Ben and I have worked together for many years, both at VSO and collaborating as freelancers, but it was in 2013 that we decided to come together to create Mile 91. Many people ask us about our name. Mile 91 is a town in Sierra Leone and the first place we travelled to together, way back in 2007 when I had just set up the story gathering team at VSO and Ben was just switching from being a fundraiser to a professional photographer.
Our first trip as Mile 91 was in August 2013 to Uganda with the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) . We made a film to help them launch their global health strategy and captured stories of need that would help secure funding. Last month they sent us back to Uganda to see how things are three years on and to capture stories of change.
We returned to Kitovu Hospital where we filmed UK volunteers training local health professionals in emergency obstetric skills, visited rural health centres where new Mums told us about their lives being saved because of improved skills in their area, and saw the next generation of midwives being educated by alumni of the RCOG training course. It was inspiring for us and I am sure it will be for donors when they see the films.
Returning to a place we’ve worked in before isn’t something we do often. Understandably when international charities are looking at how to spend their limited budgets, they don’t necessarily want to go back somewhere they’ve been to reasonably recently. But revisiting communities to report back on how things have changed as a result of donations and investment is a powerful way to engage donors and help them understand clearly the importance of their gift.
Talking of gifts, one of the things we started doing last year was making a Kiva loan to a project in every country we travel to. I usual blog about it while we are overseas, but I must confess – I forgot! Our Uganda loan went to Olivia to help her buy a dairy cow so she increase her family’s income.