Bonus Episode: Season 1 Recap
Get a behind-the-scenes look at the people and stories behind the Love Anyway podcast. Host Erin Wilson joins Ben Irwin, director of communications, for a casual conversation recapping season one with producer Kayla Craig.
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What’s it like to move beyond a simple story? Beyond us vs. them? Our first season of Love Anyway has wrapped. But that doesn’t mean we’re going anywhere. In fact, in this special bonus episode, we’re inviting you to a behind-the-scenes look at the people and stories behind the podcast.
Podcast host Erin Wilson joins Ben Irwin, director of communications, for a casual conversation recapping season one with producer Kayla Craig. Hear Erin share her favorite episode and what she finds most challenging about hosting a podcast. (And experience her infectious laughter that those of us at Preemptive Love get a front row seat to every day.) Discover the episode Ben was most skeptical of—and how it turned out to be his favorite. You’ll also catch an exclusive sneak peek into Season Two of Love Anyway, which launches in July.
Your feedback helps us keep telling compelling, true stories about people who love across enemy lines. To show our thanks, you’ll receive a special code for a FREE Preemptive Love mug (a $24 value!) with any purchase from our Preemptive Love shop when you complete the survey. Our podcast listener survey is only open for a week, so act fast.
Thanks for a great first season. From Japan to Australia, from Iraq to Kenya, you tuned in. We couldn’t live these stories without you.
We’ll be back in July for Season Two.
Ben Irwin: The center of our work of what we do, it’s not to hand out food. It’s not even to create jobs for refugees. The center of our work is to collapse the distance between people who have grown apart, either because of fear or misunderstanding, or just the lack of opportunity to connect with each other. And I felt closer to people I’ve never even met before through that episode than anything else. I could identify my own experience. I was like, so many times listen to that episode: This is what we’re trying to do. This is what we’re trying to achieve. This is what we’re about.
Kayla Craig: What’s it like to move beyond a simple story? Beyond us versus them? I’m Kayla Craig, producer with the Love Anyway podcast. You might remember me from Episode Three, “The Mosque Visit.” Our first season of Love Anyway is done. But that doesn’t mean we’re going anywhere. In fact, we’re inviting you into a behind-the-scenes look at the people and places behind each of the six episodes we produce this season. I sat down with my co-workers Erin Wilson and Ben Irwin to recap our first season and I’m excited to share a conversation with you. You’ll hear our host Erin Wilson share her favorite episode, and the thing she finds most challenging about hosting a podcast. And maybe what I’m most excited for is that you’ll get to experience her infectious laughter that those of us at Preemptive Love get a front row seat to every day. You’ll hear the episode Ben was most skeptical of and how it turned out to be his favorite. We will also give you a sneak peek into Season Two of Love Anyway, which launches in July. Here’s our conversation.
Season One is done. And now, we’re going to talk about it. Erin, you are the host of the Love Anyway podcast. Why don’t you go ahead and introduce yourself?
Erin Wilson: Yes, I am our host. I am also Preemptive Love’s senior field editor in Iraq. So I get to experience a lot of the stories we have experienced firsthand.
Kayla Craig: And Ben is also on this call. And you guys are might remember, Ben from the first couple episodes of season one, Ben, go ahead and introduce yourself.
Ben Irwin: Yeah, I’m Ben, I lead our communications team with Preemptive Love. And I still am mad at Erin for roping me into two episodes of the podcast. She said I only had to do one.
Kayla Craig: How it always goes, right? Well, as we have finished the first six episodes of the Love Anyway podcast, I thought I’d have a really easy question to kick it off, this conversation. Um, why did we start a podcast in the first place? Why did we feel like it was an important thing to do?
Ben Irwin: One of the first things I heard when I got here was, “Hey, what if we did a podcast?” and I think this conversation had been going on for a while. And it’s one of those things we would talk about. And we’d build up some energy for and then something else would happen that we had to go and respond to. And so we never got around to it for three years. And finally, last year, we said, “You know what? We’re doing a podcast.” And one of the things that changed, for a lot of us at Preemptive Love was, it’s easy to look at the work that happens, quote, unquote, over there, like in Iraq, in Syria, and be like, “Wow, that’s so great. I could never do that.” But this idea, like, Preemptive Love is not just an organization, it’s an idea that we want to live by. And it’s for all of us. And so we wanted to tell some stories and have some conversations that would make it possible to imagine that this way of being and living, this choice to live anyway, could be for all of us. And it, it just feels like that is just way more important than ever now.
Kayla Craig: Yeah. Erin, from your side of things, being in Iraq, being the host of the podcast, what was kind of the fire under you to get this thing going?
Erin Wilson: Oh, that’s that’s an easy question to answer. I have the massive privilege in my life of meeting so many extraordinary people every day, Iraqis and Syrians who are intelligent, and passionate, and sometimes hopeless, because really, the world misunderstands them so much, and doesn’t see them as people with potential. And to have the chance to introduce them to the rest of the world, to maybe knock down some of the misunderstandings, misperceptions about who Iraqis and Syrians are…Yeah, I jumped up that chance in a heartbeat.
Kayla Craig: Yeah, and I just have loved how you have guided our team on the editorial side, and the production side I just really appreciate your, like wisdom and guidance as we have dove into these stories, because they’re not stories that we’ve created. They’re real stories, and real people. Erin, what you’re saying reminds me of Episode Five, the millennials of Iraq, because you went and talked to those four Iraqi millennials on that episode, and you sat with them, and you got hours of audio with each one of them. Really, one of our challenges was what do we keep? And what do we save for another time? Is there anything that you could talk about like, what most surprised you? What did you want to take away from that episode?
Erin Wilson: I wasn’t at all surprised at the level of conversation that we have. Because I’ve had conversations with these folks. They all work at our tech hubs. And I’ve gotten to know them over the last year. And I know that they’re amazing people with amazing hobbies. This is…this, I knew already. I think I was surprised and I shouldn’t have been, because they are people who are deeply involved in tech. They are also keenly aware of how they’re perceived outside…that was a little painful, to be honest. Having conversations with them and seeing their faces when they talk about how they’re seen from outside. Yeah, that, that hurt. And I did have to, I didn’t have to I, I apologized, I felt led to apologize, at least on one occasion for how they’ve been shown in the news in media in all these different ways we take in information these days. And so often it’s just not, it’s not who they are. And nobody’s asking them who they are. We’re making up stories about who, who Iraqis are, who Syrians are, who Iraqi and Syrian young people are, nobody’s asking them. I think that part that surprised me the most.
Kayla Craig: I remember listening to that raw audio. And when I got to that point of your conversation with Sulaiman, and it was a really just vulnerable position for him. And just the way that you guys communicated and walked through was really powerful to listen to. And my hope is that that came through in Episode Five, as our listeners were hearing, just the raw conversation. You know, these are real people having these conversations, they are not something that we’ve just created. And I think we’ve, and Ben, you can talk to this as well, but something that all of us behind the scenes have really tried to intentionally honor the people that are on every single episode. These are our friends, these are our colleagues, these are people that we know and, and love. What was going through your mind behind the scenes as we shared some of these hard stories, you know, Episode One, and Two, are some of the most intense stories behind Preemptive Love.
Ben Irwin: You look back, and you realize these were kind of watershed moments for us as an organization. The moment that Ihsan and Sadiq were almost killed in the desert, and almost anywhere else, an incident like that would have sparked a whole clamp down of, you know, in risk mitigation. And we have to do everything, we have to do everything we can to make sure this doesn’t happen again. And we try to mitigate risk. We don’t, we don’t take needless risks. We care deeply about the people on our team, our colleagues who go out and do this work. But what they did was they went out two, three days later, and delivered aid to the same people they were trying to reach the night the trucks broke down in the desert. And like that became a defining moment.
Ben Irwin: We didn’t wake up one day and have this idea, this vision of Preemptive Love completely figured out, and now we’re going to like come down the mountain and give it to everybody else. It’s been, like, this evolving thing for us. But there have been these key moments that like, this is what it means to love anyway, this is what it means to show up on the frontlines. And that was one of them. The day that Sadiq found himself face-to-face with the ISIS detainee who had ordered the killing of his friend. And even the question of, “Is this a story that we can share, and people will understand what this is about, and what’s really happening here and what we’re being called to in this?” Like, those were moments where we were discovering for ourselves what Preemptive Love is, and it’s not like, you can look back and say, “Oh, I’m glad we figured it out all that moment. Because there have been hard moments since then. That’s just part of the journey. But like, those were formative moments for us.
Kayla Craig: What’s the feedback that you guys have heard from people like Ihsan? Or Erin, the millennials that you talked to that live and work in Iraq? What have you heard from them? Because they listened to these episodes? What do they have to say?
Erin Wilson: Oh, they absolutely, absolutely listen, and have their friends listen. And I actually think they’re probably listening right now to this episode as it airs. And I think they were all quite proud. I think they were proud of the fact that we took their thoughts, their ideas so seriously. They all notice the production value, to be honest, that we handled their ideas and thoughts with care, their voices with care. And I did hear from some other folks on our team here, some former students that are tech center. And they were really excited to hear about their lives in a platform that is new to them, frankly, podcasts don’t really exist in Iraq at this point. So they were able to access stuff that really spoke to their lives in a, in a really fresh way. It was really lovely.
Ben Irwin: We’re a little different than some organizations in that we think of our communications team, as…it’s part of the work that we do. It’s not just about telling people about the work, it is part of the work, it is supposed to be a reflection of who we want to be what kind of people we want to be. We put so much emphasis on upholding and recognizing the dignity of the people who entrust their stories to us. And the standard for us has always been. even when it’s just a theoretical standard, is we write these stories as if the person we’re writing about, we tell these stories, as if the person we’re talking about is going to see it, is going to hear it. We’ve seen, like, we’ll share one of our refugee friends stories on Facebook, and then we’ll see them commenting and tagging their friends so their friends can see the story that we wrote about them. And it’s just, it’s, it’s taken to a whole new level with the podcast, and it collapses the distance between people on opposite sides of the podcast episode in a way that is just really cool to see.
Kayla Craig: So, what…I know it’s hard to pick, but if you had to pick a favorite episode from season one of Love Anyway, what would you guys pick?
Ben Irwin: Oh, gosh.
Erin Wilson: Oh, Kayla. This is so unfair.
Kayla Craig: Which of your babies do you love the best, Erin?
Erin Wilson: Yes, that’s right.
Honestly, okay, my heart loved the episode with our millennials the best just because these are friends. And it was really a delight to work with them. But really, I think I would have to say Episode One was my favorite. Because I think until we finished it, I wasn’t convinced we could pull it off. And it took us a long time to get there. And it was hard. It was much harder than I ever thought it would be. And we know that there’s a lot of people that care about the kinds of stories we tell. But until we released it to the world, we weren’t sure that they were going to tune in. And so I think once, once that first episode launched, and people responded, and thankfully, rated us with five stars on platforms that they listen on. They left us positive reviews. They even sent us messages through Drift on our website to tell us how much they appreciated the episodes. Once that happens? Yeah, that was absolutely a golden moment.
Ben Irwin: I want to say Episode One, partly because it nearly killed us to make it because it was our first one.
Erin Wilson: And because you were in it?
Kayla Craig: Well, maybe our listeners should know is that we weren’t originally planning to have your audio and then lo and behold, it turned out that we had this audio from you. And we were like we have to use it.
Ben Irwin: Honestly, for me, and this was a surprise to me when but The Millennials of Iraq episode is my favorite. And I did not expect it. To be honest, if I’m really honest, when I looked at the final list of episodes we had planned out for the season, I was like that’s going to be one of our weaker ones and became my favorite. And I think it’s because the center of our work, of what we do, is not to hand out food. It’s not even to create jobs for refugees. The center of our work is to collapse the distance between people who have grown apart, either because of fear or misunderstanding or just the lack of opportunity to connect with each other. And I felt closer to people I’ve never even met before through that episode than anything else I could identify my own experience. I was like so many times listening to that episode like this, this is what we’re trying to do. This is what we’re trying to achieve. This is what we’re about.
Kayla Craig: I think for me, Episode Three, The Mosque Visit physically got me out of the real walls that I live in every day. And Erin, you are just so pivotal in helping me get out of my comfort zone, and just encouraging me to go and I’m like, you know, does anybody want to hear this audio? And am I really the right person? And because of this project, I hope that I have created some relationships with people, my neighbors, that I will continue to have. And I sent the episode to the gentleman that I talked to on that episode in the mosque.
Erin Wilson: Oh, really?
Kayla Craig: Yeah, I emailed it to him. And he emailed back that same day saying he listened and that he appreciated the work that we’re doing with Love Anyway. So that was special to me. So was there any other kind of feedback that you guys received?
Ben Irwin: I lost track of how many times I heard somebody say, “I thought this was the episode where I wasn’t going to cry. And then I did.”
Ben Irwin: That’s kind of nice.
Kayla Craig: You like making people cry? What about you, Erin?
Erin Wilson: Yeah, I don’t think we’ve made an episode yet that I haven’t cried through, it even after even after I was part of making it when I heard the final episode put together. It always got me.
Ben Irwin: At least you held it off for the recording.
Erin Wilson: Well, so far, yes. We can say that’s true.
Ben Irwin: Goal for season two?
Kayla Craig: What would you guys say is the most challenging part of recording, writing, editing, producing this podcast?
Erin Wilson: Oh…
Ben Irwin: The recording, writing, editing and producing.
Erin Wilson: I would say definitely winnowing down the potential content we have to work with.
Kayla Craig: Yeah, behind the scenes, Erin is always saying, can we add this to the show notes? And what about this?
Ben Irwin: Basically, everything that ends up on the cutting room floor.
Kayla Craig: If anyone hasn’t checked out the show notes, they should because there’s a lot of content there. Was there anything else that, you know…now’s your chance to clear the record on any episodes and any of the stories that we told.
Erin Wilson: No, just that Ben likes being on a podcast episode. More than he’s willing to admit.
Kayla Craig: He was like…we were like, “Hey, Ben, we need you to hop on and record something.” And he was like, “Oh, I might have a microphone right here.”
Ben Irwin: Actually, I found a whole stash of microphones.
Kayla Craig: He just had it right there.
Ben Irwin: I was like, “Oh, where did this podcast recording studio come from?”
Erin Wilson: Who has a stash of microphones?
Ben Irwin: It’s from another job. Somehow I held onto them.
Kayla Craig: I think for me, something that I had to learn was, on The Millennials of Iraq episode, Erin says generation Zed and I just could not get over it because I had never heard it before. But Erin, can you explain why it’s not Generation Z?
Erin Wilson: Oh, I can’t even hear you say it that way. Without it grating on my nerves. It’s because I’m Canadian. And, and we don’t say, or we don’t pronounce that letter as “z” we pronounce it as a Zed.
Kayla Craig: Yeah, as I’m going through your additions on the script, you’ll say, “neighbourhood” or “colour” and spell it a different way. And I’m always like, what is happening?
Ben Irwin: I am pretty sure if you sat down all Preemptive Love staff, and like anonymously survey them. Who is your favorite person at preemptive love? Erin will come out on top.
Erin Wilson: Untrue!
Kayla Craig: Erin, stop with the fake humility.
Erin Wilson: If you poll people who do not work in my immediate vicinity. But if you poll people, including those who actually work in the Iraq office with me, whose desks are pressed up against mine. I’m insane. Nope, you’d get a different answer.
Ben Irwin: Oh, that’s part of the fun.
Erin Wilson: Because you live on the other side of the world!
Kayla Craig: Remote working has its, you know, benefits. Okay, now back to season two, as we have to end this conversation because I know you guys have other work that you have to do, podcasting isn’t the only thing on your plate right now. So Erin, tell me what, because you had the idea for kind of the roots of season two. So tell me what you told us?
Erin Wilson: Well, I pitched it to a little like this. I really think that there’s a space for families to talk about hard things that happen. The children in our lives are absorbing things around them. They’re absorbing racism, even either directly or indirectly, they’re absorbing the news and pictures of war on TV, they’re absorbing conversations that are really hard.
And I think we don’t always engage with the young people in our lives about these hard topics because we’re not sure they understand, or we’re not sure that they’re ready to handle these kinds of conversations, except they are already absorbing this stuff. And I really think we have a huge opportunity to engage in conversations with them at age appropriate level and help them to process and understand the things that they’re seeing and already feeling. And so yeah, we’re going to have a look at things like racism and injustice and war. And I don’t know, there’s just so much to talk about. And there’s so much kids have to add to the conversation, if we’re prepared to listen.
Kayla Craig: That’s so good. I’m really excited to see where Season Two takes us. And we’ll be releasing that sometime in July. So I know I’m excited as a parent, and then also just as somebody who gets to work and produce this podcast. So if people want to support that the stories that we’re telling the actual physical work that we’re doing when we choose to love anyway, what can they do?
Ben Irwin: Well, they can go to preemptivelove.org/donate, and they can make a one time gift, the best way to be a part of this work that you’re hearing about in the podcast is actually to give monthly even if you were to take the amount you had in mind to give once and divide it by 12. A lot of the work that we do is the longer term work, it’s not just showing up with a bag of food and then moving on to the next hotspot, it’s sitting down and building relationships with people the kind of relationships that make it possible for us to tell the kind of stories that we’ve told in season one, they wouldn’t be possible if we didn’t dig in and stay with people for the long haul to help them rebuild their lives after war after the rest of the world has moved on.
And the only way we can do that is if we know that our friends who are listening to the podcast we’re following along with these stories are going to go with us month after month. So if you want to be a part of this work, if you want to support the work that you’re hearing about in these episodes, the very best thing you can do is to make a monthly donation. It doesn’t matter if it’s big, or if it’s small. It’s advancing the work of preemptive love of changing the world one person at a time.
Kayla Craig: Absolutely. Well, guys, thank you for hopping on this call with me and I got a lot going on. But it was fun to kind of rehash Season One of the Love Anyway, podcast. I’m really excited for season two, and I’ll let you guys get back to work now.
Erin Wilson: Thank you, Kayla.
Ben Irwin: Awesome. Thanks, Kayla.
Kayla Craig: All right. Bye, guys.
Erin Wilson: Bye.
Kayla Craig: Thanks for joining us for the season one recap. At the beginning of the season, you might remember Jeremy Courtney sharing that the Love Anyway podcast is a way to peel back the curtain a way of inviting you on a peacemaking journey. We’re so glad you’re with us. You can find recaps and transcripts of each episode at preemptivelove.org/podcast where you’ll also find exclusive videos behind-the-scenes photos and discussion guides.
And as Ben mentioned, our work exists because of you. If you visit preemptive love.org slash donate, you can help us continue to love anyway and live these stories in Iraq, Syria, the US-Mexico border, and on the frontlines where you live. And while you’re there on our site, you can also join the Frontline summer challenge. Each week we’ll take one small practical step, show kindness to someone we might not normally engage with. Thanks for listening. We’re @preemptivelove on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. We’ll see you in July for season two.
And before we go, I have a favor to ask: will you fill out a short listener survey? Your feedback helps us keep telling true stories about people who love across enemy lines. To show our thanks, you’ll receive a special code for a FREE Preemptive Love mug when you complete the survey! Learn more at preemptivelove.org/podcast.