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A Film by Mark Denega

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.

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Photo credit: Gazteaukera via Flickr


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.

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Photo credit: Gazteaukera via Flickr


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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Photo credit: Gazteaukera via Flickr

Backed by these great organizations and individuals:

Ryan Thurston

“Happy to support another filmmaker with an important story to tell.”

Aleks Jonca

“Good luck! Mind sending me a copy when you are done? :-D”

Brian Kannry

“Good stuff! I’m passing this along to my friends who do volunteer work overseas.”

Sean Culver

“What an interesting topic! This should generate some great discussions.”

The Borruso Family

“Very cool! We're happy to help.”

The Denega Family

“So proud!”

Samantha Grant

“I think it’s great what you’re doing. Best of luck!”

Brianne Lugo

“This is going to be amazing. I wish I could donate more!”

Kerry Kennedy

“Interested to see how Stonehill's trip compares to the one I did at Boston College.”

The Miscioscia Family

“Can't wait to see this!”

Vivian Park

Anisha Patel

“I wish you all the best of luck in Peru!”

Micha Sabovik

“Always happy to help our alums of Boston University. Good luck!”

The Morellos

“This is an awesome thing you are doing. We’re happy to donate.”

Jessica Long

“I'm excited to see how the film explores perspectives we might not otherwise be exposed to.”

The Rice Family

"Good Luck!"

Erik Proctor

Kelly Siss

“I spent 10 days on a service / immersion trip to El Salvador so I’m excited to see this!”

Duncan Street

Lindsay Greenberg

Michael Wittich

Jason Kashdan

"As a Spanish speaker and fellow documentarian, how could I not help? Good luck!"

Stephanie Semet

Paul Kresge

Eric Strow

"I look forward to the film indulging my curiosity about volunteer abroad issues."

George Huber

Spencer Arritt

"Great to finally see a film that covers both sides of the voluntourism experience."

Máire Hatch

"Good luck Mark!"

Jeanne Swick

"Best of luck with the film! Hope all goes well!"

Kevin Robitaille

Thomas Robinson

Allison Wilhite

"Watching the trailer brought back a flood of memories from my trip to Peru."

Sarah Long

"I'm interested to see what type of impact international volunteering actually has."

The Eigenlaub Family

Rick Kavin

Mike Doyle

Kyle Kalotschke

The Bickerstaff Family

Scott Bonacic

Lisa Hess

Dorothea Swiac

Kyle Cozart

Justin Franklin

Diana Susino

Jason Donovan

Kristin Waller

Dave Work

Caryn Mlodzianowski

All Rights Reserved © Third Man In, LLC - H.O.P.E. Was Here - A Volunteer Travel Documentary

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