By Jenn Watt
Amanda Lytle is buzzing with energy as she talks about her new podcast Safe Haven. She’s got a list of more than 70 women who have either already been interviewed or who have agreed to be. She’s got a new computer and a borrowed microphone. And she’s got a vision.
“I have never been so excited or believed in anything as much as I believe in this podcast” says Lytle in an interview from her Ingoldsby home. “Every fibre in my being believes in the Safe Haven podcast.”
The idea of Safe Haven came to her on the cusp of her 31st birthday in May. A friend was organizing a big birthday bash and she started thinking about the mix of women who would be attending.
“I started thinking of the calibre of women and the stories they were coming together with” she said. She realized that everyone has a story to share and those stories can help others. As soon as the idea was hatched she began putting the pieces in place – rapidly.
The name came to her one night when she was sleeping and the next day before work she had already registered an Instagram handle set up a Gmail account and had her podcast platform ready to go.
The first three podcasts from Safe Haven have included Nancy Brownsberger discussing post-traumatic stress disorder following a life-altering house fire; Michelle Moraal on growing up with a father who is addicted to drugs; and Kortney Ecclestone on what it was like to be a teenager living with epilepsy.
The stories are complex and nuanced and the episode length at about 50 minutes each allows the subjects to expand upon their personal stories.
“By listening to people be so vulnerable and emotional my hope is that people will start talking” Lytle says.
Lytle teaches high school through the Virtual Learning Centre which means she conducts her classes online. It’s taught her about the importance of tone and humour about keeping things interesting for those learning outside of a traditional classroom space.
“Prior to this mic it had literally just been teaching online recording stuff because I record every lesson” says Lytle referring to the microphone a friend of hers from North Bay leant her to get started.
She says right now her podcasts are technically rudimentary. She often records in her home which can create some background noise. The fridge hums. Trucks rumble as they go by.
Her interview with Nancy Brownsberger the first for Safe Haven was conducted at Brownsberger’s home. The phone rings. The pizza oven chimes.
Lytle says she plans to make some changes to improve the sound but she also likes how real it is.
“It’s authentic. It’s so real and raw. That’s life” she says.
But even if the sound isn’t yet where she wants it to be people are listening. Lytle opens her laptop to show a map of the world with countries highlighted. Last week people in 14 countries had downloaded Safe Haven including in Austria Taiwan Costa Rica and Sweden. By week’s end the three podcasts had collectively been downloaded 1000 times.
Pre-recorded episodes are scheduled for release each Monday with Victoria Chaulk scheduled for July 1; Heather Kennedy on July 8; and Chyna Schell on July 15.
Lytle grew up in Minden and spent several years away from the area following teachers’ college including living in Australia from 2012 to 2015. Although she knows the backstory of some of the people she’s interviewing – many who live in the Haliburton Highlands – she says she often didn’t have the full picture.
“Heather Kennedy hers drops on July 8 and that’s about her brother [Ryan who died in 2011]. That one in particular I knew that story pretty much inside out but the rest of the world doesn’t know it from her perspective” she says. “I know some of these stories but I don’t necessarily know the extent of how it’s impacted them as a person. I have an idea for sure but then I’m also meeting so many cool people.”
Michelle Moraal’s story of building resilience in an unstable childhood has garnered an “unbelievable” response Lytle says.
“It is about resilience. It’s about kindness. It’s about being in the dark in the dumps for so long but being able to see the light. People have actually been reaching out to her talking about the story of your strength and resilience has really encouraged me or inspired me to get through my [problems] to move forward or forgive or tackle these challenges” she says.
She says that the podcast is already building networks of people connecting over the content of the programs fulfilling the initial vision of Safe Haven. Nancy Brownsberger’s episode sparked a connection with one of Lytle’s friends in Vancouver who got in touch after hearing her story.
“You never realize just how much someone else needs to hear your story until it’s been shared. That can be the goods and the bads” Lytle says.