Even the best travelled among us may not have had the chance to visit Sierra Leone in West Africa. It’s an amazing country whose people, in spite of the huge challenges they’ve faced, including years of civil war and the recent Ebola outbreak, are among the most relaxed and friendliest you could find. Now, using the magic of virtual reality, our friends at Plan International UK – our charity partner – are giving people the chance to experience what it’s like there.
Plan International UK has been working in Sierra Leone for nearly 40 years, focusing on providing children with good-quality education, a safe water supply and adequate health facilities. The organisation places particular emphasis on helping girls, who, as the VR film demonstrates, can face especially challenging circumstances. But as the film’s protagonist Mamie shows, with the right support, girls can overcome these barriers to fulfil their potential.
Immerse yourself in Mamie’s Dream to find out how …
As you’d expect, filming a VR feature in an environment like rural Sierra Leone wasn’t easy. “I’ve made films with Plan International across the world so I’m used to working in tough circumstances, and with children who are in no way used to the camera,” said director Mary Matheson. “But VR is so different. The 360-degree camera means the young person is very much on their own: you can’t really be next to them to encourage and direct them or you risk being in the shot!”
Filming took seven days in total on location, and was followed by time in post-production at VR agency Surround Vision. “We’re so pleased with the result,” said Matheson. “Mamie is such a phenomenal character who has overcome so much – VR gave us a way of telling her story in a powerful way.”
Across Sierra Leone, three-quarters of girls don’t finish their education, and only around one in ten teachers are female. Plan International UK is working hard to change those statistics. If you’d like to support their global ‘Because I am a Girl’ campaign to help effect that change, you can sign up at www.plan-uk.org/mamiesdream