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Thursday, October 13, 2016

STUDENT SPENDS SUMMER MAKING DOCUMENTARY IN GUATEMALA

Photo of Noah Gasch, a broadcast communications major from Evans City, showing children in Guatemala photos he took on his camera. Gasch traveled to Guatemala this summer to shoot photos and video for the Latin America Children’s Fund. He is using the footage this semester at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford to make a documentary about the trip.
BRADFORD, Pa. -- For University of Pittsburgh at Bradford senior Noah Gasch, going to Guatemala is like going home.
Gasch was adopted from that country as a baby and raised by a family in Evans City. He still considers himself Guatemalan, and feels it important to maintain a connection to his roots. That has not been difficult since his father has been continually involved with the Latin American Children’s Fund since 2000.

Gasch, a broadcast communications major and photographer, joined the Latin American Children’s Fund trip to Guatemala this summer to document the trip. Both the fund and the organization it works with in Guatemala, Seeds of Help Foundation Inc., wanted new photos for their websites and to use when recruiting volunteers.

When Gasch’s father asked if he’d provide media services for this summer’s Children’s Fund trip to Guatemala, Gasch saw an opportunity. He would use the trip and the material he gathered to make a documentary. It became a personal project for him.

“My main intention,” he says, “was to practice with the camera, story creation, and editing.” His advisor, Jeffrey Guterman, director of the broadcast communications program, saw an academic aspect in the project and helped Gasch make it part of a directed study.

This semester he is continuing to work on editing his footage with some help from friend and fellow Pitt-Bradford senior, Breana Barrera, who served as translator for the trip.

Gasch says his broadcast communications courses at Pitt-Bradford kept him organized, “in terms of a shot-sheet, sticking to a script, and being prepared.”

Drilling these things in class helped him stay on task and remember “what needs to get done, what to capture on camera.”

In class, students practice, practice, practice, which Gasch admits can get tedious, but when applied in a real-world setting, he says all that practice made things “go smoother.”

His work on this trip encouraged Gasch to think about a future career “behind the camera.” “I think I’d like to do a lot more documentary style photojournalism and videography,” he says.

Although he was able to provide media services to both the Children’s Fund and Seeds of Help and gather footage for his documentary, the reason Gasch really wanted to go on the trip this summer was to “go home and help.”

What does he feel is the most helpful thing he can do while in Guatemala? Connect with people.

“Most people think that the biggest thing you can do is bring food and supplies and build houses and a well. While all those things are very good, what I like doing when I am there is engaging people and listening and talking. Sometimes someone talking to you and really listening is better than getting a month’s supply of food.”

Gasch notes that discussions with locals can also “help inform projects and lead to new ones.” Translator Barrera, a history-political science major from Goleta, California, was a big help on that front. “She really helped us get closer and see more into what life is like,” Gasch said.

Both Gasch and Barrera agree that one of the most emotionally moving moments of the trip happened during the group’s meeting with local high school students who are sponsored by Seeds of Help. In Guatemala, high school education is not free. Students must pay for school, books, and uniforms. Providing scholarships for high school students is one of Seeds of Help’s projects.

When Gasch, Barrera, and the rest of the visitors from the United States sat down with scholarship recipients, they “heard a lot of heartfelt and eye-opening” stories. Gasch says it was “a good representation of what the students are working toward and what they have accomplished in their lives.” Footage from that meeting will be featured in Gasch’s documentary.

Gasch has been home to Guatemala twice in the past, both times on Children’s Fund trips. His father is currently president of the organization. “I have to thank my parents for their vested interest,” Gasch says of his family’s involvement in Latin America. He says his parents were not only interested in adopting children — his older brother was adopted from El Salvador — but also in giving back.

“It is in their nature to help and do good,” Gasch says. “They have helped instill that in me — to return the favor whenever possible.”

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