Gail Mooney-Kelly and Erin Kelly in Egypt
Gail Mooney-Kelly is a professional photographer who has shot for National Geographic and Smithsonian. Erin Kelly is a recent college graduate. They’re a mother and daughter pair about to take off on a round-the-world trip to document people making a positive difference at the grassroots level.
I learned more about their trip via email.
How did the idea for your mother-daughter trip evolve?
I actually came up with the idea after seeing Robert Frank’s “Americans” exhibit at the MET in New York City. The photographs inspired me to get back to my roots and head out on the road. I had over 350,000 airline points as well as thousands of hotel and American Express points and it was time to use them.
But I also knew I needed a purpose and decided to do a “passion project” – a documentary about people who were making a positive difference in the world on a grassroots level. A young woman from our town helped inspire this project and will be one of our subjects. She graduated high school with Erin and decided to travel rather than go straight to college.
She ended up in Nepal where she saw the need for a home for orphans so she built one. Four years later, she is still in Nepal and is now building a school.
It was my mother’s idea, initially, for the project – to make a documentary that focuses on individuals making a difference around the world. But it was my idea to go with her, adding the mother-daughter element to the trip. I think it also partly stemmed from a dream that we’ve always had to get round-the-world tickets and travel for a summer. And now we’re doing just that, but with an even more meaningful purpose.
What are the goals of the trip with respect to your relationship with each other?
My daughter has grown up traveling the world with her parents – both my husband and myself are photographers/filmmakers. This is the first time we will be working together and Erin will bring another dimension to the project because of her age and how she sees the world.
It will be the trip of a lifetime that we will share together, an experience we’ll never forget. Most importantly, it will let me get to really know the young woman my daughter is.
I hope to learn more about my mother’s traveling adventures when she was my age, and reconnect with her on a more adult level. As it’s been a year since I’ve moved away from home, our relationship has shifted – I’m hoping that it will continue to grow and strengthen as we share this experience together.
With respect to the project, my goal is to connect with our subjects, learn from them, and inspire the world with their stories. Overall, I also hope to learn more about myself and discover what careers I might be interested in pursuing, once I return.
And with respect to the documentary project?
We will distribute the documentary online with the hope that it will spread virally and inspire others who see the film that they too can do something to make a difference in their own communities or elsewhere in the world.
How did you select the organizations that will be featured in the documentary?
We actually didn’t select “organizations,” but rather individuals. We wanted to shine a little light on people who are out there but who go unnoticed. We knew we wanted to include Maggie Doyne, who had inspired us to do this, so we initially sent a query to her.
She sent us some people she had met and they sent the query to people and it took on a life of its own with social media. Word of mouth generated leads.
We reached out to all of our contacts, asking if they knew anyone who would fit the project, if they encountered anyone on their travels, or in their daily lives (for those are living abroad). The majority of people we found were referred to us by peers. We also looked at various websites that honor local community members for their efforts – for example, we found one of our subjects through the Australian of the Year Awards site.
Why is it important to tell their stories?
To show people the power of the individual. To inspire others to follow their passions and dreams.
The biggest goal of the project is to show how one person can make a difference in their community when they are passionate about something. It’s important to share these stories to bring awareness to these individuals who are doing incredible things, to inspire others to want to aid these individuals or embark on projects of their own, and to perhaps connect these individuals with each other – facilitating communication and collaboration amongst those who strive to make the world a better place.
Who do you expect your audience to be and what kind of effect do you want the documentary to have?
I expect it to be a mixed demographic as far as age since we are a mother and daughter team. It’s also certainly appealing to travelers because it will take us across the globe and they can follow our journey. It will also appeal to photographers and filmmakers because it will be a behind the scenes look at the creation of a documentary. So I think it has a very wide appeal. And certainly philanthropically minded people will be interested.
I expect that our audience will at least initially be our friends and family, our colleagues, and perhaps like-minded individuals who are in the travel, video and nonprofit worlds. I am hoping that we will be able to spread the word even more and inspire others to make a difference in their own way. The important thing is to make people aware that there are in fact individuals all over the world who are actively following their dreams and working to create change.
You can follow Gail’s and Erin’s journey on their blog.
If you’re planning a RTW trip, be sure to check out our Travel Around the World Focus Page!
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