The dragonfly effect is about inviting others into their own healing process. We hope to inspire others, we hope to invite others into their own healing and we hope to culturally heal, as well as heal our bodies, and the planet. So our products are a part of that model, but also our giving is a part of that. And it all ties into one powerful tidal wave of change - the Dragonfly Effect."
-Adam Riva, Founder of Dragonfly Effect Naturals
The last week of July, I (Anna N) traveled to Jamaica with the founders of Dragonfly Effect Naturals (“Dragonfly”), Adam Riva and Alex Thomson, to document their first of many "giving trips."
Dragonfly has an inspiring, one-for-one business model. For every product they sell, they give to someone less fortunate. For example, for every detox toothpaste they sell, they donate one detox toothpaste to someone in need.
This particular trip was aligned with Dragonfly's product, Empowder, a superfood powder from the dried leaves of Moringa trees. This ties into their one-for-one model, in that every Empowder that Dragonfly sells, they in turn donate school supplies for one child in Jamaica.
So that’s where Modern Opus Productions comes in - to document Dragonfly Effect Natural’s first giving trip. This video will be especially significant because it's the pilot for Dragonfly's giving program.
So, I ventured to an unfamiliar place in the company of true philanthropists. We arrived in Montego Bay, Jamaica on Monday morning, July 24 and caught a bus to Ocho Rios, where we would be staying for the week.
The Jamaican Way
An hour later, our bus traveled down a small one lane road and arrived at its last destination, our hotel, the Kaz Kreol. It stood in stark contrast with the pillared resorts we observed along our way, but after a long morning of travel, we entered with open minds.
The Kaz Kreol was perfect - and it was just the beginning of our incredibly authentic and inspiring time spent in Jamaica. We were met with love and compassion every step of the way, including the staff at Kaz Kreol, every taxi/bus driver we encountered, and especially a cheerful local at our hotel, whose artwork was displayed in the hallways. This man has lived in Ocho Rios his entire life, and thanks to him and his guidance, we were able to experience the true Jamaica.
We traveled to local fruit markets, downtown Ocho Rios, a profoundly beautiful swimming hole called "Blue Hole," and discovered "Ital" cuisine, aka Jamaican vegan/vegetarian food developed by Rastafarians.
I brought my GoPro everywhere that we went. I didn’t realize how impoverished parts of Montego Bay, Ocho Rios and Brown’s Town, Jamaica are. The crime rate in downtown areas are high and I had to be conscious of the places that I brought my Canon. Essentially, I decided to use my GoPro everywhere out in public, and I saved my Canon to primarily use at the school later in the week.
My decision to use my GoPro while we were out and about was a fantastic one. Modern Opus really prides ourselves on getting real, raw footage of places and people, and having a small and easily accessible camera to use on the fly allowed just that.
When I look through my pictures and footage, I can still feel the juice dripping down our chins from the freshly plucked mangoes that we scooped right out their skins. I can taste the GIANT avocados that our guide brought us every morning and I can still smell the sweetness of the “sugarloaf” pineapples that the vendor would slice right in front of us into a bags that we gleefully passed around.
I can still hear the gentle sound of the ocean that we woke up to every morning while we were there. I can still see our friend, Kevin, who worked at the Kaz Kreol, laughing and playfully jumping off of the concrete pier where we met him.
But, the real reason we were in Jamaica was not to eat Ital food or swim in the ocean. We were there to visit Teana and the children attending Love Unlimited's "Love Camp" at Brown's Town Model Basic School.
Brown's Town Model Basic School
On our third day, the Dragonfly team and I caught a 45 minute taxi ride to find Brown's Town Model Basic School. Brown's Town, Jamaica was much more rural than Ocho Rios, and we had to ask around to find the school itself. I positioned my GoPro out of the window on our drive to capture the true state of this area as we drove from a populated beach town (Ocho Rios) to a mountainous, rural and even more impoverished town.
Dragonfly partnered with Teana Woolcock, founder of the Love Unlimited Foundation back in February and made their first donation, providing 625 Jamaican students with school supplies.
To put things into perspective, Teana explained to us that a lot of times when children cannot afford their own supplies for school, they end up dropping out of school all together.
- 52% of all unemployed people in Jamaica have no formal educational qualification
- 50% of first time job seekers have no certifications
- 500,000 people in Jamaica are living below the poverty line in a population of 2.9 million
We knew we had arrived at Love Unlimited's “Love-U” camp when we saw hundreds of children running around in matching white t-shirts and smiles. The school itself was split into two small buildings with open windows and a large play area in the front. We entered one of the rooms to find it filled with long tables and chairs, most of them occupied by children.
Hundreds of individually decorated aluminum plates were hanging from strings lining the classroom, blowing around cheerfully from the fans in each corner of the room. We learned that earlier in the week, the kids had crafted their own "stained glass" creations. Without any hesitation, I began filming the movement of these adorable crafts. I love capturing these organic movements on film - the detail of the plates bouncing around in the stream of air makes for a great establishing shot to set the scene of where we were.
Meeting Teana was like meeting an old friend - she was warm and welcoming and caught us up to speed with the camp schedule for the day. Upon our arrival, the campers were crafting necklaces of colorful plastic beads and tiny wooden crosses. All the children were sporting little rubber bracelets that had the theme of camp this year printed on them: “Prayer Run Tings”.
I remember hesitantly approaching some kids while they put their necklaces together. I just observed and smiled until a little boy asked if I could help him. I attempted to weave a frayed string through a small wooden cross for his necklace. As the children around me watched, a few crowded around and asked, “Miss, will you help me too?” or, “Miss, what is your name?” It was the perfect opportunity to start filming the kids while simultaneously trying to help them all weave their strings through their beads.
The classroom was lit by natural light (a videographer/photographer's dream) and the children quickly warmed up to all of the Dragonfly team. After everyone's necklaces were crafted and snacks were eaten, we had ample amount of time to play in the sunshine. Adam and Alex were chased around and cheered on as I laughed and filmed the pure joy on these kid's faces.
Next, the Dragonfly team presented a baby Moringa tree and Moringa seeds to the camp and explained why we were there - to give them their very own tree to nourish and grow. The kids and staff chose a spot to plant the tree, and the whole camp gathered around as Alex, Adam, a few older campers and staff worked together to dig a hole, plant the tree and water it.
Filming the tree planting ceremony was challenging to say the least. There were hundreds of children crowded around, bumping and jumping in front of me because they were so excited to watch the whole process. In any other situation, I would have been frustrated with the constant bumping and distractions, but the fact that the kids were so excited about the tree took any and all frustration from my mind. I couldn’t wipe the smile from my face while I focused and made sure that I was getting the steady shots that I needed.
After the tree was planted, I filmed a number of children proudly presenting their Moringa seeds and planting them and watering them together with the Dragonfly team.
As a videographer and storyteller, the look on the children's faces as they watered and began to nurture this symbolic tree was pure gold. You can't stage those emotions and I couldn't have asked for more vibrant, spirited and eager subjects to film. It was heartwarming to see Adam and Alex interact with the kids who they are directly impacting through Dragonfly's giving program.
After the camp ended for the day and the children went home, I searched for a perfect spot to conduct interviews of Alex, Adam and Teana. First we tried setting up outside under a tree but the lighting was patchy and surrounding noise proved to be too distracting. We ventured inside and I immediately knew where we could set up. In a corner of the classroom the windows met, creating the perfect natural lighting and the back wall was lined with the campers’ “stained glass” creations.
It had been a long day and I wasn’t sure what kinds of emotions would arise during the interviews- Would they be nervous on camera? Would they cry? Would they laugh? I was nervous as well - Modern Opus’s other Ana is usually our primary “interviewer” while I man the equipment. But after spending the week with Adam and Alex and the day with the beautiful and laid-back Teana, I was as ready as I’ve ever been to ask the right questions and to get the answers that this video needed.
As I prepared to interview these three influential people, I thought about the purpose of this video. I thought about the future timeline of the video and the shots that I captured that day to compliment the answers that I was seeking out. And of course, all three of them answered my questions with uplifting poise. There were no tears from the interviewees - because the things we were talking about weren’t sad - they were positive and hopeful. Listening to Adam talk about his motivations to start Dragonfly, to hear Alex talk about their mission to help people help others, and watching Teana reflect on the influence that she is making put tears in MY eyes.
As a videographer, I see a sliding scale of how people act on camera. Sometimes people are nervous. Sometimes they’re cocky. Sometimes their answers seem too scripted. Sometimes they’ve obviously been on camera before. But these three were different. Alex, Adam and Teana’s interviews have a raw-ness that is hard to come by. Teana claimed that she was nervous, but the second we started talking about Love Unlimited - any sign of nerves went out the open windows behind her.
We rode back to Kaz Kreol that day with more love in our hearts and a full understanding of the direct impact that Dragonfly Effect Naturals is making. As their videographer for the trip, I felt and continue to feel incredibly humbled to have this opportunity.
When Ana and I started Modern Opus Productions, we both agreed that we wanted to produce work that makes a difference through storytelling - to make videos that capture an audience's attention for all the right reasons. We are forever grateful to be working alongside Dragonfly Effect Naturals and Love Unlimited Foundation Inc.
Thank you to all of our supporters, and Modern Opus Productions looks forward to creating a powerful video depicting the "Dragonfly Effect".