One Day on Earth

The World's Story is Yours to Tell

UPBEAT from Erin Levin on Vimeo.

Who are you and what is your profession?
My name is Erin Levin and I am a journalist. I consider my documentary
film-making to be journalism as well because I use the skills, integrity,
analysis and curiosity I've learned in news to tell meaningful,
colorful, compelling and hopeful stories around the world.

What are you doing right now?
I just landed in Seoul, Korea after ten intense days of exploring and filming in Cambodia. I'm emotionally exhausted from experiencing the street kids, deep-seeded corruption, fake orphan homes, brothels full of little girls and the all too familiar stench of developing world slums. But I am also invigorated and high on life from the spirit, joy, smiles and resilience of many of these children who's parents sold them. There are angels from around the world bringing them hope and giving them a chance to dream, and achieve those dreams. There is a young Mongolian boy sitting across from me checking his Facebook and listening to the song fireflies by Owl City, a band my friend in NYC manages. It's a small, connected, broken and beautiful world. I am flying to my home, Atlanta, for a couple weeks of freelancing at CNN to make barely enough to scrape by and then off to Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya for three more weeks of fun, filming and the whirlwind of the real world.

Can you tell us a little about your background and upbringing?
I'm just as much a Georgia peach as Global person. Born and raised in Atlanta, I'll never stop saying y'all and craving sweet tea. I will always be grateful for the freedom my mom gave me through her love. We've been traveling my whole life so getting a night's worth of sleep on a plane is second nature. Before every trip, I had to learn the culture we would be entering. We went with open minds and learned along the journeys. Costa Rica at 14 was my first service trip. It confirmed that I wanted to invest my life in sharing stories from places like Pacuare River with the rest of the world. In high school, I was able to intern for the local public access station to host, produce, direct, edit, shoot and write a weekly broadcast for the Youth Channel. We interviewed musicians about inner-city life, need and opportunity and held entertaining panels on becoming a young woman leader. At the University of Virgina, I held every role on our student-run TV news show. I also learned about the crises across much of Africa and decided I needed to help.

After a stellar summer stint with Dispatch: Zimbabwe, I headed off to Madagascar with the Peace Corps. My job was behavior change communication, in other words, encouraging my community to use mosquito nets, condoms and latrines through awareness campaigns and building trust. I think this has become the most often-said sentence in my life now: I went to Africa thinking I was going to help and make a difference, but instead Africa helped me more than I can serve them in my lifetime and it made all the difference in my life. My friends in Madagascar gave me perspective, unconditional love, and purpose. When I returned, I began a career at CNN so I could continue expanding my international knowledge and sharing stories which stirred my heart. It was an awesome experience but after a year, I knew breaking news was not my niche, documentaries and long-form journalism were the best ways for me to get this important information to people like you. So during a recession, after being promoted and landing what I thought was my dream job, I resigned, bought a camera and got on a plane back to Africa.

I filmed for my friends' wonderful non-profits and then ran in to the African Children's Choir. After getting to know these kids and their stories, I knew this was the right story to tell. CNNI recently aired a short version of my documentary on this awesome organization and we are currently fundraising to finish the full film. This summer I am also creating short docs for Asian Hope and the International Education Exchange and anyone else that falls perfectly into place :). One of my favorite theologians Fred Buechner wrote, "God calls you to the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet." I am there now. Not making a profit yet, but making a tiny bit of the difference every day that Africa made in me.

Who are your heroes?

Good question! My mom for her pure love and idealism. My friend Mbenya in Kenya who was born in the Kibera slum, grew up in the African Children's Choir, earned a law degree and is giving back to the Choir before starting a successful career in human rights for women like she would have been been - because of her sincere smile, perseverance and graceful joy. The Elders group of Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela and President Jimmy Carter for standing up for what they believe in and being honest leaders.

What do you feel you want to shoot on 10.10.10?
Oh my gosh, I have no clue yet! Do all y'all out there have any ideas? I think it could be really fun if all of my friends got into this and donated $10 for the chance to vote on where I go, who I film and what I do. Can we set that up? haha

Why is this important to you?
The media began as a public service. Journalists wrote to share important information. One Day On Earth is taking the same seemingly ancient approach to simply empower people all over the world with the gift to give. If I could, I would interview every single person in the world, because each one of those stories deserves to be heard and retold. This is our chance to achieve global community and understanding which is an incredible step towards peace.

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