TV reporter quits for Africa

DOING IT FOR THE KIDS: Kim Vinnell, a One News reporter, travelled to Africa earlier in the year and fell in love with it.
DOING IT FOR THE KIDS: Kim Vinnell, a One News reporter, travelled to Africa earlier in the year and fell in love with it.

When Kim Vinnell went to East Africa she had not planned on much. She hadn't planned on having her beliefs challenged or her world turned upside down. She also hadn't planned on falling in love.

But two months after returning from Kenya, where she was reporting on a Kiwi aid worker, Vinnell is heading back - to help him.

On Thursday the TVNZ reporter's piece about former rising musician turned champion of impoverished children Matt Holleman aired on 20/20. It ended with a short admission, that the experience had brought her closer to her interview subject.

So much so that she was leaving her job at TVNZ and moving to Africa to be with him and work at a charity he has set up.

It was the first time the 25-year-old had been to a Third World country.

"It changed everything about what I thought about wealth and poverty," she said. "I realised how much it really is a lottery of life."

She said it was easy to feel disconnected when a person lived in a country like New Zealand.

"But when you see a woman begging with a child you think, ‘That could be me. I could have been born here'. "

For the most part, Vinnell's lottery had good odds. She is a rising star at the network, having worked there for five years after graduating from broadcasting school.

But when her colleagues asked her where she was going when she left, Vinnell's response would often draw blank stares.

"They say ‘why are on earth are you going to Africa, most people go to PR'."

Vinnell said that she was partly going for the challenge of it.

Entering a relationship with your interview subject might draw some raised eyebrows from the journalistic community, but Vinnell insists it was not something she planned on.

The organisation she reported on centred around Holleman's decision to leave a promising music career to help run an orphanage, medical clinic and farm.

"The ethos was you could pull out all your aid workers at any time and it would still work because it was a sustainable operation."

However, the overwhelming feeling Vinnell had was of her uselessness in the face of extreme poverty.

"I'm not a doctor or a nurse, what could I do here? But I also felt that a difference can be made even at a small level. So why not?"

Sunday Star Times