Against the Odds
Against the Odds is a public radio/multimedia documentary series that profiles people who have overcome significant obstacles in life. They are stories of uplift but also stories with a serious message; and they have a particular focus on people from marginalized groups who don’t typically get a lot of media play.
ON THE RADIO: ELLIS COSE HAS GOOD NEWS FOR THOSE WHO WANT UPLIFT
–NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
At a time when everyone from President Obama on down agrees that our national spirits need lifting, Newsweek columnist Ellis Cose is launching an ambitious series of radio specials about people who found hope in the least likely places.
Cose’s “Against the Odds” series starts Monday night from 8 to 9 on WNYC (820 AM) and runs three consecutive nights. The opening program, “Hope on a Pile of Bones,” marks the 15th anniversary of the Rwanda genocide by interviewing survivors and others who have built schools and put shattered communities back together.
“It’s still a struggle” to get people to pay attention to distant stories like Rwanda, says Cose. “These are heavy subjects. But we look at it in a positive way. We break it down to the human stories of those involved, and I think that’s the way you hold people’s interest.”
Other featured subjects this week include people in India who have surmounted their country’s rigid caste system and American children who have survived the rugged path of foster care.
Cose profiles a former L.A. drug dealer who plans to attend UCLA and become an English professor.
“We want people to focus on access and opportunity,” Cose says.
He doesn’t want to paint too rosy a picture, but “what we wouldn’t want to do is hit people with one depressing story after another. Then they would tune out.
“We looked for a range of people, in a range of situations, who found a way to become successful.”
While Cose has been exploring these kinds of stories for years, he admits he is “kind of new to long-form radio.” He likes its possibilities, he says, the way it requires the listener to bring some imagination and requires the hosts to paint a vivid picture.
“A series like this isn’t for everyone,” he says. “But I think there will be a lot of interest. These are uplifting stories.”
Hope on a Pile of Bones introduces listeners to a range of people who are building the new Rwanda. In this segment, we meet Anglican Bishop John Rucyahana, founder of the Sonrise boarding school, which took in orphans of the Rwandan genocide. We also visit a village built by Rucyahana’s ministry, where victims and perpetrators of the 1994 genocide live in harmony.
“Ivy League Refugee” aired in 2008 on over two hundred public radio stations nationwide. Ellis Cose is the creator, executive production, writer and host.
Ellis Cose was the focus of an hour-long C-SPAN broadcast featuring audio and video clips from his “Against The Odds”. View the full program here.
AGAINST THE ODDS is supported by The Ford Foundation, the Daniel and Joanna S. Rose Fund, The Atlantic Philanthropies, and The Goldman Sachs Foundation.
Ahmadabad is the largest city in the Indian state of Gujarat and the scene of a vibrant and frenzied street life.
Faizal Park is colony in Ahmadabad in India. It sprang up after the anti Muslim riots of 2002 and became home to hundreds of dislocated families who lost husbands and fathers and had to start life anew.
In their own village Dalit children – often called Untouchables – are generally scorned. But in an environmentally friendly school set up by the Navsarjan Trust near the city of Ahmadabad in India they are treated with dignity and respect.
Rwanda, a country of roughly 8 million, lost between 700,00 and one million people to genocide of 1994. Now a new generation tried to get beyond the hostilities of the past.
In the town of Gitwe, in southern Rwanda, mothers from miles around bring children to see doctors from Medical Missions for Children offering surgery for cleft lips and other problems.
Hours before dawn, mothers gathered on the grounds of Gitwe Hospital in southern Rwanda to await the doctors and nurses of Medical Missons for Children.
Dadaab refuge camps are in a desert in northeastern Kenya, but sometimes, in the fall, torrential rains wash away the only road connecting the camps to the outside world and provide children with a place to play. Photographer: Ellis Cose