The Global Search for Education: Behind Hope: A Conversation with Kathleen Duke

C. M. Rubin
3 min readJan 17, 2024

This month, audiences can screen Hope on the Planet Classroom Network. This film is curated for the Planet Classroom Network by Planet Classroom.

Hope, directed by Kathleen Duke, is a poignant short documentary delving into the transformative impact of the Integrated Tribal Development Program (ITDP) in northern Thailand. Through community leader DeeDee’s narrative, it showcases ITDP’s role in uplifting hill tribes out of poverty. The film highlights how ITDP, based in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand has fostered prosperity among these communities. Hope is a compelling testament to global storytelling and societal change.

The Global Search for Education is pleased to welcome Kathleen Duke.

Kathleen, what inspired you to share this particular story, and how did the narrative of DeeDee’s community resonate with you personally?

In today’s world, finding hope can feel like searching for a needle in a haystack. Witnessing a hopeful community, especially in an unexpected place, left a profound impact on me. When we delved into this narrative and contemplated how to present it, we initially grappled with the direction. It wasn’t until we immersed ourselves in the villagers’ lives, heard DeeDee’s story, and understood the transformative influence of ITDP on the village that we realized his perspective on hope was universally relatable.

Hope showcases the power of community-driven initiatives like ITDP in uplifting the hill tribes of northern Thailand. How did you approach translating the empowerment and resilience of these locals into a visual storytelling format?

Hope highlights how community-driven efforts, like ITDP’s work with the hill tribes in northern Thailand, can make a real difference. When we wanted to capture the grit and strength of these locals in our visuals, we decided to put the spotlight on the villagers themselves.

Meeting the folks in their everyday lives, my team and I felt that telling their stories was the best way to show how empowered and resilient they are. Then, enter DeeDee. Getting to know him and hearing his story, it clicked — he was the perfect person to represent the tribe and why they teamed up with ITDP.

DeeDee, being from the older generation, could speak about what the village needed support with. Plus, as a parent, he could talk about what he hopes the support from ITDP will mean for the future generation. So, it’s all about bringing these personal stories, like DeeDee’s, to the forefront to capture the spirit of the whole community.”

Working on a project that focuses on real-life community development can be both rewarding and challenging — what were some of the most inspiring moments or challenges you encountered while capturing the essence of ITDP’s impact on the village, and how did they shape the storytelling process?

Embarking on the community project with ITDP posed challenges and notable moments. Understanding ITDP’s collaborative ethos and navigating Thailand’s tribal dynamics required initial effort. A significant turning point was comprehending ITDP’s commitment to partnership rather than imposition.

The narrative revolved around the villages’ authentic aspiration for growth and their active collaboration with ITDP. Noteworthy was ITDP’s dedicated support for the villages’ survival.

In essence, the project unfolded as a story of authentic partnership — an illustration of collaboration between ITDP and the communities, underscoring a sincere commitment to community development.

Hope sheds light on the work of ITDP in alleviating poverty among the hill tribes. What are your hopes for the audience after they’ve experienced this film, and how do you envision it contributing to greater awareness or support for initiatives like ITDP?

This film aims to shine a light on ITDP’s vital work with hill tribes. I hope viewers learn about issues often overlooked in mainstream media — I sure did during our visit to the Mah Oh Jo village in Thailand. Awareness is key to supporting initiatives like ITDP. I also hope this film sparks other filmmakers to tell similar stories, creating a ripple effect of awareness and support for crucial causes.

Thanks, Kathleen!

C.M. Rubin with Kathleen Duke

Don’t Miss Hope, now streaming on the Planet Classroom Network. This film is curated by Planet Classroom.