Farmers in the small village of Sylla Diongto in Senegal grew enough food to support the community, but its children routinely suffered from malnutrition, causing sometimes-irreversible damage to their future growth and development.
As part of its renewed mission to fight extreme poverty, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) brought its Feed the Future Initiative, aimed at addressing the root causes of hunger in the developing world, to the country.
One of the people at the center of the program is Hapsatou Kah, a 37-year-old woman who teaches members of her village how to plant and grow crops with the resources they have. This has helped residents maintain a more nutritious diet that can also slow or stop malnutrition among of the community’s children.
Stories like this happen each day as a result of USAID’s work. These tales are inspiring examples of the agency’s work and showcase the broad range of people and places that USAID helps.
To help share the agency’s work and to inspire the American public to join the fight against extreme poverty, USAID created stories.usaid.gov, a web portal that includes stories like Kah’s and those of others from around the world. Each story features a vivid photo essay.
“A little more than a year ago, to support our new mission statement, we rededicated our effort to end extreme poverty,” says Kelly Ramundo, USAID’s content director. “One of our most important tools was to tell stories of our work that can get people invested in what we do.”
The site launched in July with an initial set of 10 feature stories, and more are continually added. The tales come from all over the world — Haiti, the West Bank and Tanzania, just to name a few regions that USAID reaches.
The story-telling aspect plays off popular trends in online media, incorporating video and visuals as the main communication tools.
“We focused on human-centered stories that show what a person is doing, how they do it, and really try to highlight the transformation happening in their lives,” Ramundo says.
To put the pieces together, USAID brought freelance photographers and videographers from around the globe who spent time with the subjects, often for days, instead of having people tell their story from halfway around the world. As evidence of their quality, several stories developed by freelancers have won Davey Awards, which recognize creative excellence by small agencies.
“More than anything, this puts a face on the struggles people in places like Senegal endure, but also highlights the work being done to help,” she notes.
For Ramundo, part of the project involves hitting a nerve among young people. She adds that USAID employees themselves are paying attention, commonly reacting by saying “How can we get our story out there?”
“There are people out there that care and will carry our mission forward,” Ramundo says. “Let’s reach them and get them to invest in that mission.”