Third Man In, a New York and Boston-based creative company, is thrilled and privileged to offer a new story to the world of volunteer travel, or voluntourism, service-learning, ethical holiday--whatever you call it. H.O.P.E. Was Here, now in production, is a feature-length documentary that observes a Stonehill College alternative spring break trip to Lima, Peru. We’ve come a long way in 18 months and made some new friends. Let us fill you in.
In June 2011, while making videos for Boston University, I met an incredible guy named Travis Kumph. Travis was writing a book, Peace of Me, about his life-changing volunteer experiences in Lima, Peru through H.O.P.E. (Honoring Our Neighbor, Organizing For Justice, Practicing Peace, Encountering God), the alternative spring break program at Stonehill. He wanted to take a filmmaker to Peru to bring his book to life and I wanted to see the world with a camera in my hands. So I jumped on board without thinking twice, even though I had never volunteered abroad and knew almost nothing about it.
I had friends who did stuff like this--build houses, teach english, hold brown babies--but never thought much past, “What a nice thing they are doing, saving the world.” Now committed to the story, I spent the summer doing research and found what a poignant, controversial, and undeniably important topic I had stumbled upon. Beneath it, a welcoming and passionate community of diverse people sharing experiences and opinions. Special thanks to Sarah Vandenberg of Frayed Passport, Daniela Kon of DEEDA Productions, and Ken Budd, author of The Voluntourist for being among the first folks to help us navigate this space.
That September, armed with purpose, Travis and I approached Stonehill about following their volunteer trip to Peru to film the entire experience, from the information session to the students’ lives months after returning from Lima. Rightfully so, there was widespread concern about this kind of access. But the school said yes, a testament to its confidence in the strength of H.O.P.E. and its dedication to “critical thinking, free inquiry, and the interchange of ideas.”
The trip happened in March 2012 and changed my life, cliches aside. In the 10 months since my return, we won a $1,000 grant challenge at Travel2Change and launched our official website. Next month we return to Lima to wrap production in Canto Grande, a community strong and loving in the face of abject poverty. By the end of this year we will emerge with a movie that we hope is thoughtful and engaging. Along the way we’ll share plenty of cool stuff and continue to learn with all of you. We can’t wait.