'Visionaries' documenting CWS refugee resettlement and development work

'Visionaries' - an independently produced program that airs on many PBS-TV stations - will kick off its 18th season in November by profiling Church World Service in a two-part series featuring the agency's refugee resettlement and development work.

While in Kenya, the documentary team visited Mathare, one of the world's largest slums, where CWS supports child-headed households. Photo: Visionaries, Inc.

“Visionaries” – an independently produced program that airs on many PBS-TV stations – will kick off its 18th season in November by profiling Church World Service in a two-part series featuring the agency's refugee resettlement and development work.

Hosted by veteran actor Sam Waterston (from "Law & Order" and HBO's "The Newsroom"), “Visionaries” documentaries highlight the rarely told stories of non-profit organizations all over the globe that are working to make a positive difference in their communities and beyond.

The documentary crew traveled to Kenya to film at the Kakuma Refugee Camp and at the CWS Resettlement Support Center in Nairobi. The latter helps refugee applicants to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program prepare their case files, then offers successful candidates an initial orientation to U.S. culture and help with travel logistics.

The crew also spent two days at the CWS refugee resettlement site in Richmond, Va., where they interviewed both newly arrived refugees and refugees who arrived several years ago and are now well integrated into the community.

Among interviewees was Chandra Chhetri, a Nepali ethnic refugee from Bhutan. He and his family lived in a bamboo stick shack in a refugee camp in Nepal before being resettled to Richmond in 2008. Now a CWS refugee program caseworker, he has saved enough money from his modest salary to make a down payment on a house.

The “Visionaries” crew accompanied Chhetri house hunting. It also visited the Chhetris and another Nepali Bhutanese family at home, interviewed a refugee from Darfur, and filmed an English as a Second Language class for refugees hosted by West End Presbyterian Church.

“For CWS, resettlement is not just an agency project, it is a community project,” said CWS Virginia Director Viktor Sokolyuk. “Church participation is essential to resettlement. The ‘Visionaries’ crew saw how deep CWS’s roots are in the community, and how many different partners play a role in the refugee resettlement process.”

The documentary crew also filmed CWS agricultural training and grant programs in Honduras; several Giving Hope projects in Nairobi, Kenya’s Mathare slums, and the nation’s largest CWS CROP Hunger Walk, in Charlotte, N.C.

"Every place we visited, I saw the powerful impact CWS-supported projects have had on individual communities and families," says "Visionaries" Producer/Director Jody Santos.

Each PBS-TV station decides whether and when to air “Visionaries.” Check the listings and reach out to the station’s program director or community affairs director if your local station isn't included. Let them know there is an audience for the series, promise to help promote it, and ask the station to carry the program at a reasonable hour.

Want more information? Contact irp@churchworldservice.org.

 

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