I am roused from my jet-lagged slumber by a particularly loud horn as a truck passes a little too closely on slowly rising road. I work out I’ve managed to achieve 15 minutes of sleep but already the air feels cooler. We are on our way to a former French hill station in the north of Vietnam and I for one am grateful to be escaping the heat and sapping humidity of Hanoi and ascending to our currently cloud-obscured destination.
Our hosts evidently felt it would be cruel to subject a couple of pasty Britons to long days of training in Hanoi’s most blistering heat wave of the year.
EIA is famous for its undercover and campaigning work; however, less well known is our work training local partners. For many years, EIA has provided capacity-building training workshops in countries such as Tanzania, Indonesia and, most recently, Vietnam. The aim is use our knowledge and experience to help people to carry out their own investigations with minimal assistance.
Alongside training in research, advocacy and safety on investigations, we also teach the basics of film and photography. These skills are essential for investigations and have become particularly relevant in providing evidence and promoting a cause. Most people who attend these courses already know the story they want to tell, it’s just a matter of giving them some basic skills to do so in the most effective way possible.
After some quick classroom sessions on composition, understanding camera settings and camera techniques, the real learning can begin as students set out to research, photograph and film a topic of their choice. The topics on this training don’t disappoint, covering issues from the illegal wildlife trade to the meaning of love!
Although these courses are short, I can see the development in the students. There is only one way to become a good photographer or filmmaker and that is to get out with your camera. We provide equipment that is primarily intended to help people film investigations, although we do encourage people to take it out just to film and improve the skills they have learnt on the course.
These trainings are definitely not about us going to countries to tell people how they should be doing things. After spending a few days with our participants we hope we have given them encouragement and some basic skills to build upon, but we in turn learn from our hosts.
In my short time at EIA, I have met some of the most inspiring and brave people through these workshops. They are all fighting for what they believe in and I hope that through these courses they can become even more effective at doing that.