CHANGERS PROFILE: Jenny Buccos—PROJECTEXPLORER.ORG

buccosglobeAre you ready to fall in love? Seriously, the work of this organization gets it right on every single level and is inspiring in such a refreshing and deeply important way.

ProjectExplorer.org’s mission is to provide a global cultural experience through film and multimedia materials aimed at fostering the next generation of global citizens. ProjectExplorer.org’s award-winning online video series, photos, travel blogs, and encyclopedia-style research are provided free-of-charge to kids and classrooms around the world and these programs cover multiple subject areas that cultivate cross-cultural understanding.

You want to go there (here’s the link) and check it out—make sure you’ve got some time set aside because you’ll get lost in the world they’ve created. I feel so lucky to have recently had them cross my path and I look forward to our worlds intersecting again, soon and often.

Jenny M Buccos is the Director, Producer, and Founder of ProjectExplorer.org. In 2003, she founded ProjectExplorer.org as a way to educate youth about the world’s cultures, histories, and people. In 2005, she directed/produced ProjectExplorer.org’s first multimedia program, Shakespeare’s England. In 2007/2008, she directed/produced ProjectExplorer.org’s South Africa series; working with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Dr. John Kani, the Apartheid Museum, Robben Island, The Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, photojournalist Greg Marinovich, and musician Sipho Mabuse. In fall 2008, she directed/produced ProjectExplorer.org’s third series, Cultural Crossroads: Jordan. In 2009, Jenny received a GOLD Parents’ Choice Award for Excellence in Educational Programming.

She makes it seem effortless, and what she has done is the kind of thing you and I need to figure out how to do as well—making the world, and the stewardship of the world—accessible…

(more after the JUMP)

What possessed you? There must have been easier things to start—why this?

I have found that people have a wide variety of preconceived notions about other countries and cultures, particularly here in America where our culture, news, and discussions can be so inwardly focused. Seeing places firsthand and having my own beliefs challenged was a real awakening for me, and I wanted to try and give that experience to as many people as I could. To be honest, easy or hard never really entered into it: once I had an idea of what to do, all the rest of the discussion was about making it happen, step by step.

It’s pretty brilliant to be able to combine your love of travel with reaching out, educating, and helping. How did you come up with blending them together this way?

From 1999 to 2001, I was working at a large investment bank. During that time, I had the opportunity to work briefly in Hong Kong and Tokyo – a total eye opening, educational experience for me! My time in Asia made me think about how developing a global awareness from a young age could change students’ interest in education by making what they learnt in school more relevant. Learning about different people and places helps to raise awareness of political and social issues, arming youth with information so that they have the power to make a difference in the world.
So, I began ProjectExplorer.org to provide “virtual passports,” especially to those for whom travel is simply not possible. This is done in the form of more than 175 short videos, photos, world music clips, and travel blogs.

What obstacles along the way almost stopped you?

Funding has consistently been the biggest challenge. I have found myself in emergency-mode in terms of funding a couple of times and feared I would have to cancel upcoming projects. We have managed, though, thanks to our generous donors. Currently, we are trying to raise $10,000 (by April) for our upcoming project in Malaysia and I hope to do so well before the critical mark.

When pulling it all together, did family and friends support you or think you were nuts?

While many did not “get” the initial concept, my friends and family were very supportive. In fact, the first series (Shakespeare’s England) was almost entirely funded by my friends. Some thought I was nuts to attempt filming in two countries I had never visited – South Africa and Jordan. Now, everyone “gets” ProjectExplorer.org and we even have a growing audience of adult viewers, in addition to our young fans.

How did you get to this point? What work or pursuits were you up to that led you here? Was it predictable when you were a kid that you’d end up here?

I’m a kid from a small town. Growing up, never did I imagine seeing the places I have seen or meeting the people I have met. Bitten by the travel bug in my mid-twenties and with the idea for ProjectExplorer.org brewing, I knew that I wanted to do something to inspire change – something big!

I’m a workaholic, which is pretty much essential for starting a nonprofit. My corporate experience, I feel, continues to be a key factor in the success ProjectExplorer.org has had so far. Everything else had to be learne along the way – directing, editing, web design, sound design, etc. But, I love a challenge and strongly believe that anything is possible through perseverance and hard work.

Do you have any advice for others wanting to create opportunities for expanding the perspective of young buccosBedouinjordanpeople?

I’m a big fan of “voluntourism.” Volunteer vacations are a great way for people to interact with kids around the world in a very real, yet surprisingly simple, way. Spending time with people of different countries, cultures, and religions and sharing personal experiences can be as re-energizing and inspiring as any beach holiday.

Is there anywhere in the world you would not want to explore as part of ProjectExplorer.org?

I am definitely not keen to direct a project in extremely cold climates and tend to prefer some level of creature comforts: showers, beds, and the like. Aside from that, my passport is in hand and I am up for any adventure.

What is the Good Global Citizen project? (and how does it dovetail with ProjectExplorer.org?)

The Good Global Citizen project builds on ProjectExplorer.org’s mission to foster the next generation of global citizens. The project was inspired by our 2008 interview with Archbishop Desmond Tutu and a frequent ProjectExplorer.org interview question:

What does being a good global citizen mean to you?

This project gives our global audience – both kids and adults – the opportunity to take part in our work by creating their own video response for our sister website: http://goodglobalcitizen.ning.com. In just a few months’ time we’ve gathered more than 60 video commentaries from some inspiring young people as well as lots of celebrity voices.

If not this, what? (What might you be doing if not ProjectExplorer.org)

I am COMPLETELY obsessed with world music. I could see myself doing a documentary or television series exploring traditional African instruments and song.

What has been the best reward for the work you do?

I have the unique opportunity to be a global ambassador by sharing stories and answering questions about my travel experiences with students in America (and abroad). This is, without a doubt, the most rewarding part of my work. I must admit, having tea with Desmond Tutu was pretty amazing as well!

What has been the greatest disappointment along the way?

It is disappointing that we have not been able to garner more media attention. As a FREE educational program, it is our goal to reach as many schools, educators, and learners as possible, so major media exposure is the key. Once teachers and schools become aware of our programs they are hooked, so anything that gives us a platform to reach out to them is extremely important.

What’s next?

I am currently planning ProjectExplorer.org’s next series in Malaysia/Malaysian Borneo. Production is planned for spring 2010 with a fall 2010 launch date. We are also researching potential projects in Mexico and Panama.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: