Extending the Link was conceived in 2007 by three students from the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University on a semester abroad program in Guatemala. Students saw firsthand the importance- both social and economic- of fair trade coffee in Guatemala. While abroad these undergraduates volunteered with a fair-trade cooperative named Kuchaba'l and upon returning to the U.S became committed to showing others what they had experienced. Not only had the students become advocates of fair trade coffee and other products, but they had begun planning their return trip- this time with a passion and desire to spread the significance of fair trade coffee. After rekindling prior connections, they set out producing hours of footage, dozens of local interviews, and endless hours of research. A twenty-two minute documentary titled Somos de Café was created and graciously embraced by the CSB/SJU community. Extending the Link was born.
After the success and enthusiasm generated by Somos de Café, the students were inspired to investigate more under-told issues around the globe. Their mission was to create documentaries and other tools for students, faculty, alumni and community members to provide global awareness about matters which often go unheard. The second project, titled Del micro al Cambio, was produced in Chile and was specifically aimed at capturing the importance and necessity of micro loans to woman entrepreneurs in South America. The students thoroughly researched these lending opportunities, traveled to Chile, conducted interviews, edited the footage and premiered the new documentary at CSB/SJU.
The founders of the ETL graduated in the spring of 2009 and the leadership was passed on to a new team with hopes of creating a sustainable and structured organization. The new student management -from diverse backgrounds and disciplines- did just that. In 2010, after nearly 8 months of fundraising and planning, the ETL team traveled to rural Uganda to discover, understand and foster student activism regarding the plight of child-headed families in Africa. They partnered with the Uganda Rural Fund and Hope Academy to interview doctors, teachers, politicians and, most importantly, the youth left to take care of younger siblings while going to school and maintaining jobs. Through creative marketing techniques such as benefit concerts, fudge sales, business letter writing and a documentary premier night, ETL gained the attention of their campus, the interest of their community, and respect from their sponsors.
In January 2011, ETL members traveled to Nepal to examine the issue of human trafficking. The latest film features Padhma Creations, an innovative social venture that empowers human trafficking victims by providing knitting and business training. "Pragati," which means "progress" in Nepali, truly showed the progress occurring in Nepal, and generated discussions around human trafficking on campus, encouraged our community to buy Padhma products, and engaged CSB/SJU students in several volunteer opportunities with nonprofit organizations throughout Minnesota.
In January 2012, ETL members traveled to Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) to film the rebuilding after the war. During the conflict of the 1990s, Bosnia and Herzegovina faced horrible acts of genocide that were labeled as the worst genocide in Europe's history since the Holocaust. This documentary explored the history through the lens of the young and how they are working together to rebuild their country.