With an endless stream of news on our screens, stories that matter most can disappear in a simple swipe.
World Vision has created a new role to bring our supporters – and the world – the human stories of those affected by rising emergencies.
In the past six months, Roving Emergency Communications Specialist Brianna Piazza (pictured above) has interviewed a family of four children left orphaned by Ebola, teens forced into sex work by hunger and tramped through the dusty, drought-starved fields of Angola with a drone.
What does your role entail?
Within 24 hours of receiving a call I could be on a plane heading to some of the most difficult places on earth, like the Ebola zone in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
It’s my job to raise awareness about humanitarian crises, and provide a window into the lives of those affected by natural disasters, conflict and outbreaks of disease.
These people often want to use their own voices to highlight the situation in their country – it's empowering for them. But it's rare that they have this opportunity. I take my video camera, tripod, lenses, lights and various microphones to find and record compelling stories that my colleagues around the world – from Australia to the UK and Canada – can share on social media and pitch to journalists.
For me, it's a privilege. Media coverage makes it possible for World Vision to continue to help the most vulnerable children and their families.
What’s the main aim of your role and why was it created?
My role was recently created at World Vision because there was a need to fly a person in to humanitarian responses at short notice, to support communications and media.
Emergencies are striking more often – and lasting for much longer. The Syria conflict, for example, is in its eight year, while Ebola has been killing people in DRC for more than a year.
I’m a big believer in the power of storytelling. It opens our eyes to different issues and can help us connect with people living on the other side of the world, in places we previously knew nothing about.
You’ve travelled to Africa twice this year – to cover the Ebola outbreak in DRC, and the drought and food shortages in Southern Africa. Can you share what a typical day was like in the field on both trips?
I get up early and hit the road with my camera gear, water and food supplies. The driver, translator and I are usually not back in the office until sunset. I'll often work on my laptop in the car. When we arrive, I hunt around for stories and speak to people. It's usually extremely hot and you have to constantly be aware of security issues while conducting interviews. It's unpredictable and things could turn at any moment. At night, I generally spend hours editing footage and interviews, and doing other work for my colleagues. You often go without much sleep and I'm often sleeping in uncomfortable conditions. So they're very long days. It's definitely no holiday but I still enjoy it!
Of the people you met and interviewed, which stories have affected you the most?
For me, the most heart-breaking thing is to see young people maimed by war. It robs them of opportunities, and they rarely have access to adequate care. I've seen a fair bit of that in the DRC. Meanwhile, the violence that the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh have suffered, and how children and elderly people were killed, are shocking.
I met a mother, Minara, whose 13-year-old son, Hossenjohar, was shot as they fled Myanmar. She broke down crying, saying her heart was broken. It was six months later but her pain was still raw. She wanted the world to know her son existed. She wanted people to know how he was taken from her.
“My heart breaks when I think of my son,” she said.
“He was in the field when the shooting started. He tried to get home but on the way he was shot. I couldn’t even bury him. After I lost my child I left home forever. I never went back.”
Recently I was in Angola, one of the countries worst hit by a severe drought and hunger crisis across Southern Africa. Weather patterns are becoming more erratic and extreme due to climate change in this part of the world. As a result, children are doing it really tough. I met several kids who were going without food, giving up school and working roadsides because the family harvests had failed. One 15-year-old girl told us she was forced to sell herself just so she, her mother and grandmother could eat. It was heart-breaking for this young girl, who dreamed of going to school and studying. Yet circumstances have left children with no choice. “If I don’t do this work, how will I survive?” *Cayo told me, holding back tears. You would never imagine a drought doing that to children in Australia.
Where is next on your itinerary?
Nothing is ever set in stone until a few days before I travel. But it's tsunami season so I'll be on standby over Christmas and New Year watching for major emergencies in the Asia-Pacific region. I've also had my eye on Iraq and the Venezuela migrant crisis – both situations are worsening.