One of the very best things we have done in PAK7 so far, is running the Video Star media training school last summer. It was such a privilege to work with these 11 young people, full of hope and youthful energy! And also to see them grow in confidence, in TV production, in faith, and in character. In the early planning stages for the Video Star initiative, we spent time meeting with and listening to young Pakistanis to find out how we could help them. They were excited about the idea of media training, but one of them wisely said that if we trained them and there was no ongoing access to equipment then they would not be able to use their skills. Another told me that if there was no opportunity to work afterwards, then they would have to go back to the call centres or Uber driving jobs they were doing before. Good points! After all, we didn’t want to train people (at some expense!) and then waste that investment :-)
So, we gave it some thought and decided that we would run an internship programme for those young people who showed desire and aptitude on the Media School over the summer. The details were a bit sketchy to begin with as we wanted to get to know the young people and find out what they were capable of, but things began to come together during the summer as we talked with the young people and with their teachers.
The first thing to say is that this was a paid internship. We wanted to respect the fact that these young people needed to earn some money - sometimes for themselves, and often to contribute to their families. It is probably fair to say that in Pakistan (and perhaps most countries around the world), it is easy to exploit young people who are desperate for jobs - and to pay them very little. We decided that we didn’t want to do that - we wanted to treat them fairly - especially as some had given up jobs or sold belongings to be able to come on the media school. We also wanted to tell them that we valued them and to give them the self belief that they were worth paying well. That way, when they eventually go to work in the open market, they will not have a poverty mentality or be struggling with a low self esteem (that’s the plan at least!)
The next thing to say is that at PAK7 we want to help people become self-sufficient, not dependent on us. In this way we will help to contribute to the overall Christian video production community and equip the church. So, as we planned the internship, we thought about how best to do this, and split the internship into 3 different phases...
In the first three months of the programme we would split the 10 students that wanted to take part into two groups: one in Rawalpindi (near Islamabad) and one in Lahore. In both of these cities we had partners who were working with us and who were willing to give day-to-day supervision. During this section of the internship, the young people would work in a more self-directed way, coming up with an idea for a TV program they want to make, selling us on the idea, scoping it and pricing it. This would help them to develop their own thinking, to try things and to learn from their mistakes. Once we had given the go-ahead, they would film and edit the program.
Because we are keen that the young people are all treated as individuals and that we help them in the direction that they want to go in, we decided to tailor the next three months to each one. In this phase each student will be found a work placement in a secular (or Christian) organisation so that they can get more ‘real-world’ experience and learn from a different set of teachers. Several want to be producers, some audio engineers, others cameramen… one even wants to work in TV makeup! The great news is that through our contacts in the media industry in Pakistan we have been able to find them all places where they can pursue the area of specialisation that appeals to them the most.
In some ways it might seem like a bit of a risk that we would allow (in fact encourage) them to go and work for someone else. What if they decide they want to work there in the future instead of with us? What if they don’t come back? Well, we are taking the long view - if you treat people with respect and care for their needs, they will respect you and take pleasure in working with you. And truthfully, even if they go off and work somewhere else, we will have equipped them to be a positive witness in the workplace and to bring their voice to the productions that are taking place.
Some people think we are crazy - and perhaps they are right :-) But, in the last 3 months we want to set them up for success and independence. We want them to be able to fly the nest at the end of the programme - which means getting a job, or setting up their own production businesses. So, we told them that we would pay them for the last 3 months and that we would not organise anything for them to do!!! Ha - we must be crazy (or genius!)
We would love to see some of them working together to set up their own production businesses. So, we will offer them help writing their CVs, setting up websites, establishing a business, setting up bank accounts, preparing template contracts, pricing methodologies, etc. We will help them get interviews with others if that’s what they want, we will help them get business cards, etc.
Because if they set up their own businesses, and we can hire them for productions, that would be amazing. It would also be fantastic if they were getting an income from other clients and if they were able to develop their trade on other people’s projects as well! This way they will keep improving and we will constantly get better and better programming from them.
It is a lot of effort to equip people who won’t become our staff, but that is what we felt was right at the outset. So, we are being true to what we believe - treating the young people like the adults they are, treating them with respect, believing in them, and helping them to fly! We don’t want to try and own them at the end of this process - that is just another form of bonded labour, no, we want to fly in the face of that kind of thinking. I think that God always gives us choice, he does not coerce us or force us, he leads us gently with his voice - we don’t follow him because we have to, we follow him because we want to, because he first loved us. At PAK7 we try to live that out every day.