PPS alum, Hart Fellow videoblogs from Cambodia

Throughout this year, Cassie Phillips, a 2007 public policy graduate, will be able to share her experiences as a Hart Fellow with audiences around the world.

PPS alum, Hart Fellow videoblogs from CambodiaAs one of six participants in “Be the Change”—a CNN International project to showcase “the power of social change through action”—Phillips will maintain a regular record of her fellowship in Battambang, Cambodia, where she works with orphaned and vulnerable children at the nongovernmental organization Homeland.

She will keep a written and video blog on the “Be the Change” Web site throughout her yearlong fellowship, and beginning this week, segments of her video blog will air regularly during CNN news shows in Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas. The six participants’ videos will be rotated on a weekly basis.

This is the first time CNN has used blogs as a major component of any of its programs, and the first time the video and blogposts are being created by people not trained as journalists, said Chris Wheelock, producer of “Be the Change.”

Phillips and the five other volunteers were chosen to participate in the program based on referrals from NGOs and from recent publications that list exceptional young people around the world, Wheelock said.

“We wanted a diverse group of people in various parts of the world,” he said. “Every one of these people has a slightly different mission and very distinctive personality.”

“It’s exciting to be a part of something that I think is an improvement in the media: news about places and people that are largely ignored,” Phillips said. “I understand ‘being the change’ is dedicating yourself and your actions to achieving a goal. In my case, my goal is to go somewhere very unknown with an open mind and try to apply the skills I have to help in every way I can, while learning more about myself.”

Phillips’ Hart Fellowship assignment involves intensive volunteer work with Homeland, which provides services for Cambodian street children and families, including caring for formerly trafficked children, working with children at risk of coming into conflict with the law and facilitating home-based care and group counseling sessions for people living with HIV/AIDS. The Hart Fellows Program fosters leadership development by placing recent Duke graduates in organizations around the world each year to do research and fieldwork on pressing policy issues.

Maintaining a blog and filming her experiences adds a new dimension to Phillips’ work. After a period of getting used to the camera and the effect it has on the people she works with, Phillips said recording her experiences is both challenging and rewarding.

“I’ve taped odds and ends of things that I find interesting, things I do on a daily basis, and some trips I’ve taken,” she said. “At work I tape more structured activities and programs. Since there’s no real structure [to “Be the Change”], I’m making it up and trying new things as I go.

“Knowing I share my experiences with a large public adds a different layer of responsibility and changes the dynamics of my fellowship,” she said. “The blog makes me think more critically about my experiences and delve a little deeper into issues.”