Your Virtual Passport to Places, Individuals, and Organizations Making the World a More Interesting Place
Jenny Buccos by Rachel Rudwall
“You have to try the squash soup. And the coconut rice. And jasmine lemonade. They’re the must-haves here.”
I nod to the waitress that I’ll accept my lunch companion’s suggestions, because quite frankly, Jenny Buccos sounds like she knows how to get things done. I suppose that’s necessary for someone who has spent the last eight years operating an internationally recognized non-profit on a ramen noodle budget.
Jenny is the founder, director, and producer behind non-profit ProjectExplorer.org, a company founded in 2003 with the goal of educating youths through online travel series. That story sounds familiar enough in the age when everyone has a website and entire companies exist simply to propagate viral videos. But in 2003 there was nothing like ProjectExplorer. YouTube didn’t even hit the Net until two years later.
“I founded ProjectExplorer.org to provide ‘virtual passports,’” Jenny explains, “especially to those for whom travel is simply not possible. Now I bring stories of the world’s cultures, histories, and people directly to young students. My goal was, and is, to educate, inspire, and inform.”
Jenny recognized early on that as youths move toward a constantly connected lifestyle—living their lives via text, Facebook, and Twitter—education must find ways to harness modern communication in order to reach students. If educators can’t tap into what’s relevant, they’ll lose their audience.
Thankfully, ProjectExplorer does just that. It taps into all the new-age ways to capture our attention. Jenny employs young hosts, fast-paced editing, modern music, and loads of color so that students stay engaged and want to learn about the world. In only eight years, ProjectExplorer has produced more than 250 travel videos for students featuring a diverse body of visionaries and artists such as Desmond Tutu, Russell Simmons, Anthony Bourdain and Ziggy Marley. Series have covered South Africa, England, Jordan and Mexico, and plans are in the works to shoot in Asia, Central America, and the Caribbean in the months to come.
ProjectExplorer’s video series are accompanied by over 1,200 images, 1,500 text-based documents, 150 cross-curricular lesson plans, worksheets and audio materials, all available free online to educators, parents, and students. In addition to turning out videos and supplemental materials, Jenny and her crew do in-class presentations at New York City schools, teaching directly to the next generation of global citizens.
Due to its moxie and striking number of accomplishments, ProjectExplorer has recently been inundated with recognition. In 2010, the U.S. Center for Citizen Diplomacy honored Jenny as one of its Citizen Diplomats, Edutopia readers voted Jenny the Most Influential Person in Education, and top women’s business blog She Takes on the World declared Jenny a 2010 Woman of the Year alongside powerhouses like Arianna Huffington and the women of ForbesWoman.
This month alone, ProjectExplorer launches its revamped Yebo, South Africa! series at the South African Embassy on February 22nd; shoots a special in Haiti one year after the devastating earthquake; and preps for its next series to be shot in Thailand during March and April. If that amount of activity is any indication for the remainder of the year, 2011 is slated to be ProjectExplorer’s biggest yet.
Luckily for me, the squash soup and coconut rice were the must-haves. More importantly, this lunch cements my place amidst Jenny’s diverse crew of Explorers. To follow our upcoming shoot in Thailand or learn more about ProjectExplorer, visit http://ProjectExplorer.org.
Time to get that virtual passport stamped!
Rachel Rudwall is a TV producer, camera operator, media host, writer, photographer and editor. She is best described as a “storyteller,” one who wants desperately to “tell the world’s stories.” She has traveled the world many times over and will now let us virtually travel with her as a PMc Magazine correspondent.
Special thanks to Rachel Rudwall, our new PMc Magazine contributor for this collaboration.
Jenny Buccos interviewed by Rachel Rudwall
Written by Rachel Rudwall
Photography by Cooper F. Bates, Jenny M. Buccos, Lindsay Clark, Adam Sewall; All photographs courtesy & © ProjectExplorer.org 2007-2010
Design by Marie Havens
At the Citadel in Amman, Jordan, Photography by Adam Sewall © ProjectExplorer.org 2008
A Palestinian Headdress from the Widad Kewar Arab Heritage Collection, Photography by Adam Sewall © ProjectExplorer.org 2008
Child in Alexandra Township, South Africa, Photography by Jenny M. Buccos © ProjectExplorer.org 2007
Painting with Pantaleon Ruiz in Oaxaca, Mexico, Photography by Cooper F. Bates © ProjectExplorer.org 2010
Vijaya Selvaraju with Alejandro Ruiz cooking at Casa Oaxaca in Mexico, Photography by Lindsay Clark © ProjectExplorer.org 2010
Zulu dancer from Pongola in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa © ProjectExplorer.org 2007
Presenter Vijaya Selvaraju touring the Mercado de Abastos in Oaxaca, Mexico, Photography by Cooper F. Bates © ProjectExplorer.org 2010