New technologies available today such as 3D printing and virtual reality offer potential in so many ways—and when it comes to improving the lives of those struggling in developing countries, the benefits should be explored as much as possible. Oxfam, the well-known charity involved in efforts around the world, has now found ways to highlight the struggles other people and cultures endure for finding clean water to drink. Oxfam is also helping to create other methods to actively help with these struggles.
The Oxfam team made Evelyn’s Story, a VR 360° film made together with Sydney-based production company Filmgraphics and Alt VFX, to demonstrate to viewers just what families in Kenya go through to get clean water. Set in Turkana County, the film follows Evelyn and her family as they seek something so many of us take for granted on an hourly basis in other parts of the world. Oxfam is sharing the movie through virtual reality devices, meaning that viewers are able to immerse themselves into the story as if they were actually part of it, moving through the landscape of thirst with Evelyn.
We’ve followed virtual reality for use in many recreational themes, but here Oxfam is truly using the technology to do good—and upon watching the video (see below), expect to have your heart tugged upon with surprising force. Pam Anders, Oxfam Australia Director of Public Engagement, explained in a recent interview that although this is their first time using VR to get their message out, if this effort is a success, they will continue to use the progressive—and often very popular—technology.
“Virtual reality is something that’s become more accessible in the past 12 months in terms of people being able to access headsets off the shelf, so it was a great opportunity for us to look at because it gives the viewer an amazing opportunity to be virtually connected,” said Anders.
“It’s like you’re there. It’s very disorienting when you first put the headset on and you’re able to direct what you see. You can look beyond the subject to see what’s above or behind you. Many of my staff and myself were emotionally moved.”
Oxfam has also been using 3D printing through collaborative efforts around the world, including as a first in Nepal. After the devastating earthquake in 2015, they have been using 3D printing to create water pipes and fittings, collaborating with Field Ready, as well as a local company helping with the fabrication of the pieces. Field Ready has been providing disaster relief to the area in the form of several 3D printed projects as 3D printing has been shown to help with relief efforts.
“What we’ve found is it’s been a much quicker way to produce the spare parts. We want to keep doing this, but the challenge now is how to get the right materials locally, so it’s more sustainable and weather-proof, and how to keep the costs low, and where along the chain of vendors it’s best to introduce 3D printing. It’s going well so far, but there are still elements to resolve,” said Anders.
They have also been using sensors in Sri Lanka for gauging rainfall. Not only do they know how much rain they are getting, but more importantly, the measurements aid farmers who need to make insurance claims.
“One of the problems this was trying to solve was that local insurance schemes were really difficult for farmers to access because they didn’t have evidence of the rainfall or flooding. Since we implemented these sensors there’s been an increase in payouts to farmers – last year there was over 1100,” said Anders.
Other nonprofit organizations around the world are implementing technology such as 3D printing to make life better in third world and developing nations. With visual aids such as the Oxfam VR movie, it is hoped that citizens everywhere will now have a deeper understanding of what it is like to go thirsty on a daily basis.