Last year I set off on the trip of a lifetime, travelling to Ethiopia to make a short film about every child's right to play. Nothing could have prepared me and the production crew for the magic we would find in a small community of Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa.
The film we made is one of seven stories Plan International is producing to help people understand what child rights are, and why they're so important.
Our goal is to tell stories about children accessing their rights, but we also want to surprise and give a broader impression of life in the developing world. We've become accustomed to negative images of poverty. These images are real and important to understand, but often come at the expense of showing the diverse, rich and vibrant aspects of life in developing countries.
It's an unusual angle for a charity to take, but we wanted to show our audience that there's more to Ethiopia than poverty.
So we arrived ready to meet a child who wanted to tell us their story.
Together with our Ethiopian colleagues, who work closely with communities where Plan operates, we approached a kindergarten to meet kids who are benefiting from an early learning project. What better way to find an inspiring story about play!
On our first day there, the kids stared at us in wonder before rushing up to say hello. The excitement spread like wildfire and, before we knew it, each of us was surrounded by a mob of three- to five year-olds, some clambering up our legs, yanking on our arms and offering hugs.
It was glorious mayhem!
It was important the children felt comfortable around us, so for the first day we put down the cameras and followed their lead. We played soccer, danced, sang songs and played hopscotch.
We answered questions and explained where we came from and what we were doing in Ethiopia. It was one of the physically toughest and most enjoyable days of work I've ever had - and it gave me a new appreciation for kindergarten teachers!
One boy stood out - Hennock. The Plan staff had told us how excited he was about being in the film. After spending just half an hour with him, with his cheeky grin and endless chatter, we knew his story would capture imaginations.
We were certain these films should reflect the thoughts and feelings of the children in them. The stories we told were decided by these kids, and then delivered in whatever way they chose. This was important to us - how could we make films about child rights without children speaking in their own voice?
The film is Hennock's story, in his own words. It's his joy, delight, confidence and dreams. As the producer, I believe its strength is in how we just let him be. Its authenticity allows Hennock's vitality to shine through, revealing a story about childhood that's unexpected - but beautifully universal.
To learn more and support Plan's work visit www.plan.org.au