PHOTO: A new documentary aims to capture the mission experience of St. Mary’s D.R.E.A.M.S. program. Photo courtesy of Dunn Media

Capturing D.R.E.A.M.S. on film

By  Maria Montemayor, Youth Speak News
  • May 6, 2016

For 17 years, Hamilton, Ont.’s St. Mary’s Catholic Secondary School students have been helping dreams come true in the global south. This year, it is being captured on film.

Students involved in the school’s Dominican Republic Education and Medical Support (D.R.E.A.M.S.) program were filmed by Dunn Media, which is making a documentary on the program.

“We quite often do videos every year,” said Don Hall, chaplaincy leader. “When the students come back from the Dominican they say to us, the videos and the books, they don’t do the program justice... But this is the first time there has been a professional documentary that’s been started.”

Through the program, students have built a school, a teacher’s residence and 55 homes for families in remote villages of the Dominican Republic. And for many years it has gone unnoticed. This year St. Mary’s Grade 12 students travelled in groups to San José de Ocoa to spend their March Break on a mission trip building two more houses.

“The reason behind the documentary is they want to see that the D.R.E.A.M.S. program continues and it’s a message that they want to be able to share with other high schools, other university groups, that they could maybe continue to do this in their own way,” said Hall.

The documentary is currently in post-production. The aim for the finished product is to screen it in high schools, elementary schools and parishes. It will also be available online.

Kiera Riddell, a student who took part in the March break trip, enjoyed the filming process as filmmaker Chris Atkins accompanied the group.

“It was really cool. (Atkins) would interview all of us throughout the trip. He would notice everyone’s answers who were interviewed from the beginning of the trip, at the end they were different. Opinions had changed. People had really grown to love the experience. And he would come up to the house and film them working as well. It was just a unique experience and you didn’t even notice he was there,” said Riddell.

Catharine Bowman’s opinions were changed by the D.R.E.A.M.S. experience. Initially, she had viewed herself as privileged with blessings and opportunities in comparison to the Dominicans.

“The locals there indeed had very little tangible wealth, but I could see that their spirit and their love and their generosity was significant,” said Bowman. “It totally redefined wealth for me. I realized, truly, that they were so happy just to give of what they could to us, and I think that’s something that changed my life.”

Each night the students shared their reflections on a particular topic which helped them bond and connect spiritually. Larissa Pirillo found the reflections useful.

“The reflections made us, as a group, so much closer. And I honestly think that without the reflections we wouldn’t have grown to be as close as we did,” said Pirillo.

Chiara Salvatore is a supervising teacher who has been to the Dominican Republic eight times. Salvatore has found her Catholic faith has grown each time she has been involved in D.R.E.A.M.S.

“I love going because I can connect with students every time and I can connect with them personally as well as spiritually,” said Salvatore.

“I know for me, God has me on a path and something happens in life and then you have to adjust your path based on this faith that has grown. It makes you realize that there’s more to life than what you’re doing at the current moment.”

(Montemayor, 23, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English and political science from the University of Toronto.)

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