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Posts tagged "refugees"

Connecting the dots, beyond filmmaking

Posted by Leonard on June, 28, 2010

As a filmmaker and videographer working internationally producing media about environmental and social issues, being able to make connections and have a positive impact is very rewarding. It was great to see 2 projects I’d worked on cross to create a unique opportunity.  It’s also nice to be able to continue my relationships with clients beyond the actual content production stage of our relationship, and this past Friday I had a nice synergy of client overlap.

A few months back while working on a story for Cedar Grove Composting at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show at The Washington Convention Center, I was following the food and beverage manager around the facility and filming while she talked about all the great food scrap and waste product composting they were doing there. When she lead me through the industrial kitchen, I saw people from all over the world working there, immigrants who didn’t all speak english but seemed happy in their work environment, and it occurred to me that perhaps this was a place where some of the Bhutanese Refugees I’d filmed in my story about their relocation to here in Seattle’s Rainier Valley, could also work.  So after checking with Cedar Grove to clarify that was an appropriate way to communicate with the Convention Center, I floated the idea, and the woman taking me on the tour was fine with it.

So here, a few months later, I was back at the Convention Center with a group of 10 refugees who have now been hired as part time workers there, washing dishes and doing other basic kitchen work.  To my surprise, it took about 5 hours of me translating and handholding to get all the paper work filled out together with a brief orientation around everything from getting uniforms to how to enter the building and what to expect when they showed up for their first shifts tomorrow. Taking so long wasn’t a big deal for me as it felt great to see some of these refugees so excited to be getting some actual work.  Arriving in America over the last 2 years with our economy in shambles, it’s been a very tough time to find work and for almost all of them it will be their first actual employment here in America.  They’ll be making the WA state minimum wage of $8.55/hr and some of them will be working the night shift from 10PM – 6 AM but overall they were incredibly excited and very grateful for the opportunity I’d facilitated for them.

Of the ten of them, there were 2 sisters, 2 brothers, one husband and wife and their 2 sons and daughter in law, ranging in age from 19-mid 50’s and best of all, the father featured in the piece I produced about their resettlement. He’s been here for 2 years now and with no language or work skills, he’s been very bored and unengaged in little more than going to ESL classes that are slow and frustrating and taking care of his young grandson, but little positive engagement with the outside world because of his limited language skills.  So he was very excited and couldn’t stop telling me how much it meant to him.  Also, I was very pleasantly surprised by how positive and supportive the staff getting them all signed up were, from the HR manager to the head chef (who had been to and loved Nepal as a tourist and knew how lovely Nepali people were), they were patient and joyful and overall really ready to give these folks a chance which is exactly what they need. Unfortunately the work is not full time but hopefully once they get a chance to prove themselves and the economy picks up, that there’ll be opportunities for more long term employment. My hope is that over time, this venue will have positions for more Bhutanese Refugees.

Here is the piece I produced about composting food scraps at the Convention Center http://vimeo.com/10096783

Here is the piece about the resettlement of Bhutanese Refugees from camps in Nepal to Seattle’s Rainier Valley http://vimeo.com/7260916

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