Last year, we launched The Sahel, a collaboration camera strap with charity: water, the New York City non-profit that brings clean and safe drinking water to people in developing countries. Through that partnership, we met charity: water’s videographer Jamie Pent, who was also featured in the short film created for The Sahel. We’ve closely followed charity: water’s work since then, and when we heard that the organization recently moved into a beautiful new office in Tribeca, we decided to drop in for a little office tour.
This Giving Tuesday, we sit down with Jamie Pent again as she tells us a bit more about the new charity: water digs and her work as a creative professional in New York City.
Jamie Pent carries The Sahel Camera Strap, available exclusively at onabags.com.
ONA donates a portion of each purchase to charity: water.
ONA: For those who aren’t familiar, can you tell us a little more about exactly what charity: water does?
JP: charity: water is a non-profit organization on a mission to bring clean and safe drinking water to the 663 million people around the world who live without it. We partner with local NGOs on the ground to implement water projects. 100% of the public donations we receive go to build water projects in developing countries.
ONA: Tell us a little bit about your role at charity: water. Why is storytelling so important for an organization like c: w?
JP: Storytelling has been important to charity: water since the very beginning. When Scott Harrison founded the organization in 2006, his vision was to re-invent charity. One of the ways he did this was by showing people where their money was going. He would meet people in the communities that received clean water, take photos of projects, collect GPS coordinates and report back to the donors who funded the projects. We still do that to this day. We even have a drilling rig that regularly tweets its location and what it’s up to.
As the videographer and editor, my job is all about storytelling. Whether it’s thank you videos to donors, major campaigns like World Water Day in March, or our annual September Campaign, my goal is to reach a wide audience with the heart of our mission.
ONA: How do your responsibilities change when you go from the office into the field, and vice versa?
JP: We have a small but mighty creative team and I’m the only one who is strictly working on videos. So when I’m in the field, I shoot interviews and B-roll and when I’m back in the office, I’m editing that footage together. I do a little bit of shooting in-house as well, but mostly editing. I enjoy the comfort of an office environment, but I get the itch to travel after a couple of weeks, so it’s a good balance for me.
ONA: charity: water has expanded so much since its founding back in 2006, and you’ve just moved into a new space after outgrowing your old one. What’s your favorite part of the new office?
JP: Our new office is gorgeous, it’s three times the size of our old space, so choosing my favorite part is tough. But I love the focus on the people we’ve helped — from the front entrance all the way through the space there are photos of the people we’ve served. There are beautiful photos taken by talented photographers we’ve brought with us to the field, and they serve as great reminders every day of why we do what we do.
ONA: How have charity: water’s offices changed over time and what new elements did you decide had to be incorporated into the new one?
JP: I’ve been with charity: water for 3 years so I’ve only experienced 2 of the spaces, but as the organization has grown, so has our office.
As we outgrew our Varick Street office, we knew we needed more conference rooms. Space to meet was hard to come by, but now we have eight amazing conference rooms plus phone booths, and also plenty of open space to meet. The conference rooms all have fun names, too — they’re either inside jokes, honoring people or groups of people, or referencing a piece of our history.
We’ve also become much more data-driven in the last few years, so we’ve added a number of screens that publicly display stats like site traffic, social media metrics, how many people we’ve brought clean water to, and how many completed projects we have in the field.
ONA: What sneak peek can you share with us about charity: water’s upcoming initiatives? Anything exciting you can share?
JP: This year has been super exciting for us, as we’ve jumped into virtual reality. Back in May, a small group of us flew to Ethiopia to shoot, in 360 degrees, a story of a community that receives clean water for the first time. It’s hard to explain on paper, but once you put on a virtual reality headset and are actually transported to the village, you’ll never look at storytelling the same way. I know I won’t!
Like I mentioned earlier, I want every video we create to connect people to our mission. We wish we could bring all of our supporters to the field, but it’s just not possible, so video is as close as we can bring them, and VR takes it a step above traditional video. You feel like you’re present and standing right next to the community members as they get clean water. The director Chris Milk calls VR “the empathy machine,” and that’s really what it is.
We’re excited to use this new tool to bring people closer to our work than they’ve ever been before! Check out the brand new virtual reality video here — we just launched it earlier this week.