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Paris Coyne & Shelby Crespi


Paris Coyne and Shelby Crespi won’t be spending the summer laying out by the pool or filing papers in an office. Instead, for eight weeks they will travel around East Africa, specifically Tanzania and Uganda. On their journey, their goals will be to film two short promotional videos for social enterprises Banapads and Solar Sister, and hopefully a third larger project: their own short documentary.

They will embark on the journey together with the support of the Global Social Benefit Institute, located here on campus. Initially strangers, the two were awarded the Global Social Benefit Fellowship a few weeks ago after applying last December. Paris, a junior, is studying film through the communication department, and Shelby, also a junior, is a public health major and chemistry minor.

“This is very new for me,” Shelby said, “It wasn’t until I applied for the fellowship that I thought filmmaking would ever be something that I delved into.”

Paris on the other hand has always been interested in filmmaking. She cited her great-grandfather, a cinematographer who worked on old glamour Hollywood films such as Gone With the Wind and Wizard of Oz ,as a major influence. “The fact that you throw these things together and you’re able to kind of suspend reality for a little bit,” she said, “that’s kind of magic and I think being able to work in magic is pretty amazing.”

Recalling the first time the two met when they were called in and told that they had both received the fellowship as a team, Shelby said she was impressed by Paris’ proposal about the potential documentary project.

“I can’t take total credit with that at all,” Paris said humbly, sharing that one of her film professors, Mike Whalen, had suggested the idea of doing a short documentary in addition to the two short videos about Banapads and Solar Sister.

“Banapads makes pads out of banana leaves for girls,” and  “Solar Sister makes solar lanterns and they’re trying to get into solar cooking stoves,” Shelby states. The GSBI works closely and has strong connections with these two social enterprises, which is how the girls got linked up with them for the fellowship.

“Film is really a really important vessel to communicate with because it can tell stories that can’t be told over print and can’t be told with just a still photo,” Paris said, describing the significance of such a project. “I think it kind of insights emotion which is pretty important when you’re talking about social enterprises and when they want to scale up and move onwards.”

Shelby agreed and sees the applications that this project will have on her public health studies. “When people see statistics in public health, they see numbers. Even if numbers tell the truth, they see numbers. They don’t see a face, they don’t see a story, they don’t see someone they can physically or emotionally connect with,” she said.

Both Paris and Shelby are equally passionate about the fellowship opportunity and hope to gain perspective not only in relation to their studies, but also on a personal level. “I think that having a culture shock is so important,” Paris said.

As for their “pet project,” the potential short documentary that would incorporate the stories behind both Banapads and Solar Sister and their effects on the community, both Paris and Shelby have a common focus: female empowerment. “Often when you get public exposure of Africa, you get these really incorrect representations of the people there,” Paris said, also adding that women especially, “need to be represented in a much more individual way.”

With only a few months before they leave, Paris and Shelby still have a lot of planning and learning to do. Next quarter they are taking a class where they will learn about about social enterprise and social entrepreneurship, in addition to creating detailed health and safety plans for their trip. Their most recent endeavor has been learning Swahili from Rosetta Stone.

“I am still in a place where I don’t fully know what to expect because it’s going to be such a dynamic atmosphere,” Shelby said, “But I just hope to gain a sense of some ways to better display public health,” she added.

And for Paris, she states “I just am excited to be able to immerse and have that human connection that you don’t get when you watch TV about a place. I love to travel and I love to meet new people and I love to get different perspectives.”


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