It was July 2014, and over the course of those days, my high school, Colegio del Uruguay, was about to celebrate the 165th anniversary of the institution. I was living in Buenos Aires, Argentina, 200 miles from the city of my childhood, Concepción del Uruguay. I had been talking with my friend Julian about making a special event for the anniversary, when my mom called me to tell me the news. A strong flood had started in the city due to the long rains. The river had started to rise, which affected more than 400 families. When we heard about it, I met again with my friend, and we thought of different ideas to help for the sake of the families. Both Julian and I were media producers, so after hours and hours of thinking, we designed a humanitarian project which consisted of a special live TV program with the purpose to get food and clothes to help the families. We called it “ Por una Herencia,” meaning “For an Inheritance” in English. The families needed help as soon as possible, and we only had two weeks in our schedule to make it. We knew we had a huge challenge ahead, but we thought that we could do it.
If you can build a TV studio, get cameras, lights, and everything you need, I’ll support you to transmit and promote it.
Two days after that conversation, I took a bus and traveled to my city. Through some contacts, I got a meeting with the local TV channel’s director to present the idea. She received me in her office on the same day that I arrived at the city, and after I talked for a few minutes telling her the idea, she took a deep breath and said, “Renzo, I think the idea is awesome, but it is crazy. It is impossible to create a 10-hour live TV program in 2 weeks.” So, I asked her why she said no. “The most difficult aspect of the production is that we do not have a big enough TV studio available to carry out the project, to receive people with donations, and to seat those donors who want to stay to watch the program.” That changed everything. Initially, we had anticipated the idea was going to be a big challenge for everyone, but thanks to my ambition, I wasn’t going to give up at the first no. I said, “What would happen if we built the TV studio? Can you help us to broadcast the signal?” She leaned on her chair, watched the ceiling for a while. You could hear a pin drop. The atmosphere was very suspenseful, and I wondered what was happening. After this uncertain moment, she looked at me and said, “If you can build a TV studio, get cameras, lights, and everything you need, I’ll support you to transmit and promote it.” I concluded, “I will explore this possibility with my team in-depth, and I will call you as soon as possible.”
Now we needed not only to produce content for ten hours, but also to build a TV studio in less than 2 weeks. After many possible ideas, we connected the dots. We could connect my high school’s anniversary with the TV program and make it together, celebrating the anniversary with a TV program to help the families.
The day after I talked with the TV director, I got a meeting with the school’s principal, Claudia. While I was telling her the idea, she opened her eyes more and more and sat more and more back in her chair. Her body seemed tense, but she had a small smile and was nodding her head. “It is crazy!” she expressed suddenly, and I said to myself, “Here we go again. Yet another person.” She continued, “It is necessary to remove more than 300 chairs from the hall!” She seemed nervous just thinking about the idea. After that, she stared at the wall for a while, and said, “You know what? I like the idea, it is risky, but let’s do it. We can help you.” Everything seemed great, we had the place to set up the studio, but when I was leaving her office, she said, “The only condition is that you need a non-profit organization to receive the food and clothes, so everything can be transparent and safe. Without an NGO, there is no agreement.”
When I left her office, I called the TV director, and said, “We have the studio, it will be in my high school,” and I explained our idea. After a silence on the phone, she replied bewildered, “Okay… But how will you do it?” and I answered, “The school has a big event hall downtown, so we only need to convert it into a TV studio, and we are working on that.” I concluded, “Don’t worry about the logistics. We’ve got it.” She finally trusted us and confirmed the project.
Now, we had eight days to build the studio in an event hall, to produce the content, and to get the NGO. My peace of mind came from the fact that we had gathered a group of professional people and that they really wanted to do it. What we thought was going to be the most difficult thing at the beginning, gathering the team, was easy. We looked everywhere and called a lot of people to gather the best possible team in the few days that we had. We got together more than twenty people, who I fully trusted to achieve every aspect that they were working on while I got the main agreements. I called the three NGOs that existed in the city. Only one of them, Adventist Development and Relief Agency, answered and accepted the challenge.
We worked nonstop for 24 hours before the program
We could start using the school’s hall to build the studio three days before the TV program was to run. While one team was building the studio, another team was producing content for the program. We wanted to create documentaries about the flood situation, so we started producing and editing all the content. We worked nonstop for 24 hours before the program. We were a large group of people, taking things from one place to another, adjusting every detail, while others were editing in some corners of the studio. Julian printed the final versions of the script. The technicians checked everything. I had never heard my name as many times as that day. Everyone called me by walkie-talkie or talked to me, either to ask me something or to check some details. I felt the pressure of the short time we had, and time seemed to run faster than normal. Suddenly, I looked at my watch, and it was 9:50 am. There were only ten minutes left to go live, and we had everything ready. I was so excited, and also so anxious, like an actor about to go on stage. I shouted, “Five minutes,” and everyone settled in their positions. I remember in detail the countdown. Those seconds before the public could see what we had been preparing so much. I started the countdown, and as I advanced it, there was a deep silence in the studio. We were all ready. I finished with “3… 2… 1…. Air,” and we started.
It was ten successful hours live, with more than 15 interviews made by Julian, who was the host, and hundreds of people arrived at the studio with food and clothes to donate. We got a lot of food and clothes for more than 100 families, I was very happy and fulfilled by being able to help so many people.
On the next day of the program, despite being exhausted, I woke up at 7 a.m. to help the NGO to deliver the food and clothes. I walked with more than ten people to the affected area. It was devastating to see the situation and the houses destroyed, but I felt helpful to contribute to such a hard situation, with the things donated by people. I remember a young boy who came running to me, and he said, “Thank you very much for all this.” I felt a fullness because we had contributed our grain of sand to all those families.
The experience of producing and leading that big project with more than 20 people on the team was really rewarding and full of learning and meaning. After this project, I realized and declared that challenging the status quo was my life purpose, through which I could leave the world a better place than I found it.