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Fear, Faith and Film, Part 1

Alex Harz, Andrea Bazoin (writer), and Augusto Valverde at SeriesFest in Denver, Colorado, USA

Two Cross Culture Kids capture and share their extraordinary global journeys on film.

By Andrea Bazoin, M.Ed., Technology Columnist
Alex Harz, Andrea Bazoin, and Augusto Valverde
Alex Harz, Andrea Bazoin (writer), and Augusto Valverde at SeriesFest in Denver, Colorado, USA

Augusto Valverde and Alex Harz had never met one another before I introduced them this past June. They were both presenting their work at the Fifth-Annual SeriesFest, a Denver-based festival and marketplace dedicated to showcasing innovative episodic content from around the world.

On the surface, the two men appear to have very little in common. But, after digging a bit deeper, I found surprising common threads. Both use the power of modern technology (digital video, social media and even virtual reality) to share their incredible travel adventures with the world. And, for both, the real adventure is the journey of self-discovery, cross-cultural connections, and spiritual awakening found in traveling with a deeper purpose in mind.

In part one of Fear, Faith and Film, we meet Augusto Valverde and travel the world. In part two, we meet Alex Harz and his muse, Mt. Everest.

Augusto’s Story

Augusto Valverde was born in Miami and raised in Mexico City. After graduating from high school, he studied abroad in Paris, and then returned to Miami to begin university studies. However, a lucrative job as a club promoter pulled him away from late-night studying and introduced him to late-night partying. He dropped out of college and became one of the most successful club promoters in town. Life became an endless stream of wine, women, and song.

Life also felt empty.

So, one night, after throwing yet another house party for hundreds of people, Valverde got on his knees and prayed for fulfilment and purpose. “God,” he prayed, “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with my life. So, whatever you want me to do, please tell me and I’ll do it.”

A Stroke of Inspiration

Not being particularly religious, Valverde began picking up the Bible and digging into it on a regular basis. One day, as he watched TV, he heard a little voice inside ask, “If you died today, who have you helped?” He realized the list was incredibly short.

“God, I’m really selfish, aren’t I?” The little voice said he was, extremely. So, Valverde struck a deal. “I will help people,” he promised, adding, “I just don’t know where to begin. Do I sell my stuff and move to Africa? Do I go outside and help the homeless?” The voice responded saying if he really wanted to help, he’d be shown the way.

In the meantime, Valverde continued pursuing a career in acting, hoping to land his big break. Instead, he got a call from a chaplain at the nearby Men’s Central Prison, inviting him to volunteer. At first, Valverde resisted, but his inner voice was persistent: “Go to the jail!”

Eventually, Valverde relented and gave it a try. “I did more good in that first five hours than I had in my whole life combined,” he told me. “I saw men go from suicidal, banging their heads against a wall trying to pass out, to laughing in 30 minutes. The words just flew through me because I’m able to encourage people. This was my training — it really sharpened my ability to speak to anyone. I was so messed up in my previous life that I am no one to judge. And, from that place, you can really deliver a message of hope because you were transformed yourself.”

The Real Journey Begins

Then, Valverde received an incredible Christmas gift: a one-year, around-the-world plane ticket from an old friend in the airline industry. Shortly after that, he landed a voice-over spokesperson job with Verizon. With tickets and a steady paycheck suddenly in hand, Valverde had been given a life-changing opportunity. Taking the advice of a former boss at NBC, he bought a camera and a selfie stick with the intention of creating a pilot travel show.

As he traveled across Israel, Sweden, New Zealand, Tanzania, Australia, Peru, Argentina, Japan, San Francisco and Russia, Valverde built deep connections to the places and the people he met. With a little help from friends, and the use of social media, he filmed, edited and produced the entire first season of what would become Global Child TV — and he did it with no real plan for distribution.

Photos courtesy of Global Child TV

“I was paranoid,” Valverde recalls of his fear. “Like a lot of new people in the industry, [I worried] my idea would get stolen. But, the more I thought about it, I realized no one can steal my voice. So, the more truthful I am to my voice — however deep, quirky, goofy, whatever it might be — that’s me. They can steal the name of my show, but they can’t steal me.”

From Fear to Faith

But, Valverde’s fears extended beyond intellectual property.

“I’m not an adrenaline junkie; I’m more of a ‘fraidy cat,” he admitted, telling me about the time a friend arranged a private flight with an acrobatic flight school in Sydney, Australia. “[I realized] courage is just a choice. I could feel the fear creeping in, ready to ruin the moment, so, I just started to counteract it with gratitude. Thank you for my life, thank you for the sun, thank you for this airplane, thank you for this great pilot who is a professional, thank you for this camera that is working … thank you, thank you, thank you. Next thing you know, you’re spinning upside down in an airplane at 200 mph. But, rather than feeling fear, you can let go and experience a sense of gratitude and enjoy it.”

Because of his long journey from selfishness to gratitude, Valverde does not take his successes or blessings for granted, and through its BIG Foundation, Global Child TV gives back at every destination in order to promote the vision of traveling with a purpose.

“That’s the bigger mission,” Valverde says. “The show is an excuse — a piece of the larger puzzle. Our message is for every human being. It’s important to remember we are all part of one global family. No matter our race, religion, or culture, at the end of the day, we have so much more in common than things that set us apart. It’s time to find the points of commonality and bring some light into the world because it’s sorely needed. [Through Global Child TV] we’re cultural ambassadors — it’s an honor and a privilege. [We know that] when people understand one another, they won’t fear one another. And, if they don’t fear one another, they won’t hate one another. [Our goal is to] inspire, unite, and entertain.”

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