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Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Documentary recaps Qataris’ charity Amazon trip but skirts controversy

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A documentary that charts the efforts of seven young Qataris who traveled to Brazil last summer to rebuild part of a school in the Amazon has been published for the first time, but fails to make any mention of the problems that beset the endeavor.

Throughout the trip, a number of social media detractors criticized some of the participants – particularly the young Qatari women – for not dressing in abaya and headscarves.

Many also came out against the trip, which was organized by Vodafone Qatar, because it was mixed-gendered, which they said was against the Gulf state’s conservative Islamic principles.

As a result of the online furor, Vodafone pulled its support mid-way through the charity excursion in August last year.

Filming the trip

The four women and three men taking part in the charity effort had signed up as part of the Vodafone-backed initiative Qatar Firsts, a program to encourage young nationals to challenge themselves.

They were initially supposed to be posting regular online updates of their experiences by uploading videos, photos and messages as the trip progressed.

Amazon adventures trip
Amazon adventures trip

However, Vodafone’s chairman ordered that support be withdrawn and the company took down the website just a few days into the endeavor.

At issue appeared to be one of the short clips uploaded to the website, which showed the group arriving in Brazil and featured some of the women with their hair uncovered and wearing Western clothes.

Despite Vodafone’s withdrawal of support, the trip continued, assisted by local production company Mediadante, which had been hired to film the effort.

Members of the seven-strong production crew stepped in to keep the team members’ families informed by posting updates on the company’s website, and sending photographs and emails, as well as carrying a phone that could be used by parents and close family.

About the film

However, Mediadante did not post any public footage during the trip, as had been the original plan.

This 26-minute film, “One Step for a Better Future,” is the first peek into the adventure that has been made available for public view.

Amazon adventures trip
Amazon adventures trip

Speaking to Doha News, Mediadante’s founder and executive producer of the film Rosie Garthwaite said that the documentary skirted the elephant in the room to protect the reputations of the adventurers, who were aged between 17 and 24 years when they went on the trip.

Those taking part included Mohammed Al Shammari (20), Leila Al Tamimi (22), Aisha Al Naama (24), Tameem Walid Al Hammadi (19), Noor Al Muhannadi (17), Maqdeem Al Naama (22) and Mohammed Adel Al Naimi (17).

Garthwaite said:

“The young adventurers wanted to address some of the issues they had with their reputations on social media while they were away. But I felt, in the position of responsibility I had for their lives and reputations, that would not have been best, given that they are getting on with their lives now, without threats.

It is better to avoid dwelling on the negative and focus on the positive.”

She said that the film could have been edited in a number of different ways, and producers thought hard about the message they wanted to get across with the short documentary.

Amazon adventure trip
Amazon adventure trip

“This was the story we wanted people to remember about the Amazon trip. In the future, when these adventurers are talking to their children about the event, these experiences are the ones they will be talking about.” she added.

The film starts in Qatar, with team members and their families expressing trepidation about their impending trip.

They are then seen in the Amazon jungle, battling insects and their own fears about what lay ahead. A planned three-day stint in the jungle, rafting and sleeping in hammocks is cut short after the majority of the group is seen to be emotional and ask to be removed from the environment.

The group then heads to the village of Ararinia, where they spend the next week helping to kick-start the rebuilding of school facilities, which had burned down nearly a year prior.

Experiences

Reflecting on their work, which included building a covered stand so the school community could watch football matches, members of the group said they felt grateful for their own privileges.

Maqdeem Al Naama says on the film: “It makes me sympathize for laborers in Qatar. We take things for granted sometimes.”

The adventurers also learned about the harsh life of many local families, who survived by planting bananas and catching fish to sell to raise money to feed themselves.

In the film, the mother of one of the village families talks about her dreams for her children, saying she hopes that they will be well-educated and get university degrees, to help them move away from the area and make better lives for themselves.

still from documentary
Video still from documentary

The female members of the group are seen bonding with one of the local women, Donna Ralmunda Pereira De Lira, who shows them how to make juice from acai berries and a traditional black bean stew.

Summing up their experiences at the end of the film, Aisha Al Naama says: “This has taught me so many things I couldn’t have learned from a book.”

Meanwhile, Al Mohannadi, who was one of the youngest in the group and struggled initially with the jungle, said:

“I wanted to go home so badly at the beginning. I never thought I would end up wanting to stay longer.”

And one of the male team members said, “I’m proud to have come here and worthily represented my country. We’ve done some real good here.”

Looking forward

Despite the negative comments from some detractors, the group received strong support from family and friends upon their return.

Some Qatar residents even set up a coed support group that advocates against cyber-bullying and gender inequality, in response to tweets about the Brazil trip, Islamic values and westernization.

Some of the adventurers’ family members have also spoken out against the negativity.

The father of the Al Naama sisters previously told Doha News:

“We are very proud of our girls. They are not doing anything wrong. They are benefitting the country and society by taking on this humanitarian act.

There are a number of mix-gender groups that travel together. They’re certainly not the first Qataris to travel in male company without their male family members. It happens all the time with university trips, studying abroad and in the workforce.”

A young Qatari woman scales Mt. Kilamanjaro
A young Qatari woman scales Mt. Kilamanjaro

Garthwaite told Doha News that it was this family support that encouraged the production team to make a positive film.

“I was incredibly in awe of the maturity of the families, friends and adventurers when they returned to Doha. When they signed up to go to the Amazon, they didn’t sign up to create a cultural revolution.

We wanted to show that philanthrophy and giving is something that Qatar does very well. This was the intentions of the young Qataris. Everything else that happened was a distraction and was not a true reflection of modern Qatar.”

Since the excursion, members of the team have gone on to tackle other feats. Aisha Al Naama was part of a team which climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in October, making her among the first Qatari women to reach the summit.

And she also took part in her first half-marathon earlier this month, having never really run previously.

Thoughts?

26 COMMENTS

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thedrizzle96
thedrizzle96
6 years ago

Before this thread gets out of control, focus on the real controversy, critising people, your own people, on social media and trying to embarrass them and their families into the shadows. While we can fight for freedom of speech, I doubt I’ll ever stand up for stupidity

MN
MN
6 years ago

This is the kind of youths this country needs… motivated, outgoing and freeing themselves little by little from a backward mentality that will only stand in the way of their aspirations.

Althani
Althani
6 years ago
Reply to  MN

Yes!

The Reporter
The Reporter
6 years ago
Reply to  MN

To call it a backward mentality is to suggest that it is not adopted by educated people, which is far from the truth. It is a culture born of a what many would consider to be a strict and somewhat restrictive religion, and because of that the Islam based cultures have remained virtually unchanged in the countries where it is the state religion – and I see virtually no chance of that situation changing. Whereas the laudable Amazon volunteers through westerners eyes sensibly dressed appropriate to the country they were in, their actions will never be allowed to influence the culture of their birth country.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago

Vodafone’s attitude still makes me feel sick. Putting their profits before anything else and cutting these people off half way through the trip.

If they had any common decency they would have continued their support and when they returned issued a statement saucing that they would not be sponsoring any similar events. Still wrong but at least they would have honored their original commitment.

AhmadH
AhmadH
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

“The spokesperson said the company is equipped to ensure the security of the adventurers. She added, “Our full financial obligations towards this project are already met and fulfilled.”

Speaking to Doha News, the company – Mediadante – said that “Vodafone is going to pay the full financial obligation of our contract. It was never in question.”” https://dohanews.co/vodafone-qatar-backs-charity-endeavor-result-negative-criticism/ They didnt just leave them there. They just pulled their name from it.

Asinine Thinker
Asinine Thinker
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

Its a privately held company buddy, I would be furious if they DIDN’T put their profits before anything else

hohum
hohum
6 years ago

Great story, well done to all involved!

Althani
Althani
6 years ago

Can I just say wow, The filming was phenomenal! I loved the jungle, It was so beautiful! And so proud for those Qatari

Asinine Thinker
Asinine Thinker
6 years ago
Reply to  Althani

It was amazing. So proud of those kids!

A_qtr
A_qtr
6 years ago

DBAST

DEATH BY A SELFIE STICK

zoeval
zoeval
6 years ago

Yes, great story. Well done to all!

Green Hornet
Green Hornet
6 years ago

Hats off for you guys! Keep up this mentality and spirit and hopefully you’re enthusiasm will be contagious. Great work!

Ali
Ali
6 years ago

It’s impressive, Bravo!
Haters gonna hate, ainters gonna aint!

fullmoon07
fullmoon07
6 years ago
Reply to  Ali

why should people hate this? This is an excellent initiative. No hate here!

Ali
Ali
6 years ago
Reply to  fullmoon07

If you read the article, you’d know…

“Throughout the trip, a number of social media detractors criticized some of the participants – particularly the young Qatari women – for not dressing in abaya and headscarves.”

fullmoon07
fullmoon07
6 years ago
Reply to  Ali

who would criticizes that women were without headscarves while working hard in that heat? Locals? Poor minds for doing it. Like if Brazilians from near the Amazon would know or care if people cover their heads…..

Coco
Coco
6 years ago

Great work! That’s the image of Qatar that needs to be promoted. Spotlight should be on the new generation that not only cares, but does something about it. Hats off and a deep bow for everyone brave enough to remove themselves from their comfort zone and reach out. Thank you for promoting an image that I see in Qatar and it’s outgrowing the LC’s and everything else people are complaining about.

yesjay
yesjay
6 years ago

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”.

Be proud of humanitarian activities without bounds and limits geographically or ethnically..spread the word of humanity through deeds. Let it be just the beginning of what you can, and let there be no end!

A heartfelt congratulations to all participants, and promoters. May God bless them all.

Indian
Indian
6 years ago

Masha Allah. I am proud. Do continue what you were doing. Just remember “When in Rome, Act like a Roman”

The Reporter
The Reporter
6 years ago

That is the face of Qatar that it should be presenting to the world, but sadly it’s just another drop that will be swallowed up by the ocean.

Asinine Thinker
Asinine Thinker
6 years ago

“Aisha Al-Naama” is the prettiest girl I’ve ever seen

Asinine Thinker
Asinine Thinker
6 years ago

Like the video, share it! People all over the world needs to see this video. So proud of these kids, if these kids are the future of Qatar, then I love Qatar and especially, Aisha. Although my love goes to everyone who went on this trip.

Young Qataris are hard-working, loving and smart, with the same aspirations in life as kids from all over the world.

Share! Share this video!

Saleem
Saleem
6 years ago

So where are the Qataris?

meera
meera
6 years ago
Reply to  Saleem

what do you mean when everyone on the trip is Qatari, their family names are clear evidence.. unless you’re being sarcastic and negative about it.

Sabre
Sabre
6 years ago

I actually liked it a lot. Especially the part where they befriend the granny; that was really sweet. The way people treat each other, even if they don’t know each others language. One of the girls said that they were using politeness and gesture and general act of kindness to communicate. That’s all this world needs.

On a personal note – I’m one for adventure; so I travel to many different regions: from the Borneo jungle to the subsaharan desert, and the snowy mountains of California. I do feel that there’s no better way to experience human life then by going to different places and enjoying what god has created for us.

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