Helping people can take many forms. When we think of volunteering, we often think of performing physical labor, educating children, or providing medical attention. Of course, these are all essential services, but there are many other creative avenues out there for bringing aid to the people who need it. For example, Allan Lissner helps people by telling their stories with photographs.

Albert a Miner

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An award-winning photographer, videographer, editor, and graphic designer, Lissner grew up traveling the world. His dad worked for the United Nations Development Program, so the family moved through nine different countries (four continents) during his childhood. He lived in some of the poorest countries in the world, and some of the richest. Experiencing that contrast is part of what inspired him to document what he saw

Over the past three years, Lissner has been working on a multimedia documentary project about the effects of the mining industry on people’s lives. The project, entitled, “Someone Else’s Treasure,” tells the stories of the families who live near the mines. While the views of the governments, NGOs, engineers, and others involved with the projects are clear, the views of the local people affected by the projects are not. Lissner hopes to change that.

Bringing international attention to a problem is a critical part of changing the landscape, yet so often the people who suffer most, suffer in silence. In Lissner’s case, the suffering is both environmental and medical—the local people are suffering physically from pollution from the mines, while the mines devastate the local ecosystem. By putting the spotlight on the local people and the mining companies, Lissner hopes this type of environmental and community degradation will become a thing of the past.

The Baldo family on the Philippine island of Mindoro

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Over the years, Allan Lissner has worked with Amnesty International, GlobalAware, the Indigenous Environmental Network, KAIROS, Oxfam, Make Poverty History, the Norwegian Church Aid, the Ontario Council for International Cooperation, the United Nations Development Program, and the United Nations Women’s Association in Bangladesh.

The Devastation Left After a Mining Operation

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VolunTours are often cookie-cutter programs designed to appeal to a large number of people. There is nothing wrong with this—in fact, it means many people can share the same type of volunteer experience, creating a community. Sometimes though, the most effective volunteer projects are those the volunteers invent on their own—projects that utilize their special skills and expertise. If you are interested in creating your own photo-documentary to highlight a particular cause, or you have another creative aid project in mind, don’t hesitate to approach voluntour organizations with your project idea. Start creating! There are so many ways to help—find yours.

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