“I spend so much time pondering home.”

A gem of a quote from this week’s podcast guest, Kristen Ali Eglinton, PhD. You may not relate to what she said, but my blood has always pumped equal parts wanderlust and imagination, so I had one of those visceral reactions when I heard it. You know, the kind that lead to a slight weakening in the knees? As I look around my comfy little digs right now, all decorated to express who I yearn to be, I want nothing more than to ditch it all and do some global pondering myself.

Kristen is on the move so much that she can’t remember the last time she’s been in one place for more than a year. But her wandering isn’t aimless; her travels not without purpose.

Kristen is Co-founder and Executive Director of Footage Foundation, which launched in 2009. It’s an international non-profit that works to amplify the voices of underserved communities through storytelling. She and her fellow co-founders, four women colleagues (“beloveds” to Kristen), were all attending Cambridge University at the time of this brainchild’s arrival, and, as social scientists, they recognized the need to improve the lives of young people (particularly young women) through media arts and social science.

“We figured out from the beginning – what are the needs, what are the voices, what are the pieces? But then in getting this really gorgeous, rich data, we were also intervening. […] Suddenly, there were young people being heard and being of service, so all of these benefits were coming out of it.”

It is now an extremely dynamic non-profit that uses unique multi-media tools to amplify the voices of youth, which, in turn, inspires change. That change comes not just to the individual but to their communities, as well. And it’s literally global, not to mention incredibly inspiring.

“I see young women in countries around the world, feeling so deeply connected to others they’ve never met.”

Within Footage Foundation are a list of interventions, including Girl-Talk-Girl, which focuses on gender-based violence, and Her{Connect}Her, a program for refugee women and the forcibly displaced.

“Just because someone’s in a refugee camp, doesn’t mean they don’t want to feel good about themselves. It’s a matter of dignity.”

This is serious and impactful work that encompasses all levels of compassion, something our current social climate needs a hell of a lot more of.

“We talk a lot about compassion and connection in our work and narrative form, and I think sometimes people think these things are fluffy and they’re not. They change your brain; they change your life. They can change our global landscape.”

As you can well imagine, this is demanding work, but Kristen considers almost all of what she does to be a creative act, whether writing (she’s a textbook author among so many other things), the work that she does with Footage, or as a consultant working with other organizations. It comes, she says, from her personal development, curiosity, and the desire to know herself better.

“I had a colleague tell me once that sometimes we think of the programming as a trip down my pathology.”

Another damned fine quote! And did I mention her sense of humor? Only matched by her intellect and abundant curiosity.

I did ask if there had been a key interaction or person who inspired her belief that sharing stories is a basic human need, but she said that it’s just something she instinctively knew.

“My background is in art, so I’ve always been a maker and an expresser. I write daily, and I’m always creating stuff. I see these as forms of expression, storytelling through whatever medium. Maybe simply oral histories or recounting the past – how the past can shape us. These are tools of our identity, these are the mirrors that we hold up to see our strengths and, of course, to see those sticky areas, those things that are kind of holding us back, imprisoning us. That’s how I’ve always looked at stories and media arts and expressive arts.”

Empowerment. That’s what I’m seeing here. Young women having the freedom to express – the freedom to find their own inner strength – the power to bring it out in others. These are the voices that need to be heard. This is the change we’re in need of.

Kristen is changing our world through her work, and it’s work that she’s obviously very passionate about. In the spirit of sharing stories, I’ll be forever grateful that she came on this podcast and shared hers. She may ponder home, but it’s very clear to me where she lives: Anywhere and everywhere she can walk through the door carrying what’s needed most.

“I think that if you continue doing the authentic work and the kind of work that you’re meant to do, and you just keep your eyes ahead, and you work with compassion, it keeps going, doesn’t it? It keeps growing.”

If you haven’t listened to Kristen’s interview, you still can by clicking HERE.

Also available on iHeart Radio, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, or wherever your favorite shows live.

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