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Video Visionary Award – Humanitarian Recipient: Students Rebuild

by Joni Blecher on February 15, 2013

Video Visionary Award Humanitarian - Students RebuildWe’re pleased to announce our next recipient of the RealPlayer Video Visionary Award – Humanitarian, which recognizes non-profit organizations that use video in innovative and creative ways to help share their message, is Students Rebuild. The organization is dedicated to helping young people around the world make a connection with each other so that we can all better understand and take action on critical global issues.

The organization accomplishes this by getting involved with the people in affected areas and developing creative ways to spread the word about what is happening and raise money to help the causes in those areas. For example, after the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in 2011 the organization created the Paper Cranes project, which encouraged people to make and mail 100,000 cranes to trigger a donation of $200,000 from the foundation to fund Architecture for Humanity’s Sendai reconstruction efforts in partnership with Japanese designers and builders. Students Rebuild surpassed the initial goal with a final count of 2 million paper cranes.


The organizations latest project is the One Million Bones challenge designed to bring awareness and support to Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Students Rebuild has been using video to document challenge milestones to date and to help spread the word about the project including it’s One in a Million holiday card video, which highlights people around the world creating bones for the project. To get a better idea of the project watch the video below, which documents an event at the Museum of Tolerance featuring actress and Students Rebuild Ambassador Annabeth Gish:


We caught up with Sabrina Urquhart, Project Manager for Students Rebuild at the Bezos Family Foundation, to learn more about the organization and how the use of video helps spread its message. What follows is our interview with the Video Visionary Award – Humanitarian recipient:

RealPlayer (RP): Can you tell us more about the Students Rebuild Challenges?

Sabrina Urquhart (SU): Through the Students Rebuild Challenges, we give participants a way to support a global issue—and the foundation matches those efforts with funds to support work on the ground. For example, in the aftermath of Japan’s 2011 earthquake and tsunami, the Paper Cranes for Japan Challenge gave young people a way to take action: make and mail in an origami crane, which we matched with dollars for reconstruction. Within two months, more than two million cranes from over 38 countries and every U.S. state poured in, which generated $500,000 for rebuilding and reconstruction in Japan.

RP: Can you tell us a bit about the One in a Million project and how you’re using video to spread the word?

Sure! After the Haiti Challenge and Paper Cranes for Japan Challenge, Students Rebuild partnered with the One Million Bones project on a new challenge: take a stand against humanitarian crises by making a bone part of a visual petition to cover the National Mall in Washington, D.C. with a goal of 1,000,000 handmade bones by June, 2013. We’ve already reached 500,000 bones—amazing! But we need 500,000 more handmade bones before June in order to blanket the National Mall with a million bones!

Video is a big part of how we’re raising awareness about the challenge and encouraging more people to get involved. We’re using video to show:

  • Students in the DRC and Somalia so people in the U.S. and other countries can better understand and connect with the people they’re helping
  • How to make handmade bones
  • Our Students Rebuild On Tour! program which features staff traveling across the U.S., giving presentations and making bones
  • Our participants! For example, our Holiday Video was the culmination of a Facebook campaign where we asked our followers to send photos of themselves holding a sign or bone that read: “I’m One in a Million.”
  • Why the challenge is important through “preview bone installations” in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and New Orleans, Louisiana (see the installation below):

In addition to raising awareness of ongoing mass atrocities, the Bezos Family Foundation—through Students Rebuild—will provide $1 to CARE for their work to rebuild lives in Somalia and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)—up to $500,000.

RP: How long has Students Rebuild been producing videos?

SU: Students Rebuild began in January, 2010 in response to the devastating Haiti earthquake and we’ve been producing videos ever since.

RP: What is the effect you want to achieve by using split screens in many of the videos on your site?

SU: Initially, we were trying to solve a logistical problem because we were getting video that was shot on a camera phone, vertically. Most people don’t realize they can turn their phones sideways and get a “landscape” or widescreen effect—which is preferred for videos. Then we realized the benefit of having video shot vertically because we could use several split screens at once as a way to show the unifying nature of the challenges. We were able to show people from all over the country and the world who don’t know each other personally but are connected by taking challenges together.

RP: What were some of the goals of creating the Haiti videos?

SU: The main goal behind the Haiti videos was to connect challenge participants across the world with students in Haiti. We wanted to show the struggle, triumph and rich culture of young Haitians who continue to seek a good education in the wake of the 2010 Haiti earthquake. We’re lucky to have two great founding partners—Global Nomads Group (GNG) and Architecture for Humanity (AFH) who helped create and share the Haiti videos.

GNG has staff, on the ground for Students Rebuild, who shoot video to show day-to-day life in Haiti and dive deeply into the culture. They’ve taught students how to film video diaries so they can express themselves by telling their own stories. AFH followed specific Haitian students such as Diandine who lived in a tent camp while continuing her schooling and Schendy, a design Fellow who walked viewers through the reconstruction process of Haitian schools being rebuilt as a result of the challenge. Video worked as a great medium for helping participants feel the sights, sounds and events happening in post-earthquake Haiti. We encourage folks to check out our YouTube channel to check out these videos.

They also have a great program of interactive videoconferences and webcasts that allow U.S. students to interact directly with their Haitian peers. Watch the connection made between students around the world using this method:

RP: Can you tell us about the video team?

SU: We don’t have a formal video team so our method of gathering and sharing video at Students Rebuild is truly a collaborative effort. Our Social Media Manager can do wonders building and editing video in Final Cut Pro and our partners (AFH, GNG, CARE) shoot and share video with us.

We also get videos from relief staff and people on the ground—it’s great getting video directly from the young people who will benefit from the challenges. Of course, we also consider our Student Rebuilders/participants a very important part of our video team! We love to crowd source photos and video snippets and then build compilation videos that showcase and thank our contributors. We look forward to doing more of this in the future.

RP: Where can people go to learn more about Students Rebuild and spread the word on the organization?

SU: Our website and you can also find us on FacebookPinterest, Tumblr, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter @StudentsRebuild or #1inamillion. Stay tuned—we have some great new video coming in soon from Somalia and from all across the U.S.!

Click here for instructions on how to nominate a non-profit organization to receive a Video Visionary – Humanitarian award.

What do you think of Student Rebuild videos? Will you make a bone to contribute to the One Million Bones project? Let us know in the comments below.

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