PeaceWorx is a short film series produced by Blue Sky Project that explores the role of often small, homegrown actions that counter violence, isolation, indifference, and hopelessness.
There is something magical that happens when you help another person. Through the act of helping, you become connected and, in a way, responsible. It works. I saw this as we made our way across Costa Rica on a ten-day hiking expedition with the Outward Bound Peace Builders.
Based in New York City, the Outward Bound Center for Peacebuilding builds leadership and conflict resolution skills through experiential, outdoor learning. It easily fit into our PeaceWorx series. However, the challenge was convincing them that we wouldn’t, by our presence, impact the work they were doing.
Originally, I had wanted to film the program they were sponsoring that brought together Palestinian and Israeli women. Executive director Anna Patel gently explained what in the end was obvious: adding a man to the mix in an already complicated environment wouldn’t be in their best interest. If that wasn’t enough, filming might put some of these courageous women at risk. It was the word “risk” that struck me. It spoke to the stakes for these women and the true nature of the quiet, powerful work in which Anna and her team were engaged.
In the months that followed, we decided that the Costa Rica program led by Nettie Pardue would be the best fit. It put a group of international peace builders—myself included—in an environment—the wilderness—that we thirty- to fifty-year-olds might not be ready for, and then asked us to care for each other.
I’m sure the participants—all of whom worked in communities in conflict: Rwanda, Colombia, Ethiopia, and the United States and had spent years committed to conflict resolution—understood implicitly the principles that were at work. But still, along the trail, simple acts of kindness bound us to each other and built community. Each evening there was a meeting to help connect the dots and pull us all willingly toward a fuller understanding of what collective responsibility can look like and how it can be an agent of change.
I vividly remember participants relieving me of my pack so I could film, or hauling me up when I fell through a rotted log on the trail. I recall the guide looking in the hole I had left in the log to make sure it wasn’t a snake pit. It was then, as he looked me over for bites, that I realized how deeply we were in his care. He just smiled and we were off . . . almost like magic.
David Marshall is an Emmy Award-winning producer, director, and editor. He is the founder and director of Blue Sky Project, a not-for-profit media foundation. His films reflect his interest in human rights, social justice, and the power of contextualized history.