Alumna Spotight: Paula Novacki, `14
Ever wondered what life after graduation will look like? Meet Paula Novacki!
The word “philanthropologist” is not something you hear every day. That’s because it’s a word coined by alumnus Earl Bridges (pictured on the right in the blue shirt).
Bridges calls himself a philanthropologist and defines it as someone who spends life exploring the world to find the people making it a better place.
Now he along with his childhood friend, Craig Martin, are telling the stories of everyday heroes with a new documentary series, “The Good Road.”
This series shows the world of extreme philanthropy in Asia, Africa and the U.S. The places they travel do not feature tourist attractions but instead, uncover unfamiliar locations and flips conventional thinking on its head by breaking barriers.
For Bridges, this international endeavor compliments his eclectic background. He was a military kid with his dad, a Vietnam-era Air Force pilot, living in Bangkok as a missionary after the war. He spent much of his early life in Southeast Asia. It was in Bangkok where he met Martin and they became childhood friends.
Bridges studied at the University of Lisbon in Portugal then made his way to the University of South Carolina. “I wanted to use my international background and see where I fit in the world,” Bridges said.
At South Carolina he studied accounting and then international business at the Darla Moore School of Business.
Along his career, he established tech companies, served on the Board of several nonprofits and advised, spoke and wrote about corporate social responsibility, company culture and the power of philanthropy.
Now, with “The Good Road,” he is on a new journey telling the stories of inspiring people who look at the world's hard problems with an attitude of, "I can help”.
“Where we go, you’re not getting Marriott points,” Bridges said. The show’s storytelling is very much off the beaten path, where the hosts put themselves in local settings to tell the most authentic stories.
In each 26-minute episode, viewers are introduced to a new culture, an existing problem and the people working towards the solution. Some of the plots introduced deal with following a punk rocker working to help street kids in Myanmar, observing how a wildlife base in Kenya fights against poachers and the challenges of providing internet services in remote areas of the region, visiting doctors in the Ugandan countryside working to save lives, discussing river conservation in Bangkok and observing a ministry seeking to create a safe space for residents in Alabama Village.
With these adventures comes the strong friendship between Bridges and Martin which Bridges believes positions “The Good Road,” as a buddy show.
When discussing what it’s like to film a show with a friend, Bridges notes, “we have authentic personalities that come across the camera that work coupled with the long history we have together.”
With these two, viewers can find humor in every episode. One episode finds Martin meeting his match in the boxing ring against a teenage girl and in that same episode, Bridges belts out a Thai song on the Chao Phraya river, much to the delight of fellow boat goers.
Along their travels, Martin will often be the one that yells, “stop the van!” which can only mean it’s time to step out and film something interesting.
With their long friendship, the first episode serves as a homecoming for the two as they explore their old stomping grounds in Bangkok while taking viewers around the city to see what it means to engage in one’s local community in a positive way despite occupation or status.
Now after months traveling, filming and editing, “The Good Road,” is now airing on 350 public television stations across the country, including SCETV.
What Bridges hopes viewers take away is simple.
“We find the brightest light in the darkest corners to show that there is good everywhere,” he said.