Here’s the concept:
For 50 years, American Peace Corps volunteers have been returning home with memories – and photos – of new places, new friends and new experiences. Generations of returning volunteers, more than 200,000 in total according to the Peace Corps, have brought pieces of their new lives home with them, teaching family and friends about other countries through photographs and stories.
Over the Peace Corps’ 50 years, the methods of sharing these memories have undoubtedly changed. The earliest volunteers may have had their photographs developed as slides and held slideshows, while later volunteers may have shown off photo albums or scrapbooks. And today’s volunteers share their pictures and stories online.
We scoured the internet to find some of our favorite photographs taken by Peace Corps volunteers during their service, and asked them to share with us the story behind the picture – just as they have probably done for their families and friends many times before.
The completed photo essay is still up on VOA’s site if you want to take a look. It was a nice complement to all the more newsy coverage we did around the anniversary.
The project came about because for the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps we wanted to do something a little different, and the web producer assigned to it asked me if I could try to get photos from our audience. It didn’t feel to me like the type of UGC call we could get people to respond to – our audience is international, so they may have had Peace Corps volunteers in their communities, but they wouldn’t have been volunteers themselves. It was the returned volunteers that we needed to tap into if we wanted UGC.
Thinking back to the Chinese New Year project, I decided to take a similar approach and reach out to pre-existing communities on Flickr for the photos. It was absolutely the right approach. Well over 50% of the people I contacted responded, and every single one was excited to participate.
And the end result is a product that I think is both pretty to look at, and which is really moving because of the passion these people had for their Peace Corps experience.
The only negative? I contacted so many people so fast that I had to cough up $20 for a Flickr pro account to avoid being blocked from sending messages!