H.O.P.E. Was Here

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A film by Mark Denega

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A story about the merits and pitfalls of volunteering abroad.

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Affluent, Boston-based college students embark on a weeklong goodwill trip to the slums of Lima, Peru in this story about the phenomenon of volunteer vacations—also known as "voluntourism" or service trips—which have fast become both a hallmark of global citizenry and a point of controversy for socially conscious millenials. In their attempts to teach English and work with developmentally disabled children, the students must confront the reality of their work and whether or not it’s creating positive change. A fresh take on a classic moral dilemma, H.O.P.E. Was Here deals with the intersection of privilege and poverty by asking what it really means to help people.


10/02/15       The 53rd Week (Non-Profit), Toronto, ON

06/03/15       Hoboken International Film Festival, Middletown, NY
03/30/15       NYU Alternative Breaks, New York, NY
03/08/15       Llanberis Mountain Film Festival, Llanberis, UK
02/28/15       Winter Film Awards Independent Film Festival, New York, NY
01/17/15       JMU Alternative Break Program, Harrisonburg, VA
12/05/14       International Volunteer Day, Lochristi, Belgium
11/09/14       University of Pittsburgh Global Brigades, Pittsburgh, PA

What people are saying about H.O.P.E. Was Here:

“We showed H.O.P.E. Was Here to all of the participants at our retreat and it brought about a lot of discussion and reflection. There were definitely some people who felt that it was uncomfortable, but the general consensus was how eye-opening it was. The word transformative kept being thrown around, and I think the film really helped our participants in being more intentional and self-aware about the work they plan to do.”

-Nico Climaco, Alternative Break Trip Leader, James Madison University

“A thoughtful look at good intentions.”

-Peter Koutsogeorgas, Young Explorers Grantee, National Geographic

“We screened H.O.P.E. Was Here to nearly 600 undergraduate students and the reception was outstanding. Those who had volunteered abroad before—and there were many—had a lot to share during the Q&A with Mark. Students were still talking about the film days later during their smaller discussion sections.”

-Micha Sabovik, Assistant Dean, BU College of Communication

“Outstanding and worth your time. I loved the trip to Jhonny's house.”

-William A. Taylor, Higher Education Administrator

“Will generate some heated discussion.”

-Lindsey Kotowicz, Community Service Center, Boston University

“In addition to some beautifully poetic moments, it thoughtfully questions the nature of privilege.”

-Dorian Tocker, Director, Everyday Saturday

“Many college students living in the US have never seen real poverty and these volunteer travel trips are, at the very least, a way to open the eyes of people who may already be inclined to want to help others. Your film has done a great job to show both the positive and negative aspects of these trips and to open a dialogue about how they should be approached. It was also just entertaining and interesting to watch.”

-Sarah Long, Researcher, LAMP For Haiti

“The editing and sound design are amazing and seamless. It flows so naturally.”

-Max Belin, Director, Follow Suit Productions

“A thought-provoking documentary.”

-Claus Mueller, Film Critic, International Film & TV Exchange

“Subtly questions the value of short-term volunteering abroad and captures the fish-out-of-water feeling that many volunteers experience.”

-Ken Budd, Author, The Voluntourist

“Awesome documentary! You captured so many things that I think people need to hear in the realm of international service. After watching I knew I had to screen it to our entire Global Brigades chapter, and it definitely sparked some good conversation.”

-Jenna Hanner, President, Global Brigades at University of Pittsburgh


-Catherine Mack, Writer, responsibletravel.com

“We had over 200 people view the film in a lecture hall during our overnight retreat for alternative break trip leaders and participants. We then broke off into small groups to discuss and had a great conversation.”

-Kelly Sheridan, Alternative Break Outreach Coordinator, James Madison University

“Watch H.O.P.E. Was Here if you have volunteered abroad or are interested in doing so. Great film that stresses both the good and bad of our impact.”

-Livvy Evans, International Volunteer

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