. No voice off, only the protagonists who report and reflect on their reality. The video will constitute the core of the project: the conversations will be filmed and recorded as they occur, interspersed by photos by way of commentary. The photos will also have an aesthetic role: they will report the beauty framing the journey. The soundtrack will not be used only in conjunction with the imagery, but also on its own in order to transcribe the universe of blind people.
And finally the text, which is essential for us. There will be short explanations of the images and context provided for the photos. But there will also be articles which will allow the Internet user to understand better the technical, medical and statistical aspects of the problem. The three days of operations will be the object of the entire exercise, such as the actual running that we plan to follow from start to finish. Equipped with a Go Pro camera, one of us will put on shoes and follow the runners during the marathon. That's why we are launching this appeal for more than 1650 euro, without which this project cannot be carried through. Some people with media contacts may allow us to envisage lesser development costs, and our school can lend us all the material.
Here is the breakdown of our envisaged expenses:
550 euro for a plane ticket A/R
400 euro in order to rent a car with a driver (we are not allowed to drive by ourselves in Ethiopia)
200 euro for accommodation costs
500 euro to provide for or mitigate possible support failures we may encounter.
The estimated budget covers the bare minimum. It is extremely tight. We have by now reached the goal of 1650 euro. But we are certain to encounter supplementary expenses for the post-production. The more we can collect, with your support, the better our movie will be.
This subject, halfway between a social theme, medical implications and sport, holds our heart. Be sure that we will put in it all our energy.
Whatever the success of our request to you might be, we thank you.
To be a journalist to tell, transcribe, and show. But especially, to be a journalist through the image: this is my ambition and the reason why the shape of this Web-documentary pleases me quite particularly. Dealing with such a subject in Ethiopia is not without its importance for me: part of my roots are in this country which I know and admire. Returning there as a journalist would first of all be a dream come true.
My vocation is the paper, but my ambition is the multimedia. The web documentary represents the kind of journalism I favor. As an amateur runner myself, the talent and standards expected of the Ethiopian for this sport fascinate me. To approach this subject through a big social cause in my first web documentary, is for me a luck that I will cherish with pleasure and rigor.
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