Category: Critical Views

Posted on: March 3, 2009 Posted by: Kaia Smith Comments: 0

“Changing the World on Vacation”

A Film Highlighting PEPY’s Mistakes and Lessons Learned
by Daniela Papi

It is sometimes uncomfortable to talk openly about the mistakes you have made, and definitely embarrassing when they are on a big screen for everyone to see, but that is exactly what we are doing at PEPY with “Changing the World on Vacation.”  This documentary, by filmmaker Daniela Kon of Deeda Productions, reflects on the “politics of compassion” and the impact of volunteers and volunteering. The film focuses on footage taken from the first year of PEPY Tours on trips in December 2005, March 2006, and December 2006.  Now, over two years since the last clips of the documentary were filmed, we look back on so many of the decisions we made and actions we took…. and it makes us cringe.

“What were we thinking?” is a phrase heard repeatedly from our staff while watching this film.  What were we thinking, not having a strict clothing policy for rural Cambodia?  What were we thinking designing our trips based around traveler ideas for education, not education coming from the local populations to the visiting guests?  What was Daniela thinking when she said “Cambodia has a limitless supply of fish”?  Ummmm…. I’m not so sure.

What I do know is that watching the film makes me realize how far we have come and how much we have learned. It highlights areas where we can still improve, and overall it is a vivid example of many things NOT to do in volunteer tourism.  Our hope, by being part of this project, is that this film will prevent others from making the same mistakes and will act as a conversation starter around this important topic: “How can you best support positive change while you are in a foreign culture?”