Visionaries - Changing the World One Story at a Time

Season 05

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Scientist looking through microscopeAll across the world, 1998 will be celebrated as the international year of the oceans. There is one nonprofit organization recognized globally as a leader in understanding the earth's inner space. It is the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). In a dramatic and exhilarating hour-long special, The Visionaries set out to discover what it is about this institution that sets it apart from other oceanographic research facilities.

The episode opens in Woods Hole with a revealing look at the unique culture that makes it possible for mechanics to work alongside the top scientists in the world to invent the instruments that unlock the mysteries of the sea.

The AtlantisIn the second half-hour, we head out to sea. Off the coast of Bermuda the famed submersible Alvin is being launched from the world's newest oceanographic research vessel, the Atlantis. There we meet the pilots of the submarine that discovered the Titanic and get an exclusive inside look at the new technology that will change how the oceans are explored.

Meanwhile, the workhorse of Woods Hole's fleet, the Oceanus, is battling Hurricane Danny as it struggles to conduct tests a mile below the ocean's surface. Watching the dramatic interplay between scientists and ship's crew reveals the special relationship that develops between people who take enormous personal risk to acquire a deeper understanding of the earth. Shows 501 & 502.

Project on Justice in Times of Transition

(formerly: Foundation for a Civil Society:Project on Justice in Times of Transition)

Northern IrelandThe terrors of war are the gruesome ties that bond people from troubled nations all over the world. Now a small band of Americans, joined by an elite group of international experts, has set out to derive some good from these horrific pasts.

The Project on Justice in Times of Transition (formerly: The Foundation for a Civil Society's Project on Justice in Times of Transition) brings together people who have lived through some of the world's darkest conflicts with those who are still struggling to make peace in their own lands. By sharing stories of survival, those striving to resolve conflicts are given inspiration to continue on their journey.

We follow the members of The Project as they travel through Northern Ireland during one of its most precarious times in its history, and watch the story of a divided nation unfold before us. While these circumstances are unique, we see shudderingly close similarities to the challenges facing the peoples of the former Yugoslavia. At the International Conference on Missing Persons in Budapest, Serbs, Croats and Muslims slowly learn they must begin to trust one another. Through their experiences we see the first glimpse of hope emerge for them and a process that can help others the world over. Show 503.

Water for People

Children in BoliviaIn 1991, visionary Ken Miller and his colleagues were responsible for ensuring clean and sufficient drinking water for all of North America. They knew first-hand the terrifying and often fatal consequences contaminated water could have and they knew how to keep their communities safe. They also knew that the death toll from water-borne diseases outside North America had reached ten thousand children a day, that over a billion people lived without clean water or sanitation and that the perpetual cycle of disease and poverty in developing countries was inexorably linked to water. Something, they decided, had to be done and they were the ones to do it.

They founded Water for People, a volunteer driven organization dedicated to working with local water groups in developing countries. In just six years, Water for People has helped over two hundred communities in over 30 countries establish clean drinking water and sanitation systems for literally hundreds of thousands of people. Water For People does not simply build water systems for those who have none. Its uniqueness is in helping people in developing countries help themselves, believing strongly that local initiative, local materials, local maintenance and local ownership are critical to the success of any project.

In this episode The Visionaries travels to Canada to meet a ninth grade class in Saint John that raised nearly $500 selling "Cups of Hope," so students like themselves in Bolivia could have clean drinking water. Then we go on to Bolivia to meet a number of communities where Water for People has helped develop clean drinking water and proper sanitary conditions for the people of those communities. Show 504.

American Friends Service Committee

In VietnamFormed in 1917 to provide conscientious objectors with an opportunity to aid civilian victims during World War I, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) provided food, medical and reconstruction assistance during and after both World Wars.

Today the AFSC continues to answer the call for help all over the globe, as its impact is now felt in distant corners of the world. In Southeast Asia, we see how the AFSC helps people from the war-ravaged nations of Cambodia and Vietnam continue along the road to recovery. From a school that teaches Cambodians to make prosthetics vital to the survival of their countrymen, to a village in Vietnam that is struggling to bounce back from the devastation of Mother Nature, the AFSC provides the support and assistance needed to help locals help themselves.

Some of the AFSC's most dynamic work can be found right here in the United States. At the U.S.-Mexico border, AFSC members work on behalf of illegal immigrants to protect their human rights and preserve the dignity that every human being deserves. This is a powerful lesson AFSC members work to instill in the young people they work with across America, as we learn from a group of students in rural West Virginia. Whether in the Far East, or right here in our own backyard, the AFSC works diligently to honor the values of justice and non-violence in every sector of our society. Show 505.

Sea Education Association

Student looks through a sextantEvery year, hundreds of undergraduate students from 250 colleges and universities all over the country gravitate to Cape Cod to participate in one of the most profound educational experiences in academia. Although they come from every walk of life, with diverse educational interests, they share one common trait: They are risk takers--young people eager to step into the unknown.

For over 25 years, Sea Education Association (SEA) has been changing students' lives by taking them to a place that stretches their limitations and compels deep introspection. They accomplish this by bringing them out onto the high seas in one of their two tall ships. This is not an outward bound. It is a serious educational program. On shore, students spend six weeks in intensive academic classes in oceanography, nautical science and maritime studies. During the onshore component, they live together, cooking their own meals and organizing themselves into cohesive teams.

During the second six weeks they set sail where they not only learn how to operate the ship but also complete the oceanographic experiments they began on shore. Viewers will share this extraordinary experience, witnessing the dramatic transformation these students undergo as they are hit by a Force 10 storm with 25-foot waves while they make their way from the coast of Maine across the open ocean into the Caribbean. Show 506.