Travel2change, the non-profit organization that partnered with GOOD to provide a Travel for Good grant to H.O.P.E. Was Here in November 2012, recently covered the premiere of the documentary and asked director Mark Denega a few questions about what he hopes comes from the film. The original article, 'New Documentary Takes Thoughtful Look at Volunteering Abroad', appears on the travel2change blog. It is also pasted below in its entirety.
Nearly two years ago, filmmaker Mark Denega rallied the volunteer abroad community around his project H.O.P.E. Was Here: A Volunteer Travel Documentary to win our Travel for Good Challenge. The film premiered online Friday, August 15, after pre-orders sold out in just days. Now, the film is available to stream or download at hopewasherefilm.com.
H.O.P.E. Was Here follows college students from Boston on their one-week goodwill trip to the slums of Lima, Peru in a story about the phenomenon of volunteer vacations, which have fast become both a hallmark and a point of controversy for today’s socially conscious generation. In their attempts to teach English and rehab developmentally disabled children, the students must confront the reality of their work and whether or not it’s creating positive change. Part observation and part reflection, H.O.P.E. Was Here asks the nuanced and difficult questions about what it means to help people.
“Before making this documentary, I knew nothing of international volunteering,” says Denega. “After filming these students before, during, and after their alternative spring break, and, especially after short-term trips have been scrutinized in mainstream media, I understand what an important and timely issue this is.” Denega hopes the film captures a common feeling among international volunteers: intense inner struggle with how, or if, we can actually help people who need it, particularly in the context of the
booming movement and industry of ‘voluntourism’.
“H.O.P.E. Was Here provides a realtime taste of one of these volunteer experiences, which may lead people to remember and reflect on their own trips,” adds Denega. “For those considering their first volunteer abroad experience, the film may make them more aware and responsible decision-makers before they take the leap themselves.” As more and more young people volunteer abroad through schools, churches, and commercial volunteer programs, Denega hopes the documentary will ignite constructive, open dialogue among volunteers, program leaders, and other volunteer travel stakeholders about the value and
betterment of these trips.
To start getting real about volunteering abroad, watch H.O.P.E. Was Here at hopewasherefilm.com, and email the film team at firstname.lastname@example.org to bring a screening to the
volunteer program at your school, church, or other organization.