Operation Change, a 10-part television series surrounding the activities of a global philanthropic team, made its debut this week on OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network).
Executive Produced by Steven Sawalich, CEO of Starkey Hearing Foundation, the series follows him and his parents, Bill and Tani Austin, as they travel the world to team with other organizations in the battle against societal ills. Along the way, the group creates sustainable projects aimed towards affecting change in some of the most impoverished and at-risk communities across the globe. The documentary-style series provides not only a ground-level view of the daily challenges citizens of these developing countries face, but also the awe-inspiring efforts being made by both small community volunteers and celebrity philanthropists, all hinged on profoundly helping those in need.
Each episode is shot in a different locale and features an equally diverse lineup of guests including President Bill Clinton, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, musician Sir Elton John, fashion designer Donna Karan, actress Maria Bello, athletes Manny Pacquiao, Larry Fitzgerald & Ray Lewis, and more. These stars will partner with the rest of the Operation Change team and philanthropic organizations such as Urban Zen, WorldServe, Touching the Untouchables, World Wide Village, & The Beautiful Gate Foundation.
“We have had lasting relationships with the celebrities we were working with and wanted to highlight the work they were doing. We wanted people who were doing the work on the ground, and not just wanting to get their name out there.” says Sawalich. “No one knows me or cares about what I have to say, but they know Bill Clinton. They know Elton John. It was important to partner with them and the organizations they work with.”
The premiere episode takes place in Haiti, introducing us to the Operation Change team as they land in earthquake-torn Port Au Prince, providing housing opportunities for a grieving mother and single father, and to bless a deaf child with the gift of hearing.
The Operation Change team hopes to also engage viewers to act beyond their television viewing experience using the Second Screen interactive platform to gain more insight on social good projects and regional culture. Additionally, after each of the 10 episodes, a code will be included on the show when it airs on OWN as well as OperationChange.com. The code can be used to enter and win an experience for two to join the Operation Change team and partners in the field as they strategize and execute an initiative in a featured country.
Upcoming episodes will find the team travelling to Israel/Palestine, Tanzania, Columbia, Lebanon, South Africa, Malaysia, Ethiopia, India and Papua New Guinea.
Operation Change will air on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network on Mondays at 10/9pm Central. To find out more information, visit their website.
Ugi Ugwuomo is a writer based in Brooklyn, NY. You can follow him on twitter @rLfNowhere.