Podcast to get there… together

October 1, 2020 - 12:00am -- Susanne R Janssen

“Podcast to get there… together”
A new pair of podcasters communicate their message of unity

By Susanne Janssen

It all started with a question during the Focolare’s International Youth Assembly in September 2019: “How can we spread the idea of unity?” Chris Piazza and Noé Herrera, two friends who were part of the North American delegation, felt compelled to use their talents to contribute to this cause.

“We had the idea to produce a podcast,” said Chris, who is a fourth-year journalism student at the University of California in Irvine. “In California, due to traffic, we spend a lot of time in our cars, and many young people listen to podcasts. Recently, they have become really popular again.”

So they asked themselves: why not share their ideas and experiences in a universal way, so that all their friends could listen?

Noé and Chris soon realized they would need help to make their podcast happen, which led them to discover the many talents of their friends. Mateo Lee, an avid videographer and producer of electronic music, volunteered to help. The three met for a planning weekend and tried to discern what kind of stories they wanted to tell.

“We want to encourage people to think of a better world, a united world,” says Noé.

They planned it well, first writing their mission and their goal. The harder task was finding a catchy name for the podcast. Matteo Pota, a focolarino from Los Angeles, came up with “To get there,” as the title.

“That’s it,” Chris exclaimed. “We liked how it plays with the word ‘together,’ because that’s what we wanted to convey: that to reach a united world, we have to do it together.”

Chris and Noé recorded their first episode in December, “An introduction,” to present themselves and the podcast’s mission; but it took several takes, as well as feedback from friends to find their voice.

“We were not prepared,” reflected Chris, “We had to redo the introduction.”

In February, they went to Mateo Lee’s studio in Tijuana, Mexico to record the episode again. Little by little they heard that people who didn’t know anything about the Focolare or its core values liked it a lot.

Chris and Noé were almost ready to start the podcast series with weekly episodes. But then Covid-19 hit, and their plans to reconvene to produce more episodes were shattered.

“We all moved back home, but that didn’t stop us,” says Noé. “We had more time, and so we used it to work on the podcast from home.”

Between the first and second episodes, there was a long gap, but now they’re on a roll. “We get better and better, provided we don’t think of ourselves, but rather of our friends in college. It’s all about our guests, and we want to engage the audience,” says Chris.

Noé added, “We realized that we needed to work more on our script, otherwise we would get lost in the conversation.” Both focused on improving their content, and the feedback was positive. “People now ask when we’ll start something in Spanish. We didn’t plan on that, but why not?” There are no boundaries for podcasts and their distribution.

Noé and Chris interviewed international performing artists Gen Verde, and the enthusiasm was contagious. They’re certainly not afraid of running out of ideas.

“There are lots of people out there who are doing incredible stuff. People who go through difficulties, yet keep on loving.” In each of their episodes, the team focuses on “translating” the spirituality of unity into terms that are accessible to a broader audience, including Christians and non-Christians alike.

“Not everyone understands what ‘loving Jesus Forsaken’ means, but everyone goes through difficult times with grace,” said Chris. And many whom they interviewed were trying to sensitively help others even at their own expense, such as Celsea Tibbitt, who started an initiative to feed those who were displaced or had fled their countries due to violence.

Their favorite episode? They particularly liked the one with Alaeddine Touhami, who was born in Morocco, but is now living in the Netherlands. He represents the international NGOs of AISA and the House of Peace, both committed to humanitarian aid. It seemed to them that it’s just incredible how people can dedicate their lives to making a difference and building understanding and dialogue in places where there seems to be no hope.

Their future plans? To grow. Chris’ brother helped set up their website, while Noé’s brother is working on subtitles in Italian and Spanish. They hope to spread the voice of unity even further among their friends and those looking for alternatives to the pessimistic, polarizing messages that are out there. 

Listen to their podcast on https://www.spreaker.com/show/to-get-there-podcast

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