Hollywood (sort of) comes to Chorkor

BASICS International opens satellite office in New York
April 20, 2016
Amsterdam News- bountiful ties between Israel and Ghana
September 6, 2016

Jess here, board member of BASICS. I am not long back from my trip to Ghana where I was shooting videos for BASICS to be used for marketing and fundraising purposes. After successfully crowdfunding the trip earlier this year, I set off for Ghana armed with a camera, a microphone and a life-time supply of batteries. I captured the day to day life of the charity, listened to stories of those who are passionate about their work, and explored the community of Chorkor where BASICS is located. Now that I’m back in Melbourne, Australia, the next step is to turn the many hours of footage into meaningful content that can be used to raise money and awareness for BASICS.

24 hours of flying across the globe brought me to Kotoko International airport in Accra, Ghana. My two flights featured hours of mind-numbing TV-watching, two unusually well-behaved toddlers, and one near-miss of sleeping through a meal. Lucky for me I had considerate neighbours to wake me up!

It was 7:30am on April 5th when I arrived. Pat was waiting for me at the airport. Pat is the Founder and Executive Director of BASICS, and an old friend. She greeted me with a big hug and a quick assessment, “You need to get some COLOUR girl!” Thanks Pat!

So Pat, myself and my pasty white skin climbed into the car and started driving to Chorkor. It was peak hour so we took the chance to catch up during the gridlock. The update on life in Ghana since I’d been there was that things had changed a little. The economy had suffered in the last six years, and there was tension in Ghana. Petty crime was on the rise. Things at BASICS had also changed, grown and improved. We had a new building since the last time I was there, more staff on board and many more children were achieving the grades to get into high school. Progress!

I observed the busy roads while we waited. Familiar sights greeted me of street vendors selling their goods amongst the traffic. Men, women and children walked between cars, with buckets perched above their head, offering the most convenient shopping possible. You could buy anything from snacks, to soaps, to electricals, right at your car window. I spotted an old favourite; plantain chips. Yum! I love Ghana!

As well as traffic vendors, there were beggars. People with disabilities and physical trauma looked desperately for someone to spare some change. Older men dragged blind children over to cars, tapped on windows and gestured towards their child. This wasn’t a huge shock as I’d seen it before. Funny how desensitised we can be to suffering.

We arrived in Chorkor and pulled up to BASICS, which is located a street away from the beach. Chorkor has a great soundscape. It is symphony of hens clucking and roosters crowing, the horns of taxis, and the friendly honks of cycling ice-cream vendors. Then there’s the cry of a tro-tro driver, repeatedly yelling out his destination as he whizzes past (there are no bus numbers in Accra.) On top of that there are people on the street, busy working or sitting with their friends. And children, always active children running around laughing or fighting, or both.

I thought I’d spend my first day recovering from jet lag and adjusting to the stifling humidity. But when I arrived at the centre my tiredness was suddenly forgotten. I whipped the camera out and got stuck into it straight away.

I captured lots of special moments over the next three weeks, including the children dancing, singing, playing music, and studying hard. I interviewed staff, volunteers, locals, and some of the children. The kid’s interviews are outrageously cute. I look forward to sharing them with the world when they’re ready.

Thanks to the donations of family, friends and local networks, I had all the equipment I needed to shoot fun moments like this:


And look at all the SMILES at BASICS:

Volunteer_02WM Kids_Portrait_02WM Art_PaperMache_03WM

Here is beautiful little Thomas*, who is pretending to be “Aunty Jess” with my tripod:


It was around 32 degrees everyday, and the humidity at a mild 100%, so buzzing around carrying a camera and tripod everywhere was definitely a work out. But a necessary one. I was devouring rice and plantain EVERY day. Nom nom nom.

This was my first time running a one-woman-show. By that I mean I was responsible for all elements of production; shooting, recording sound, directing and time management. I didn’t have anyone to bounce ideas off, or to ask a technical question when the camera was being un-cooperative. It was definitely a challenge, as I thrive in collaborative projects, and generally gain my energy from other people. I developed a bigger appreciation for all the creatives out there who operate in a lone-wolf-packs!

Of course I had plenty of people around me who energised me. The BASICS team are a diverse bunch, and the kids, well, you know…


And I wasn’t entirely without help. I had two wizards back home who were my international tech-support. Thanks Cam and Goldie!

SOS email

One of the highlights during filming was when I was lucky enough to be granted an interview with the traditional chiefs of the Ga people. There are three chiefs that oversee the Jamestown Area, which Chorkor is a part of. In order to secure the meeting, I had to give an offering of money and schnapps to each chief. During the meeting I had to remove my shoes, greet everyone in the room from right to left, and greet and gesture with two hands. It is forbidden to point or to talk to a chief directly. This was a minor complication, considering I was there to interview them, but we figured out a work-around.

All chiefs

When I got there, my mind was buzzing with all the rules I needed to remember. I was so paranoid about offending them, that I forgot that they are also just human beings. Of course they probably weren’t going to be offended if I forgot some of the rules, however it was certainly a humbling experience. Luckily, I didn’t offend anyone. Though I may have bored them… I thought I noticed one of the chief nodding off for a second there…

After three weeks of shooting, I packed up my gear for the final time and flew out of Ghana with hard drives full to the brim. I am now embarking on the post-production journey, one which will take some time. I’ll be fitting in the editing around paid work in Melbourne, so I anticipate the process will take a few months.

A big thank you goes out once again to everyone who donated to this project, and to everyone who provided support in one way or another. Another thank you goes out to the entire team at BASICS who put up with me for three weeks. I pointed my camera in lots of faces, rearranged most furniture, and asked many many questions. I promise it was all worth it!

To read more about the fundraiser, you can read more on my website


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