A Delta filmmaker is premiering his documentary Volunteers Unleashed on CBC’s series Doc Zone this Thursday (March 19).
Brad Quenville tackles the flip side of philanthropy in Volunteers Unleashed, which examines what happens when hordes of well-meaning – and largely well-heeled – young people descend on Third World countries to help.
The idea for Volunteers Unleashed came about after his teenage daughter Jennica went on a volunteer trip to Tanzania in 2012.
Quenville said as a parent, the idea of his daughter going to Africa alone seemed terrifying at first, but his nerves were eased when he learned she’d be living with other “voluntourists” in a walled compound with barbed wire and panic buttons inside.
“Voluntourism” is a term for people who go to developing nations to volunteer while also going out and partying and exploring the countries they’re in.
Occasionally, they do more harm than good.
As an example, Quenville hinted at one of the final scenes in the documentary which show some pre-med student “voluntourists” with little or no formal medical training trying to treat patients in a community clinic in Tanzania.
Research for the documentary started after Jennica came home from Tanzania around Christmas time in 2012. The pair collaborated on the film through 2013 and then travelled to Tanzania with a cameraman, Kyle Sandilands, in the fall of 2013 and finished it in 2014.
“It was a relatively quick turnaround for a documentary,” Quenville said.
Quenville has won numerous awards across North America in his 25-year TV career. He has written and directed several segments of Global Television’s Vanity Insanity, which won a Media Access Award in Los Angeles, and has had the documentary play in New York City’s Museum of Sex.
His company Q Camera Productions Ltd. is currently working on his next project – a documentary that follows 10 women snorkelling through the Northwest Passage.
As for Volunteers Unleashed, Quenville advises viewers to stick through to the end because the action gets dramatic.
“From the outside, it looks like ‘what could be wrong with this?’ ” Quenville said.
But as the film illustrates, there can be a dark side to doing good.
Volunteers Unleashed premiers on CBC on March 19 at 9 p.m.