By Baran Fotouhiyehpour
Over the summer, MIHS students Lila Shroff and Meghana Kakubal participated in KUOW RadioActive, a KUOW Radio program that encourages youth involvement in journalism.
Through RadioActive, Shroff and Kakubal produced in-depth podcasts about community members. Shroff chose to cover a story that hit close to home — literally.
“The story of my neighbor — Werner Glass — predominantly focuses on his being a Jewish German during World War Two,” Shroff said.
“I wanted to interview my neighbor because I had heard his story many times, but I never truly stopped to understand everything that he had been through.”
Kakubal used her RadioActive experience to learn more about a fellow student, Rohingya refugee Mohamad Imran.
“I met [Mohamad] last year,” Kakubal said. “He was in my radio class as a TA, and I’ve read the school’s newspaper article about him.”
“This guy [has an] interesting story that needs to be shared, because if you ask people, ‘Do you know what’s going on in Myanmar?’ they don’t know.”
Kakubal was conscious of this lack of public awareness as she learned more herself.
“I got to know Mohamad a lot better,” Kakubal noted. “It’s different to read an article [than] to actually talk to a person who’s gone through something like that. I learned a lot about him and about myself; how do I empathize with something when I have no idea what it’s like?”
Kakubal and Shroff’s podcasts covered heavy issues, demanding a compassionate approach during interviews.
“Usually when you talk about emotional things, you’re just talking to your friend about how she feels about something, you’re talking to someone about what they went through with their test, stuff like that,” Kakubal said.
“[Coming] into an interview [was different], hearing about these emotional, heart-wrenching things but also knowing, I need to get this story out — that means I need to pry,” said Kakubal. “It was a little weird, but I enjoyed the process.”
“It was shocking to hear about some of the things [Werner] has lived through,” Shroff said. “I was surprised by the realness of it all.”
Now that she is aware of the crisis in Myanmar, Kakubal encourages other students to get involved.
“First of all, talk to each other about it,” Kakubal said. “Raise awareness. The government [in Myanmar] doesn’t want people to know about it, so no one really knows how to help people. Looking into refugee programs, raising money to donate to those programs that help children in need: those would be the best ways to help.”
Shroff shared similar sentiments concerning student action.
“I’m not sure how much students can do specifically about Werner’s story, but take his advice!” Shroff said. “Stay involved in politics, stick up for what you say, and if you can, please go out and vote!”
Their RadioActive podcast experiences were not all about distressing events.
“I can’t imagine having gone through what Werner went through,” Shroff said. “But while his story is full of hardships, it is also full of determination and passion.”
“He can smile, he can laugh, even after everything he’s been through and that’s really amazing. I don’t know if I would do that,” Kakubal said. “That’s one of the things about Mohamad that never fails to astonish me.”
For Shroff and Kakubal, RadioActive’s youth focus enhanced the stories that they produced.
“It gives you a perspective that you usually don’t get from the news,” Kakubal said. “You hear stories on the radio or read articles on the internet and it’s just adults talking about adult things; now you get to hear teens talking about adult things.”
However, crafting the final product required meticulous attention and effort.
“I wanted to do justice to his story,” Kakubal said. “Two years going alone: I need to condense that to seven minutes, but still give everything its value. I didn’t want to make anything seem trivial.”
Kakubal and Shroff appreciate the invaluable experience that RadioActive has equipped them with.
“It’s not just about radio, it’s about storytelling,” Kakubal said. “You learn so much about talking to people, about respecting people’s stories and boundaries.”
“It’s definitely not just a radio site.”
Shroff and Kakubal’s podcasts are available on the KUOW RadioActive website. Click the links below to listen to their work.