The current portrayal of rural Africans in the media tends to leave behind a lingering feeling of pity and guilt. What could we, Westerners living in the developed world, possibly have in common with those people? How might we shift this relationship from one of pity to a more mutually beneficial relationship of understanding and respect?
This Is Us began in 2008 when Jeremy Teicher was enlisted by a 21st-century learning company, Cybersmart Africa, to create a digital storytelling project in Ecole Sinthiou Mbadane 1, a rural primary school located off paved roads about 2 hours south of Dakar, Senegal. The project goal was to introduce digital learning to the Sinthiou Mbadane community through a group of student leaders. The selected students worked with Jeremy to produce short films about everyday life in the village. This group, twenty students aged roughly 13-20, formed the core of the This Is Us project.
The project lasted roughly one month, during which time Jeremy learned from his students that large village families are generally unable to send all of their children to school, so the children who are selected to attend find themselves in challenging positions of responsibility. Jeremy saw the potential for very powerful stories to emerge from this group of students and so he had found a new goal: return to Senegal and continue the project, this time broadening the scope of the films to allow students to share the touching and inspiring stories behind their pursuit of formal education.
This Is Us continued in 2010 when Jeremy secured funding through a Dickey Center Lombard fellowship, awarded to graduating seniors of Dartmouth College to "encourage and enable Dartmouth alumni to use their education to make a significant positive impact on society." Jeremy also spoke with representatives from Kodak and was able to obtain further sponsorship for Our Stories with a donation of ten Zx1 pocket HD video cameras.
On November 3, United States Ambassador to Senegal Marcia Bernicat hosted, at her residence, the Dakar premiere screening of This Is Us: Video Stories from Senegalese Youth. The event was televised nationally and the documentary received press coverage around the world.
On May 2nd, This Is Us: Video Stories from Senegalese Youth was selected as a national finalist for the 2011 Student Academy Awards!