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ETL links Thai refugee issues abroad to home


Students gathered Monday at the Local Blend in St. Joseph for ETL's location reveal. The committee announced that it will focus on refugee issues in Thailand for its annual documentary project. | Submitted by Cindy Gonzalez

Extending the Link revealed that their 2014 video-documentary project will be on refugee issues in Thailand. The highlight of their research will be on the Karen people who live on the outskirts of Burma and Thailand.

They also plan to link the topic to Minnesota by interviewing Karen people who have moved to the Twin Cities from Thailand. This year’s group plans to travel to Thailand during winter break. Their itinerary includes visiting refuge camps, interviewing Karen refugees and possibly meeting some organizations that are currently helping refugees in Thailand.

ETL’s mission is to create annual documentaries on global issues. In doing so they aspire to generate awareness and discussion on the annually selected issue. Senior Rachel Mullin is one of this year’s ETL co-directors. She said that although there are changes within the student run organization this year their main goal, to inspire change, continues to be strongly sought.

“This year’s documentary will have a strong local component. We are hoping to bring light on an issue that is also close to home,” Mullin said.

In the past, ETL’s documentaries have solely focused on the international aspect of an issue.

“This year we want to show that while there are refugee issues internationally, there are also refugees in the US and our community. We will be filming in Minneapolis and St. Paul over long weekend to help us incorporate the global issue, locally,” Mullin said.

Students reacted positively to the new ETL topic.

“This summer I taught English to many adult Burmese refuges in Milwaukee. It was such a rewarding experience, but I didn’t know much about why or how they came to be in Milwaukee. This film will help me answer some of my unanswered questions,” CSB senior Erin Brown said.

Extending the link has successfully produced six different documentaries throughout six years. Each film has examined diverse topics all over the world including mental health in India, human trafficking in Nepal and political conflicts in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Senior Sean Raible is also one of this year’s ETL co-directors. He says the annual documentaries are organic.

“There is a ton of hard work put into making each film, and we don’t really know how things will work until we are on site, interviewing the individuals. But this year’s goal is to create the best film out of all past six,” Raible said.

Junior Chloe Smith says that she continues to be impressed with the work ETL does.

“They not only make documentaries on global and social issues but build bridges of knowledge,” Smith said. “I recommend anyone who doesn’t know what ETL is to take the time and watch some of their past documentaries and to attend their fun events.”

According to ETL’s event coordinator, Ashley LaLiberte, Extending the Link will have events throughout October to engage the CSB/SJU and St. Joseph community of their mission and to fundraise for the trip.