After a long day of filming local change projectors in and around Vancouver, Pierre (videographer extraordinaire) and I arrived at the British Columbia Council For International Cooperation (BCCIC) and Engineers Without Borders Fix Foreign Aid All Candidates Debate. Slightly exhausted, I tracked down Engineers Without Borders (EWB) Vancouver President Josh Workman to find out who I should interview first. As Pierre set to work getting the camera and lighting ready for action Josh ushered me in the direction of EWB advocacy buff, Mike Henrey.
Within moments of speaking to Mike I was in awe of his charming mannerism, exuberant personality and his impressive knowledge of Canada’s efforts towards foreign aid. Uncharacteristically, I jumped at the opportunity to pass out of the spotlight, quickly blurting out, “Mike! I would love you to interview the electoral candidates, are you up for it?”
He was! As Mike dug into his first interview with MLA & Liberal Party Of Canada candidate Dr. Hedy Fry I knew I’d made the right choice. He carried on to eloquently dive into sustainability issues with Adriane Carr of the Green Party of Canada who referenced Canada as “moving backwards in terms of racking up fossil fuels instead of forwards progressively and changing to a renewable energy economy.”
By the time Mike got to Karen Shillington of the New Democratic Party of Canada (NDP) he was ready to really dig into tough questions about Karen’s campaign and where it would lead Canada. Pay close attention to the 9 minute 45 second mark for a humorous redirect as I try to get Mike and Karen to look at the camera!
Dr. Hedy Fry, Adriane Carr And Karen Shillington at the EWB Fix Aid All Candidates Debate
After Mike finished conducting his round of interviews we swapped places and I asked him some questions of my own…
Q: Mike tell be a little bit more about Engineers Without Borders and your work with the organization?
I’ve been involved in Engineers Without Borders (EWB) since my third year of undergrad. Engineers Without Borders works in Canada and overseas to improve the lives of those living in developing African countries. Overseas, our focus is on working with local organizations and communities to develop creative and sustainable solutions to some of the world’s toughest problems. In Canada much of our work centers on education, fundraising and engaging the public in issues affecting the worlds impoverished.
My first project with EWB was working on our school outreach program where we visit elementary and high schools to discuss food and water issues in developing countries with the students. Next I travelled overseas to Zambia for 4 months to work on projects related to improving farmer’s incomes. More recently I have been involved in our advocacy work, meeting with local MPs and building public engagement around our activities.
Q: What do you think is the number one barrier impeding Canada’s efforts towards foreign aid & how does Engineers Without Borders work to combat this barrier?
When I was volunteering overseas in Zambia, one problem I observed firsthand was the amount of time and effort that field staff spend writing reports to please the numerous donors that they have. The Foreign Assistance Reform Network (FARN) headed by EWB is an effort to increase the effectiveness of the $4.5 billion Canada already spends on foreign aid. The Foreign Assistance Reform Network employs a series of concrete actions that political parties and individuals can get behind. One of these actions is the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), which is a standardized set of reporting guidelines intended to streamline the amount of work field staff have to do. For more information on the IATI and FARN, please check out http://www.aidtransparency.net/ and http://www.farn.ca/.
Q: What did you think about the experience of being a guest interview for Projecting Change Film Festival?
Having been quite involved in EWB’s advocacy strategy over the last 12 months, I relished the opportunity to be a guest interviewer for the Projecting Change Film Festival. I loved diving into issues related to sustainability and development with the three candidates because there were so many questions that I was wondering about and felt that many other Canadians were also interested in. Any opportunity to let politicians know that the sustainability and development are issues Canadians are passionate about is best not passed up.
Big big thanks to Mike for conducting the interviews as well as Engineers Without Borders and The British Columbia Council for International Cooperation for hosting such a needed and inspiring debate. On a personal (and extremely enthusiastic) note, I’ve recently joined Engineers Without Borders and will be heading off to Africa for an 18 month placement as an Africa Programs Staff!