Educating the MassesPosted: Sunday, August 11, 2013 5:00 am | Updated: 11:16 am, Mon Aug 12, 2013. By Tina Firesheets community columnist
Amy Greeson’s passions for medicine and education have taken her to some of the most biodiverse regions on the planet.
Greeson hopes the plants collected from her travels will lead to a cure for diseases and that the videos filmed during the expeditions will educate others.
The Thomasville pharmacist visited Ecuador in 2006 to learn how indigenous healers and shamans treat illnesses. That led to establishing Healing Seekers, so she could continue such work.
Two years later, she led an expedition to Madagascar in search of the rosy periwinkle, whose powerful alkaloids have proved effective against certain kinds of cancer.
Following that trip, Greeson established Natural Discoveries Inc., in which researchers study plants from her expeditions.
In 2010, she explored the rough and rugged terrain of Papua New Guinea – a country with more than 5 percent of the world’s biodiversity
Next, Greeson wants to see the second largest country in Africa – the Congo. The central African country has experienced much political unrest and conflict since the 1990s. But she is undeterred.
“It’s so unexplored – that’s the intrigue… to show nature in its purest form,” she says.
“The Congo has gotten such a bad rap because of its warfare, but it also has some of the most beautiful parts of nature, and I believe, beautiful people too.”
She had hoped to launch the expedition last year, but the economic downturn made it tough for nonprofits like hers to secure funding. Such a project would cost at least $150,000, and she is seeking funding from philanthropists and corporate sponsors. She hopes they can make the journey next year.
Despite the delay, Greeson says her volunteer-driven organization thrives with dedicated supporters and a committed board of directors.
“Even in a downturn in the economy, we have been very blessed to have been given what other nonprofits have tried to get,” she says.
Healing Seekers mainly provides video content material and resources for educators and the general public. Greeson documents her travels with a camera crew to produce documentaries of their experiences. Through these, she hopes to increase awareness of indigenous cultures, plants and animals. She also hopes they inspire viewers to see the importance of preserving the environment. Many of the places Greeson has visited are in jeopardy from deforestation.
People can watch her videos, or Webisodes, on the Internet. They are also available to school systems and other educators.
McWhorter Concepts, a Greensboro-based video production company, has worked with Greeson since 2008. The company has produced 19 videos, and plans to complete three more by the end of the year.
They won a Silver Addy and four Telly awards for their Healing Seekers videos. Telly Awards recognize the best film and video productions, groundbreaking web commercials, videos and films, as well as outstanding local, regional and cable television commercials and programs
Diane Stevio, vice-president of McWhorter Concepts, says they enjoy the videos because they always learn something new.
“And then, there is the video footage itself, which is shot on location in some of the most beautiful, undisturbed places on this planet,” Stevio says. “The work is both intellectually and visually stimulating at nearly every turn.”
Greeson hopes to expand her audience. Her goal is pitch the webisodes to television producers and more educators. The educational possibilities are endless, she says.
Stevio says they are working to align video content with school curriculums so that the material can be used in traditional education settings.
In the future, students could learn as Healing Seekers crews are on location. Greeson envisions a “real time” classroom in which her crew could connect with students anywhere in the world through the Internet. From their classrooms, those students could talk directly to healers or ask questions about what they see.
“(This could) get them more interested in science and social studies,” Greeson says. “It could really ignite a kid.”
Tina Firesheets is a community columnist and freelance writer living in Jamestown. Contact her at [email protected]