For the first time ever, Biola University’s journalism and integrated media department has partnered with New Missions, a Florida-based nonprofit, to establish a visual journalism program in Ouest, Haiti. While New Missions has numerous schools established, including a Bible college and a business school, this is their first educational course dedicated to media training.

“Our passion for empowering young people with the ability to do visual journalism was what clinched the relationship with New Missions for this project,” said Michael Longinow, one of the journalism professors involved.

Following up on a four-day introduction trip to Haiti in October 2014, four Biola students and three faculty members will visit Haiti again during Easter break from April 3 to 11 to train a group of Haitian students — each of whom work as English teachers and translators for New Missions — in media ethics, reporting and other storytelling tools.

The journalism department donated digital cameras to the Haitian students during the initial trip in October 2014, with which they were taught basic photography and reporting skills, and urged to practice before the Biola team returns in April.

The journalism program teaches students that news reporting is a biblical mandate and encourages them to practice journalism cross-culturally.  

“The opportunity for [our students] to resource the media skills they’ve been developing at Biola in a cross-cultural setting is core to our mission and distinctive to our program,” said Tamara Welter, chair of the journalism department. “Engaging with cultures outside of your own is a critical part of learning to be a part of God’s kingdom. We know that we can talk about these things semester after semester and it will never have the same impact as one trip might have.”

During the upcoming trip in April, Welter and Longinow will implement a curriculum covering both visual journalism and journalism history and theory with the help of Marla Campbell, associate professor of intercultural studies, and seniors Shayna Brodsky and Johnathan Burkhardt, junior Nicole Foy and sophomore Chelsea Wiersma.

“We hope to put in these young Haitians' hands a sustainable model for continued training and development of visual journalism and visual journalists,” Longinow said.

All four students attending the second Haiti trip are also involved in the Biola journalism “Media Narrative Project,” a class dedicated to producing and publishing a book on a chosen topic over the course of a semester. This spring, the book will explore the stories of individual Haitians.

Student Chelsea Wiersma, a 19-year-old intercultural studies major from Washington, said that the “Media Narrative Project” class was pivotal in her decision to attend Biola.

“Before I even applied to be a student at Biola, I had heard about [the] media narrative book project,” said Wiersma. “I was looking for something that could integrate my heart for missions and passion for journalism, which is what this trip and opportunity is doing.”

According to Longinow, the goal of the partnership with New Missions is to empower the Haitians to tell their own stories and pass on their skills to future generations.

“We see God raising up a new generation of visual journalists in Haiti,” he said. “Our prayer is that they’ll not only be capable of telling professional-grade visual stories, but also capable of teaching the generation coming up behind them how to tell their stories with equal or better skill.”

Find out more about Biola’s Department of Journalism and Integrated Media.

Written by Rachel Allan, iBiola reporter. For more information, contact Jenna Loumagne, media relations specialist, at 562.777.4061 or Photos provided by Alissa Sandoval and Shayna Brodsky.