A feature film about the phenomenon of volunteering abroad.
College students from Boston embark on a do-good trip to the slums of Lima, Peru in this story about the phenomenon of volunteer vacations, which have fast become a controversial hallmark for today’s socially conscious generation. In their attempts to teach English and rehab disabled children, the students must confront the reality of their work and whether or not it’s creating positive change. Both observation and reflection, H.O.P.E. Was Here asks whether trying to aid disadvantaged people around the world is about helping others or helping ourselves.
Short-term volunteering abroad, or “voluntourism,” is a booming travel movement popularized by schools, churches, NGOs, and commercial volunteer companies. Voluntourism is inspired by faith-based missions and organizations such as the Peace Corps. In the past decade, however, volunteer stints have been spurred by disaster relief efforts, such as those in New Orleans and Haiti. Trips last from one week to a few months and usually combine cultural immersion with teaching, construction, childcare, or environmental projects.
Conscientious volunteering abroad can provide legitimate needs to communities, improve cultural understanding, and inspire personal growth in volunteers. But some see volunteer trips as tourist attractions unwillingly hosted by the poor, where participants are unskilled, or even unneeded. These ventures may harm or insult the people they are meant to help and, in turn, reinforce the power imbalance between rich and poor. This divide has spawned fierce debates about voluntourism, and whether or not its practice is ethical.
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