Kan Yan

Kan Yan (Backward Society Education – BASE): Kan graduated with a BA in Plan II from the University of Texas at Austin in 2006. During this time, Kan conducted research on the education of Turkish students in Berlin, interned for the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former-Yugoslavia, interned for the Texas Speaker of the House on state education, and worked part-time for an anti-private prison campaign. After he graduated, Kan undertook a year of exploring, teaching, traveling, and learning languages. He then enrolled in Harvard Law School where he studying for a joint degree (with the Fletcher School) when he undertook his AP fellowship. In 2008, Kan advised a Karen NGO working on land issues within Burma. After his fellowship, Kan wrote: “It was really nourishing in a way I can't quite put into words.”

I’ve actually been doing stuff.

07 Jun

Okay readers this is an important post! I haven’t actually revealed any of the work I’ve been doing so I’ll do that now and ask for your help.

1. The film.
2. What I’ve been doing for the film.
3. I need your help.

The Film

The documentary is going to follow the stories of a number of rescued abused child laborers who I’ll be living with in Nepalganj. Essentially the government does not enforce their child labor law so this district has supported my NGO’s work to “raid an rescue” the children in the worst situations. They essentially show up with the sheriff and take the kid. This is the “train” of the story. We’ll meet child laborers before they go to work, after they go to work and before they’re rescued, during rescues, as they enter the transit home, as they leave the transit home, and what their lives are like after returning home for a while. Along the way, we’ll explain the complexities of child labor and how it is deeply intertwined with education, development, and discrimination. We’ll talk to advocates, rescuers, parents, employers, economists, NGO/INGO child labor experts, local government officials, national government officials, and of course the kids themselves. We’ll talk about what has been done, what can be done, and what should be done. There are moral and pragmatic complexities that I’ll try to bring out in the film.

What I’ve been doing

For the past week I’ve been in neighboring districts, riding on the back of motorcycles for about 5 hours a day on average to visit places that I can’t believe my local partners can find. Sometimes we just ride through the forest–it is like the return of the jedi chase scene on endor–and there are multiple trails and we just ride and ride into the forest. I also forded a river Oregan Trail style except on an overloaded motorcycle at night. All of this motorcycle riding has been to visit rural schools to talk to children, parents, and educators affected by child labor. One recent highlight was after talking to a group of parents at an ex-bonded labor camp, I was invited to a meal where we drank homebrewed rice beer. I had a little and poured the rest in the two motorcycle drivers cups. We then drove around the forest singing a song about a man who falls in love with his sister-in-law and throws caution to the wind by declaring tht they’ll go off to look for Blackbuck (deer with big black beards).

When I’m in Nepalganj at the Transit home, I hang out with the kids, eat all my meals with them, and try my new vocab out on them. They are an amazingly beautiful and joy-inspiring. Whenever I feel like interviewees are making the problem seem intractable, I think of the kids and instantly regain my inspiration. Pictures coming soon! During the day, I work on the film outline and plan interviews and shoots. When they go to bed, I watch documentaries and take notes on how any of the approaches might be useful in constructing shots, scenes, and sequences for the film.

I drink way more soda than I have since I was 17.

What you can do to help

I need feedback on what audiences might be interetsed in. So I knew jack squat about child labor when I came into this project. What do you know about it? What do you want to know about it? Also if you have any idas for interesting sequences, scenes, or shots, please post a comment! Also, does this sound a little bit too much like Born into Brothels? Does it help that we’ll have Cops-like scenes of scuffles with abusive owners of child laborers?

Sequence: combo of scenes that relate a complete story within the film
Scene: combo of shots of same event
Shot: Continuous piece of video

Posted By Kan Yan

Posted Jun 7th, 2009


  • Natasha

    June 8, 2009


    When it comes to child labor I am curious to see what your documentary will offer as an alternative means to attain money for these children. While I agree that child labor is a very terrible thing,I find that it is too easy to say that it should be stopped when a lot of children would not have access to food or water were it not for their jobs.

  • Andrea

    June 8, 2009


    The World Day Against Child Labour will be celebrated on 12 June 2009. Check out http://www.ilo.org/ipec/Campaignandadvocacy/WDACL/WorldDay2009/lang–en/index.htm

  • Will Slade

    June 10, 2009


    Hi Kan,
    I ran across your (incredible) photos on facebook and was intrigued by your project. You mention hanging out with kids at a Transit home… what kind of care, activities, and/or education do children receive there? Where do they go next? Will your documentary be able to follow the children through a few steps of the process (if not with individual cases, then by interviewing people who were rescued last year or the year before to learn about the experience in retrospect)?


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