RAISING HOPE: Virginia Wesleyan Mission Trip Inspires Student Documentary on Human Trafficking Recovery Program

RAISING HOPE: Virginia Wesleyan Mission Trip Inspires Student Documentary on Human Trafficking Recovery Program
WINNING WORK: John Davis's film "Nica Esperana" won Best Student Documentary Short at the 2015 Bare Bones International Film & Music Festival. The 2015 Virginia Wesleyan graduate will begin pursuing a master's in film and electronic media at American University this fall.
WINNING WORK: John Davis’s film “Nica Esperana” won Best Student Documentary Short at the 2015 Bare Bones International Film & Music Festival. The 2015 Virginia Wesleyan graduate will begin pursuing a master’s in film and electronic media at American University this fall.

Recent Virginia Wesleyan graduate John Davis ’15 wants to change the world. But instead of using political prowess, advanced technology, or complicated algorithms, he plans to use something else: his video camera.

For the last four years, Davis has traveled to Nicaragua on an annual Spring Break Mission Trip organized by the College’s Chaplain’s Office. There, the group worked with House of Hope, a rehabilitation organization for survivors of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. Deeply impacted by this experience, Davis wanted to give back but didn’t know how.

“Before going to Nicaragua, I was clueless about third world countries and how people in them live,” says Davis, a native of Kailua, Hawaii. “I had very little knowledge about the problems they face. House of Hope provides a safe space for a select number of women—most of whom are raising children—to live and educate themselves and earn a little bit of money while learning a trade.”

The communication major and history minor began to conceptualize a project in November 2013 that would allow him to give back. Around the same time, VWC Professor of Communication Stu Minnis approached him about a collaborative independent study of documentary film. The two ideas clicked and the foundation for a film about House of Hope was formed. That spring, Davis returned to Nicaragua armed with his video camera.

The result was “Nica Esperanza,” a 10-minute documentary that showcases House of Hope’s Tuesday Morning program—a worship and work initiative that combines faith and jewelry making. The program gives trafficking survivors hope and offers them an opportunity to forge a better life for themselves and their children.

“I want people who are absolutely clueless on the issue of human trafficking and sexual slavery to come away wanting to learn more and wanting to help with the solution,” he says. “If there was an organization like House of Hope in every country, the world would get a whole lot closer to solving this horrifying crisis.”

In April, Davis presented “Nica Esperanza” at the Bare Bones International Film & Music Festival in Oklahoma, where it won Best Student Documentary Short. This was a turning point for the young filmmaker, who says it helped him discover what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. This fall, he will begin pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in Film and Electronic Media at American University.

But his own personal achievements aside, Davis hopes that viewers will see his film and recognize the importance of organizations like House of Hope. Moreover, he hopes it compels them to action.

“It’s going to take a lot of people’s efforts to solve this crisis,” he says. “And you cannot solve a problem you do not know about.”