News / Toronto

Toronto TV series to focus on 'good' stories from 'bad' parts of the world

A Toronto couple wants to change the way we view and consume TV news.

Nisha Toomey spent five years at the border of Thailand and Burma, teaching children and managing social entrepreneurship projects. She was taken by how, amid struggles of refugee camp life and poverty, kids would find ways to organize soccer tournaments and parents would gather to cheer them on.

Her partner Barnabe Geis lived in the Middle East for many years and witnessed how, in volatile political and military environments, people were still able to come together and find solutions to many problems in their communities.

But such stories barely make the news, and the couple’s new TV series aims to change that.

“We’re always shown bad news and tragic events,” said Geis, a communications architect at the Centre for Social Innovation in Toronto. “But that’s only a small part of the real stories of resilience, cultural richness, compassion and great hospitality.”

UPLIFT, a new TV travel series expected to launch in the next couple of months, will focus on telling positive stories from supposed dangerous places around the world, like Syria, Iraq, Burma and Iran, Geis said.

There are obviously horrible and bad experiences in such places, but people’s survival and courage to move forward deserves more attention than it gets, he said.

The series also aims to challenge the misconception of a global south constantly being in need and the Western world being at the top of the food chain, said Toomey. Through her experiences, she learned that a lack of resources doesn’t prevent people from being human and staying positive.

“It’s not a story of victims needing help,” she said. “It’s a story of people taking charge and finding innovative ways out of their problems.”

The couple’s crowdfunding campaign raised more than $30,000 in one month last fall. Earlier this year they set out to Burma to shoot the pilot episode and are still negotiating with a broadcaster to air the series.

“I think people are tired of bad news,” said Toomey. “They are hungry to see wonderful and inspiring stories on TV.”

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