LOS ANGELES — Jenna Day has a lot to reflect on. As a conservative Christian and former Miss Kentucky beauty queen, she moved to Los Angeles with an awakened passion for cultural and religious unity after she participated in a life-changing documentary experience called Free Trip to Egypt.
“I really didn’t know what to expect at all. I had never been to that part of the world before, but what I didn’t expect was just how much I connected with my Egyptian family that I was paired up with,” Day said.
The idea of the film experience was sparked by Egyptian producer Tarek Mounib. As an Arab Muslim, he felt many people feared him due to negative stereotypes, so he challenged those fears by touring the country and offering free trips to the Middle East for those who wanted to better understand the culture. The experience brought together individuals of differing spiritual and political beliefs.
“This film gave me a lot of hope in humanity—that we can have a lot of diversity. We can have very diverse religious and political views, and still connect on a human level,” Mounib said.
As Day recalls the experience in Egypt with Mounib, she said her family initially did not want her to participate in the documentary.
“There is definitely a lot of fear that a lot of people have when they think about going to that part of the world, I know that many of my family members and friends were kind of shocked that I said yeah, ‘I’m going to go,’” she said.
The trip changed her life and taught her how to befriend people of different religious backgrounds and people with no religion at all, including a new Atheist friend of hers in L.A.
“I remember when I became his friend, he was like ‘I don’t think we can be friends,’ and this experience made me say, ‘No I think we can, we really can, if you’re willing to hear me out, I’m willing to hear… even if you’re not willing to hear me out, I’m willing to hear you out,’ because I’ve learned that love listens," she said.
And the film’s campaign, entitled #PledgetoListen is encouraging viewers to take the time to learn something new from someone new. You can catch the documentary’s one day national cinematic release on Wednesday, June 12.