Greg Meeres has been held up at gunpoint in Mozambique, ridden a carabao in the jungles of the Philippines and filmed Mongolia from a helicopter.
But it isn’t the excitement or the scenery that drives the White Rock fimmaker/photographer to take on projects in impoverished countries around the world
It’s the heartbreak.
“The Asian countries are always very difficult to do because it’s always sex trafficking,” Meeres told Peace Arch News last week.
Meeres, 46, has been to 38 such countries since 2005. Sunday, he left for assignments in Northern Iraq and Senegal.
Meeres – who owns Cloverdale-based Boldfish Video Production, described online as “a full-service boutique video production company” that, for non-profit organizations, aims to deliver video “that connects your viewers to your message” – averages two humanitarian projects per year, and said his current trip is for a trio of Christian humanitarian organizations, including the Christian and Missionary Alliance.
The alliance, he said, has asked that the specific cities he’ll be in, as well as the people group he’ll be working with, not be identified, for confidentiality reasons.
On his return, however, he expects to use his footage and images to produce material that will be used to help the groups explain and raise the profile of what they do – which ranges from helping young women who’ve been forced into the sex trade to providing aid in IDP (internally displaced person) camps – to potential supporters.
It’s about “raising awareness and inspiring change… telling stories from the field,” Meeres said.
In Senegal and Iraq, “every woman I will meet with (in the IDP camps) will have been bought, sold, raped, beaten, tortured…,” he said.
The work is a far cry from the hockey career that Meeres said his family had expected him to pursue.
A former Surrey Eagles player, the Semiahmoo Secondary alumnus said he had been offered a partial scholarshp to Arizona State, but blew out his knee – and the prospect of playing professionally.
After a time in sports management, Meeres went back to school for broadcast communications, graduating from BCIT.
In the years since he started doing the humanitarian projects, there have been many close calls, including one in the barrios of Colombia, where he and his crew avoided an attack “just in time,” after being identified as targets and tracked by child scouts.
He teared up talking about one of his trips to Cambodia.
A handler was leading his crew through a small village when two girls, aged eight and 10 years old, ran up and held onto the woman, clearly looking for comfort.
“She proceeded to tell us that these two girls were just returned yesterday,” Meeres said. “They’d been sold for their virginity.”
As difficult as the stories are, that they could help inspire change brings Meeres comfort.
“It’s part of what compels me to do what I do,” he said. “Make people aware of the atrocities.”
Meeres said his own faith also “absolutely” plays a role in why he takes on the projects.
“My faith calls me to love others,” he said.
He acknowledged the danger level does bring him pause – particularly since marrying four years ago, and even more so since he and his wife, Charlotte, began fostering.
Charlotte, “knows the calling that I have on my heart,” he said, fiddling with his wedding band.
“She’s nervous about this one…”
It’s no surprise that the work has also led Meeres to view vacation travel through a different lens. He hopes others will start to do the same.
“For people to think before they plan their vacation… to be aware what is happening,” he said.