The Travelers’ Philanthropy Documentary was commissioned for the December, 2008 Travelers' Philanthropy Conference in Arusha, Tanzania. The film examines the challenges inherent in successful philanthropic projects, showcases a few successful examples of travel philanthropy, and includes interviews with travel philanthropy experts from Central America to East Africa. The film was shot, edited and produced by two talented young documentary filmmakers from Stanford University, Peter Jordan and Charlene Music. We are very thankful to Steve Aronson of Cafe Britt and Basecamp Explorer Foundation for donating the funds to underwrite the cost of this Travelers’ Philanthropy documentary. Click play to watch a promo.
The Stanford Documentary Makers share with us here some of their experiences and travels during the making of the film.
Please read their film journal below:
We have just finished covering our first three projects in Costa Rica and are inspired and energized by the philanthropic work here. Now that we have filmed Costa Rica from coast to coast, we are excited to publish this first report of the innovative methods of travelers’ philanthropy already happening here.
In Punta Islita, on the Pacific coast, an entire community has been revived and energized by the microenterprises inspired and supported by a luxury hotel. Thirty years ago, before the hotel arrived, most of the forest in Islita had been burned to make room for cattle pastures, and the population was dwindling from poverty and lack of jobs. Operating with an understanding that the hotel could not thrive without a thriving community, Hotel Punta Islita assumed the responsibility of training the relatively uneducated local population to staff the hotel. Locals were provided the opportunity to try different jobs at the hotel until they found the best fit. Today even the manager comes from one of the local pueblos. In addition, the hotel cosigned loans for locals to start their own businesses. For example, a local cattle farmer, who was first hired as a carpenter to help build the hotel, now runs his own small enterprise with 50 employees and contracts to build million dollar homes. We also encountered a group of American tourists who started a foundation to support the local school system, so that when the current generation of children from Islita grows up, they will have opportunities beyond the hotel.
Sarapiqui Conservation Learning Center (SCLC), in the northern lowlands, provides community service opportunities for tourists visiting the Costa Rican rainforest. Among the many contributions that these travelers have made to the local town of Chilamate is a sidewalk that has rescued school children from the peril of massive trailer trucks that speed through the town every minute.
After one child was killed on the road several years ago, SCLC collaborated with the community to design a project that brought the resources of travelers to their aid. Working in collaboration with the community, the travelers contributed materials and labor to help build the sidewalk. Their efforts show how even a very simple project can make a dramatic difference in the daily life of a community. In addition, most of the staff at SCLC are foreign volunteers on 6-month contracts. In exchange for their time and talent, they receive complimentary room and board with families in the community.
In Tortugeuro National Park, on the Caribbean coast, where giant green sea turtles come to nest each year, tourists and hotels are being asked to fund a program that employs local turtle spotters to reduce harmful human impact on local wildlife. By purchasing a $4 sticker above the cost of their turtle tour, tourists contributed more than $100,000 to the turtle spotter program in its first year. This is a remarkable turnaround from previous years, when the program had to be halted from lack of funds. Now the biggest challenge for the program is deciding how to spend their $60,000 surplus. Conservationists, the national park system, and community all have different priorities, but now that the turtle spotter program is on solid ground, it will be exciting to see how these sticker donations can be used for the betterment of the people and the environment in the future.
In a few weeks, we head to Africa, where we will be documenting the philanthropic work of safari operators in Kenya and Tanzania. And we are eager to share what we find.
We’ve just returned from Tanzania working with Basecamp Explorer and CC Africa. Journal to be updated soon. Here are some photos for now.
Film Maker Profiles
• Peter Jordan received his B.A. degree from Duke University in 2001, and is currently pursuing a Masters of Fine Arts in Documentary Filmmaking. He is the director of Localfilms, a grassroots production company that partners with international humanitarian organizations to empower communities through film. He also teaches children how to make their own films, using plastic video cameras and a solar-powered computer. His work has been screened at some of the premiere documentary film festivals in the world, including: the 2007 United Nations Documentary Film Festival; the 2007 International Documentary Festival Amsterdam; the 2007 Palm Springs International Festival of Short Films; Uganda’s 2006 Amakula Kampala Film Festival; and Nairobi’s 2003 International Conference on AIDS (ICASA). In his filmmaking career, he has been the recipient of numerous film prizes, as well as university film fellowships and a National Academy of Television scholarship.
• Charlene Music received her B.A. degree in Visual and Environmental Studies from Harvard University in June, 2004, where she studied 16mm film and digital video, as well as photography in 35mm and medium format. In the summer of 2003 she was awarded the Harvard University Pechet Scholarship and the David Rockefeller Center Travel Grant to pursue a photographic project at the National Children’s Hospital in Costa Rica, where her work is now on permanent exhibition. She graduated Magna Cum Laude after presenting her honors thesis in photography, “Gerry” — a portrait in book form of Gerard McNamara, a 50 year old Irish street musician. She then spent four months photographing and filming in India, where she volunteered her time at the Mahatma Ghandi Memorial Medical Trust while developing a video documentary and a project on domestic violence prevention. Charlene also works digitally and is skilled in Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Premiere, and Avid video editing. Her work has been published by the Harvard magazines Diversity and Distinction, and ReVista, as well as by the Harvard Photography Journal. She currently resides at Stanford, where she is pursuing a Masters of Fine Art in Documentary Filmmaking.