The Power of One: Sue Vicory and Her Film for Change
Sue Vicory has created a documentary called “Homelessness and the Power of One.” It’s about power of a single individual to improve the life of another. Through community collaborations, the short ten-minute film has evolved into a powerful fundraising tool, an inspirational outreach tool, and a high school community service program.
When her youngest daughter left for college in 2000, Kansas City native Sue Vicory found herself searching for the next meaningful phase in her life. After years of volunteer work in Kansas City, Sue was interested in the struggles faced by people who are homeless. Following a lifelong interest in storytelling, she studied documentary filmmaking at a New York film school. She immediately knew the subject of her first film.
Staff and clients at a Kansas City shelter helped her explore how she might approach the issue of homelessness on film. She was prompted to ask herself difficult questions, like “Who do I think is homeless? Why do I have those assumptions?”
Sue discovered that she was not alone in her assumptions. Many people she meets today ask her if they should give spare change to a person who is on the streets. “The person on the street with a sign or a cup seems to be the visual that comes to mind for most of us. Many of us lack the diverse picture of who is homeless in America, and what their needs and experiences are.”
This narrow perception of homelessness led Sue to focus her film on awareness and education. “My primary goal is to educate, raise awareness, and break stereotypes. I like people and I like their stories. Documentary filmmaking is the perfect medium to share their stories.”
Her ten minute film, Homelessness and the Power of One, features a personal look at homelessness. It seeks to challenge assumptions and call people to action. Many of the individuals featured in the documentary attended the premiere, which raised over $30,000 for homeless service agencies. The short film has won multiple awards and continues to premiere across the country at rotary clubs, schools, and community groups. It is a powerful fundraising tool for community organizations serving people who are homeless. “Passion is contagious. The passion demonstrated in the film spreads to everyone who sees it,” Sue says.
Sue filmed in 15 cities across the country. She interviewed people working in homeless services and individuals who were currently or formerly homeless. “Most were able to get off the streets because one person stepped in their path, gave them hope, and helped connect them to services.” Sue realized that “we all have the opportunity to be that one person.”
She was inspired by the potential every individual possesses to help promote positive change in the life of someone experiencing homelessness. “Each of us can make an impact. All it takes is individual action. It’s a way of being in the world.”
The project has led to the creation of the My Power of One Project, a program to raise awareness among high school students in Kansas and Missouri. Students research and write essays about needs in their communities. Then each class develops their own community service project with a fundraising tool and an outreach program, inspired by those needs. For example, one class hosted a talent show to raise funds for kids living in shelters. Another class collected food and distributed it to shelters. The class is also developing a community garden for low-income and homeless families.
“It’s wonderful to see these young people be intentional about positive, impacting change. Creating a documentary was the way I worked for positive change. These kids are identifying their own ways. This gets to the heart of the My Power of One Project,” shares Sue.
Now, after watching the film, people will tell her that they do not avoid people who are homeless as they might have before. Instead, they offer them a cup of coffee or start a conversation. They begin to adopt the film’s message.
Sue is working hard to spread the word about the My Power of One Project. “All of us can commit to do something positive to help another. We all breathe. We all cry. We all want respect. We all want the same things as humans. I hope my film, and the work it is doing in schools and shelters across America, is helping people realize they can do something.”
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