Tess Cacciatore

Tess Cacciatore is CEO of Global Women's Empowerment Network, an organization dedicated advocacy and activism for human rights. Tess is an award-winning producer, director, writer and editor creating content that focuses on social impact. She covers important topics like human trafficking, early child marriage, domestic violence and clean water initiatives.

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Amy and Nancy Harrington: Hi and welcome to the Passionistas Project Podcast. We're Amy and Nancy Harrington and today we're talking to Tess Cacciatore, co-founder of Global Women's Empowerment Network, which is dedicated to the advocacy and activism of human rights. Tess is an award winning producer, director, writer, and editor creating content that focuses on social impact. She covers important topics like human trafficking, early childhood marriage, domestic violence and clean water initiatives. So please welcome to the show Tess Cacciatore.

Tess Cacciatore: Hello. Thank you so much for having me on.

Amy and Nancy Harrington: Thank you so much for being here. We really appreciate it. What are you most passionate about?

Tess Cacciatore: Well that's a loaded question because it varies as we talked about earlier today. You know my book ranges from A to Z. But I think the most important message that I'm trying to get out there right now is about people to have the courage to share our stories. Everyone has a story to share and I think it's really important. We have a hash tag revealed the hill which is all about how can we get vulnerable and share stories. And through that turn of events I'm hoping to be able to inspire self-love. I think once we have that self-love we're going to make better decisions about who we bring into our life and bring better awareness of what's happening around us and hopefully do better in our lives.

Amy and Nancy Harrington: Talk a bit more about how you've translated that passion into what you do for a living. 

Tess Cacciatore: Well Global Women's Empowerment Network started off as a 501 c3. I came back all the way up into the 90s where I had this vision of having an interactive multimedia platform of programming for social impact. But when you talked about virtual classroom and social impact inside of the entertainment industry back in the 90s people pretty much looked at me with my own like I had two heads. So I think the timing and the juncture of vision meets technology and the awareness that people have in the world is right now. So everything's been this small little building blocks these small stepping stones and some of them big leaps and some of them been drowning in water and coming back up around the cycles that we all have in life. But why I think it's really important about right now is because there is such turmoil going on in the world. National disasters what's happening in our world in many levels. And I think that it's really important to be able to be able to have that story to heal you know what is our individual stories how can we be compassionate for others how can we be compassionate towards ourselves.

In the ‘90s, you were working in the tech industry so what did you learn during that time that sort of bridged the cultures through technology.

Tess Cacciatore: So technology is really interesting I just moved to L.A. about five years previous to 1993 and a friend of mine Amy Simon said there there's this new industry that's happening and you're a great writer and a producer and maybe you can come and play in this wild wild west as we called it back then and there was very few women in industry. So I was really excited about seeing what was under the hood of what was going on what the worldwide web was what email was what all kinds of you know the inventions that were coming out.

And one of the side stories that I love to share is that I was with a group of friends and this one guy had this great vision and we became a board of directors and I got really close to getting US funding and the investors stepped away from the table and said ma I don't know if we want to really go down that path because I don't think anybody is going to really want to do an online auction and it ended up being this company that we called Rose Coie. And then about a year later eBay jumped onto the scene so I can fill up a whole hour of these near misses of what the vision was and how excited I was about technology.

But back in the ‘90s it was really cool because I thought this would be really wonderful to be able to bring good programming documentaries that could reach the corners of the world. I hadn't started really doing a lot of global traveling at that point but it was really an adventure to see where the imagination could open up and expand the horizon of where we can reach people and bridge cultures which I thought was going to be a really important thing for history because most of the time you know a lot of countries are westernized so when you go to Africa to Asia or to visit the tribes they're not they're wearing more western clothes.

And I thought this is so sad because what's beautiful is what sets us apart is that beautiful folklore and the legends and the stories that the ancestors passed down kind of like around the campfire where you get to teach each other what the generations have learned and that you learn from your ancestors. And I thought technology would be really important way to be able to bridge that. So through the 90s I worked on Web sites. There were big major corporations and we were teaching people how to be able to you know build the website and set up their email and it would be like Lotus U.K. or Sun Microsystems and I worked with a group of people we traveled all over the country and helped build this beautiful bridge to the world.

What I kind of love about the experience I had back then is it on my daily basis as a producer is really I have to get down and get really detailed in the backside because I had to work with the programmers on one side. I had to work with the creative team and I had to work with the customer and the client and the corporations and to be able to work in all of those worlds and be able to communicate and make a project go from A to Z and to be able to launch and to know the how to file things and how to organize things. I still find myself laughing every once in a while because the tools that I got back in those days of project managing and producing really stays true to me. So there's the technical side that I love from back in the 90s and then there's the more cultural side that technology is. We're on wireless and we're going pick up the phone and call around the world for free. And there's that deep touch connection that I think is really important.

Amy and Nancy Harrington: You started as an actress and a dancer and singer songwriter. So tell us about those experiences and what you learned during that time that inform what you're doing today.

Tess Cacciatore: When I was five years old I told my mom I wanted to go to New York and be a dancer. And so when I was seven she put me into a dance class and then I slowly kind of went into the theater world and if I think back about my childhood and who I was then and who I still am to a degree I have a very introverted shy side.

Believe it or not even though I speak before you know thousands and millions of people on any given day on broadcast or whatever and do public speaking there's still a homebody shy side to me you know in Des Moines Iowa Midwest girl great family life and good upbringing and all that but I just felt like that core of who I was still exists today. So the theatrical side really helped me expand. Even though I went to school for a BFA for music and theater and dance I moved to New York and I was an actress. I really felt that that helped me Blossom. It helped me be able to get the confidence to be able to talk in public and then I had to merge the other side of who I was and the passions and what I felt like I could do on the societal side but it all kind of links together in a very magical way.

Amy and Nancy Harrington: And so how did all of this lead into you doing video production.

Tess Cacciatore: I did a lot in front of the camera. But what I really loved back in my 20s was being able to be more part of the vision part of it all being a little bit more in control of my life. Because when you go to auditions as you know you're sitting in front of people that are making a decision about your life that you might not have the right color hair you might be too tall you might be too short. It might be to do that. And so it just came down to these molecular kind of decisions that were not in my control. And I felt like I want to be a little bit more in control my life and I'm really an advocate for that when I mentor a lot of people you know men and women younger people I say you have to really take control of what your destiny is. You have to create what you want to do. And I think with the way multimedia is now we have more power of that.

But that was pretty much my deciding factors that I really wanted to be able to have that creative vision I could see the whole picture. And I saw the whole vision and what the message was rather than just memorizing someone else's lines. I wanted to be able to create those lines so it gave me a broad Bactrim of how to be able to get more in control of my destiny. And then I had a lot of fun. I love directing I love producing. We're working on original scripted series right now where my producing partner and I are writing the scripts and we have complete control complete creative control of whatever we see and whatever we want to do. And that feels really good to have that. And I think we have more options at our fingertips now than we ever had before.

Amy and Nancy Harrington:What types of topics are you drawn to when you're creating a project or taking a project on social impact?

Tess Cacciatore: I have a slate of programs and projects right now that are going out. One's an original scripted feature film one's a foreign feature film once a music documentary once an original scripted series and the other one is the talk show that goes along with the original scripted series and that five Slate I just put the deck together in the last couple of weeks. It makes me feel so joyful because they're commercial driven. They really can make an impact within community and they have a special message that really helps lift up humanity gets people to talk about what's going on. It gets the dialogue going it gets the juices flowing and that's exciting to me to be able to get people to talk and get people to share.

Amy and Nancy Harrington:Why is that so exciting why do you want to focus on the humanitarian side of things?

Tess Cacciatore: I think it's just the way I've been wired. I believe that in my world that I want it to be something that has a result to give back something that has a result to inspire or to empower somebody someone that might be able to feel healed because they heard a story that I might share or one of the people that we're profiling on our series because it's all about that story sharing and healing. And I feel like there's the reality shows genres and there's the mainstream theatrical releases of beautiful films I've loved watching and experiencing it all but I felt like my niche was really about getting in there and really doing something that could make an impact or make a social message or inspire someone to go after a law for you know for instance you can get people to be inspired.

The fact that there are still children in our country in their states that still allow for young girls to be married at the age of 14 and we think that early child marriages in other countries but it's really right in our own backyard in the states that still have those rules and laws are surprising. It's not the states that you would think so to be able to let people know the statistics like there are still young girls that are being forced into marriage and this isn't like Romeo and Juliet or I'm in love with my boyfriend let's go run away and get married. These are older men in their 40s and 50s that are marrying young teenagers. And it's disgusting and it needs to stop. And they're forced into marriage because of whatever reason districts are atrocious.

There's also a statistic that I share which is 300,000 children are abducted on an annual basis out of the United States. People think that sex trafficking is again in another country but it's right here in our own backyard right here in California. San Bernardino is a very big trafficked place. I grew up in Des Moines Iowa. There's sex trafficking that goes through Interstate 80. A statistic that I talk about often on Super Bowl Sunday is that that's the highest domestic violence day and it's the highest sex trafficking day. Most of the sex trafficking happens when their spring training areas and a lot comes out of Vegas. But a lot of it comes you know from other states as well.

So I think through the programming we can bring awareness and let's say there's a group of people and I'll be there to charge with it to Washington or to our state capitals and figure out how can we change that law. Why are there still laws that allow for a 14 year old to get married and that kind of thing needs to change. So that's what I'm passionate about. I want to see that there's social change there's implications where people are being aware of what's happening in our own neighborhoods. You know we've watched the news all the time and we see these people going oh my god I didn't know who lived right next door to me. I didn't know that he had an arsenal of weapons in his basement or that he had three girls you know trapped in there for 10 years. It's really about bringing the awareness into what's going on in our own backyard and how can we help. How can we get resolution from different things that are happening.

Amy and Nancy Harrington: How do you choose which topics to focus on and how do you manage your resources and your energy to give the most to those topics?

Tess Cacciatore: I've found that in the last year or two I've had to really pinpoint and narrow down and it's really about social justice and human rights. You know equal rights social rights human rights social justice wherever you want to spin that. If it if it lands in that lane I'm right there I used to do a lot of work in the environment and animal rights. And even though I'm still passionate about that I'm really trying to narrow my focus in that and also through the platform that we're launching we're going to be able to give the ability for other people that have those passions to be able to fully explore what it is to save the elephant save the tigers save the penguins environmental greenhouse warming everything that can be happening.

I want to offer this platform where people can put their programming on it so they get to go fully diving deep into that issue. I don't have to necessarily take the focus off the eye off my ball but I give them a platform and I shine a light on what they're doing. And so I think that's one of my main wishes to shine a light on the people and the organizations that are making a difference whether it's in the nonprofit arena or through theatrical releases of documentaries or short stories or books or music. When are you launching that platform and getting the dates. By the time this airs it might already be out we're already on Roku but I'm really undercover right now.

We're going to be launching our programming on Amazon Fire, Roku, Samsung TV and Apple TV. And that's just the start. And through those four platforms alone we have access to 450 plus million subscribers. And that's potential subscribers then that big tap dance begins where you have to market them and how do you take the audience and bring them to your area and say Here we are. Because it's like grain of sand on a big beach. You know how do you how do you have that great of sandstone up above the rest because there's so much great content out there. So it's a big undertaking but I've been dreaming about it for a long time so I have a great team of people that work with me and we're going to make it happen.

Amy and Nancy Harrington: What's it called?

So Gwen Global is the incorporation and that has several silos below it. So there's the Gwen Studios which is our production house. Then we have Gwen Books so my book and other books that can go under that umbrella will be there and then we have Gwen Music and we have Gwen Tech and apps which I'll tell you about our app and then we have that when children's division.

So that all is one bubble of called Gwen Global and then Global Women's Empowerment Network is our umbrella and that's been in existence since 2012 and that's the one that does the advocacy the programs the workshops the community outreach which we're doing quite a bit of here in Los Angeles but we're about ready to embark on a 10 city tour and then we do work with sister organizations in Africa.

Amy and Nancy Harrington: We’re Amy and Nancy Harrington and you're listening to the Passionistas Project Podcast and our interview with Tess Cacciatore. Check out her inspiring memoir “Homeless to the White House,” her story of personal healing and transformation which is available on Amazon. Now here's more of our interview with Tess.

Amy and Nancy Harrington:When did you first get into doing philanthropic work? Was it in 1994, when you started the world trust Foundation was that kind of a pivotal moment?

Tess Cacciatore: I think that pivotal moment because I've been asked that question a lot was when I was in high school I went to Dowling high school and we had this outreach program where we were able to volunteer. So I volunteered each year for the Drake special Olympics and we did a lot of work with kids with special needs. And it really opened my eyes and my heart. And I've always had that compassion then in my 20s I did some volunteer work.

I performed in a couple places that Honduras for instance was a real eye opener for me it was my first trip to a developing country and to see the little kids it was right when Nicaragua was invading and see little kids running down the street with big huge rifles in their hands and people that were homeless and starving and all kinds of things. It was my first eye-opener. I've always had that passion but I didn't know how to put it into action until 1993 when I founded World trust Foundation. Talk a little bit about that. That was an interesting time a turning point. You can read more about it in the book but it was me coming out of entertaining I was traveling with the band as a singer dancer.

We did a tour through Asia and I made a bad choice and I was in a relationship that was not good for me and it took me a while to get that oxygen mask on myself which is kind of a repeated theme in my life. And I left the band and left L.A. never to return. And I went back to Des Moines it just happened to be when the floods were hitting the Midwest and there was no running water no electricity for a while. So it was God taking me down all the way to the basics where there was like I had had to begin square root all over the place and I just prayed. And I said what am I supposed to do with my life where am I going I definitely don't want to be back to L.A. and that's when you say never say never because I'm here. It was a very interesting time for me so I had these people that we did the rebuild project in South Central after the riots. And I met one other guy that was from outside of the community and we exchanged cards I didn't really think much about it. I really wanted to work with the rehabilitation of the community I worked a lot with the gangs in a workshop and just was so heartwarming to me because these kids were really in a lot of need of just love and hugs.

And I just started to crack me open a little bit more but this one guy that I met left a message on my voicemail here in L.A. and I was just getting ready to it down and shut off my service and this one message kind of open the door of a whole world because he wanted me to come and help him produce a music compilation for a coalition of nonprofit organizations. And we started talking on the phone. We started faxing because they didn't have you know e-mail and all that so we fax ideas back and forth and then before I knew it I was back in L.A. and world trust began. So it was a interesting journey. Once again as I say putting the oxygen mask on surviving through a relationship that you know was really horrific one for me.

And it actually created those scar tissue of things that you kind of have on your belt as you live through life and then when you get to the other side then you have a whole other world of challenges to come. But I had to take that that compilation of scars so to speak and turn it into something that meant life to me. And I had to look at see what was my purpose of being here. I just didn't want to be a bag of bones just breathing and taking up oxygen. I wanted to be somebody that was going to be able to bring meaning to someone's life. So those trials in my own life led me to be more compassionate for others.

And that's where world trust started and then that turned and took when eventually you very open in your book about your experiences with relationships and domestic violence.

Amy and Nancy Harrington:Why did you decide to share those incredibly personal stories in your book and what do you hope other people take away from those stories?

Tess Cacciatore: Yeah, it took me eight years to write that book. So I sometimes forget about how vulnerable and open I came I really literally just cut myself wide open and it was almost my own personal journey of healing through that process and the writing. And what I wanted to inspire is that if I can bear all and all I did hopefully other people would be able to share even with a sister like you two are so close or with a close friend or with a therapist someplace to get that scar tissue out and to be able to share it. I'm not encouraging everyone to put all their laundry so to speak in a book and put it out there because it was a very hard time to do that.

And I second and triple and quadruple thought oh my God I might be doing wrong a mistake. You know the day it was coming out it was too late it was already coming out on Amazon I kept thinking is there any way I can pull it back. So it was not an easy thing to do but I felt it was necessary for me to become vulnerable and exposed and cut myself wide open so that I could really complete that cycle of my own healing so that I can help reveal to heal with other people and that's what our workshops are really about is what are our blueprints what are our addictions to that chemical reaction that happens when we are in that consistent repetitive cycle of abuse. How can we change that. And that's what I hoped that the book would do.

Amy and Nancy Harrington:You've spoken regularly at the United Nations and talk about that experience speaking there.

Tess Cacciatore: My first time speaking at the U.N. was in 2000 and I went to Switzerland and it was with Melba Spaulding who had this youth empowerment summit and it was named as yes youth empowerment summit and I brought one of our young delegates that I met here in Los Angeles. Earth Day and that's when I was doing a lot of environmental work. I spoke back then which was really about how technology can bridge cultures and bridge peace. And so I've been talking about this topic for so long. Technology could be the virtual classroom that we can really empower one another and have a way to talk about our passions and inspire people to be able to do better in their life or to become who they want to be. So everything's always been just truncated back into that same message over and over again.

The United Nations to me I'm really excited when I'm on the campus whether it's in New York or I went to Africa several times for U.N. World Conferences and I still go to Geneva. I'm supposed to go to New York and march for the Commission on the status of women which is will be my 15th year attending. Why I love it because I'm able to meet these incredible people from around the world I get to learn about each other's cultures. I film most of the time that I'm there so I have a whole body of work of film and footage that are really speaking about the stories of these women that lived much more atrocious lives than I ever could imagine. So it always gets me to get outside of my own self and be able to share that story of another woman who might have been a survivor of genocide in Rwanda or a woman who'd been raped in the eastern Congo or a woman who escaped sex trafficking out of Asia. I get to meet the most richest amazing people. And those stories inspired me to keep going on what I'm doing.

Amy and Nancy Harrington:You've traveled to so many interesting incredible sometimes dangerous places. Is there one place you've gone or experienced that helped shape your mission?

Tess Cacciatore: I've gone from Sri Lanka when we built homes after the tsunami to visiting the orphanages anywhere from Cambodia to Thailand to Vietnam to South America to South Africa holding these children in my arms that was always just a daily reminder i see those faces in my head and in my prayers every day. And it drives me forward. So those are always the precious moments of my life. That kind of gives me that purpose that overall purpose. But one of the most magical places that I've traveled to and I want to go back and that was more because it was a very beautiful spiritual experience with Bali and it was so beautiful to be there. It was spiritual it was magical. And I look forward to having those kind of days because then you can really that down and let go and listen. And the thing part of the prayer which is part of meditation is listening to your higher self-listen to God listen to Angels whatever you believe in is taking that quiet moment to be able to just absorb the precious moments that make all of those memories of all those kids and people in lives that I feel have touched my life all the more and much more valuable. I think it's important to have that balance to really slow down and take a deep breath and be inside of ourselves.

Amy and Nancy Harrington:You mentioned a bit ago the ten city tour. Tell us a little bit about that.

Tess Cacciatore: Yes, I'm so excited. I know we're on the radio but for the camera portion of it this is a lantern that is manufactured by empowered they are out of Brooklyn and I went to a play one night. Robert Galinsky I went to see him play it was a one man play about being homeless and he was selling these after the show to give the money to the women's shelter downtown. And I do a lot of work with homeless because of my own experience in being homeless.

Skid row is the epicenter of the homelessness in Los Angeles and a light bulb pun intended went off and I went when lights up skid row would that be cool and I liked the title I shared it with my board is shared with some friends. I contacted the manufacturer and I said hey I want to do this. Lights up Skid Row. I called Justin Baldoni people. He's been on my radio show before he's a dear, dear, dear person and he has this thing called Carnival of Love every year. And that's where he blocks off all these streets around the union rescue mission which I do a lot of work with as well. And January 26 he does the carnival of love where he has all these boobs in there that gives out medical services haircuts clothes toys whatever you can imagine. 

And I went last year as a volunteer so I called them up and I said I want to have a booth. I'm going to give out these solar powered lanterns and while we're there inside this barricaded place I want to get into the streets so I went with a couple of our volunteers and a couple of board members Christopher Mack who works down there in the skid row area. He came with me and we went up to the tents which is a very dangerous area and very dangerous thing to do. But we did it with love and respect and I had someone who was local that knew the temperature of the community down there and just asked them Would you like a solar powered lantern. And everyone received it with a lot of love. 

You have a three level kind of light switch on there and then there's a blinking light you can hang it on the inside a tent you know a lot of times you see these at sporting goods stores because people buy them for camping but when empowered. Saw the results that we had in skid row they loved the idea because they do a lot of community work they do in natural disasters and disaster relief. They'll send some lanterns out for people for hurricanes or tornadoes or earthquakes but they never thought about the homeless side of it all. So we're in conversation right now and I targeted 10 cities around the country that are highest homeless outside living in tents in the streets.

And we are building the campaign right now. We're raising funds to be able to bring this to these other cities and to give a gift of light and people that want to donate 10 dollars you can give a light and sponsor light that goes to one of these people because there's so many people live on the streets and it ties into the mission of what we want to do with Quine with our workshops which is really dealing with the inner turmoil the inner story. I'm going to keep coming back to that reveal the real story because if you talk to these people that live on the streets in the towns they have a huge story to tell and there's a lot of instances that is mental health and that's another thing that I think in the States we really need to tackle. You know that's a whole other conversation but I feel like just by giving a gift of light we're able to.

Give some safety you know gives some comfort because inside their tent I mentioned. I mean if you just think about it you're down in an area where there's crime right outside your tent. You can't use the bathroom you can't go out and do anything because you can be raped or you can be killed you could be robbed. You could have anything happen to you and it's a very dangerous hierarchal situation. There's a whole system that goes on down there that I'm just starting to get to the depths of that we are writing about that in our original scripted story but this one might program. It's so powerful to me because it's such a simple thing and people are like wow how did you think about that.

It was just a download from God that was started by Robert's play and empowered has been really incredible with us and they're giving us huge discounts and they're donating some lights and so I'm really excited to be able to share more about that. But New York will be the next city we go to. We're going to do other parts of Los Angeles but New York just superseded Los Angeles as the number one homeless city in the States. And it's crazy what's going on. You know there's so many touchy topics when you deal with homelessness. You know people don't want to have homeless shelters in their communities because they think their property value might decrease and that's not true.

There's so many beautiful rehabilitation centers that are popping up everywhere in Los Angeles and we're doing a lot of work with Union Rescue Mission in Hope Gardens which is a transitional homeless center for women and children. We'll be doing our first workshop this spring. And that's really about diving into these women's lives and figuring out how they can you know they're almost on the way out there. Almost right there. And we just want to share the light and encourage them to start a business or whatever they want to do. So it all ties into this when lights up campaign.

Amy and Nancy Harrington:You talk in the book about your own personal experiences with homelessness. What's something that's commonly misunderstood about the homeless community or questions that people aren't asking that should be addressed?

Tess Cacciatore: It's situational. And I think that's the one thing that a lot of people don't realize that it is tied to mental health. It is tied to the situations that might happen that we don't have control over in that sense because if you're in an abusive relationship most of the time it starts off very subtly. No one's going to come up to you with a big sign on them and say guess what. I'm an abusive guy or girl you're going to discover it through the fact that almost sometimes those of us that have been in domestic violence relationships we feel like we have to sign up that says I can be abused. Because it's the very quagmired situation.

But it does tie into the homeless situation especially when you're on the streets if you have kids and you have to run away from a dangerous relationship. They don't have anywhere to go. They have probably been sequestered from their families and friends because that's one of the things that you want to watch out for. If you're in a relationship that's abusive. I'm just going to take a little pen and go in this little road for a minute because I think it's really important for people to understand the signs if you are in a relationship if the person loves you they're going to want you to flourish and shine to your highest ability and they're going to encourage that. And then that gives them breathing room for you to do the same in that relationship it's that perfect circle of being. If they start to sequester you if they start to insult you they start to out of the blue start to control where you go how you dress what you do where you speak who you go with.

Those are signs and a lot of times we are people pleasers like I was. We want to please our partners and the ones we love. So it's like oh OK well then I won't talk to that person. Are you all dressed more conservatively or whatever if you're not able to be truly who you are then there's something wrong. And I really want to talk more about that more often in public because I think if people understood those signs to watch out for you might be able to save yourself from going too far deep in their emotionally abusive relationship emotionally and verbal is very hard to be able to decipher because they do it so carefully and so meticulously that they don't even know that they're doing it sometimes themselves because they might be a cycle of abuse victim too. So that's where I want Gwen to be is that we understand what the underlying attributes are of someone who's abusive is because there's a cycle there somewhere that needs to be broken.

So going back to the homeless situation I think the most misunderstood part of it all is that they are people that are there are situationally and they're not all drug addicts they're not all criminal they're not all anything because no one is on anything. No sector in life no example you can ever give that you can give a blanket situation to those variables in every situation. And I feel compassionate to the ones that are living on the streets because they might not be on the proper medication if they have a mental problem they might not have the right resources to know that they can go into a shelter because there are shelters here in every city. Some of the shelters might be full so that's another situation. 

How do we solve the problem? Oh, I don't know. I mean that's a loaded question. It's multilayered and there's so many things that we can do to help. That's all I want to do is just help in the smallest ways and see how we can change the trajectory of being homeless. Yes I was homeless. I moved about. I would say 15 times in about 17 months timeframe. I was never addicted to drugs. I wasn't on the streets I didn't live in a tent. I never had to sleep in my car. But I had a the stigma of not having a home which is really hard for me because I love being home. And I had a little bit of a blame and shame. No one in my life knew that I was not without a home. 

I went and house sat and I was a family chef and help for people that were moving from one place to another or selling their states and getting them ready for market. I did everything I could. And I was that close to seeing people that live on the street. I'm one step away and it didn't feel really safe but it gave me such a raw experience that I'll never forget because I was that close to that that I don't have any fear of going up and talking to someone on the street that's homeless because I feel like I have that believability to them and I know a fraction of where they're at. I'm curious of the human spirit of what created that place and that reality that you're here and how can we help and how can we bring a light. How can we share our stories. It's so many layers.

Amy and Nancy Harrington:One of the other current projects you mentioned earlier is the app. Why don't you tell us a little bit about that?

Tess Cacciatore: So that goes hand in hand I'm really excited about that with the launch of the tensity tour back in 2000 and 12 when Gwen first began. I met Brad's who taught who is the app developer and he had an app for lost pets and it had a GPS tracker on it. And we started talking and I said What about if we were to use that for being able to target someone who might be an emotionally abusive situation or a near physical attack or especially with girls on campus and for young college girls are sexually assaulted and those are the ones that actually report it.

There's so many people I say people because there's a lot of men that get sexually abused as well that we don't talk about because there is even more shame and blame in not life too. But one in four young women are sexually assaulted on campuses. So we focused it pretty much back then on the college campus life and the domestic violence world you load up five people into your phone much out of your contact list so it could be your five closest family and friend members you want to choose someone that actually has their phone nearby them you know if it's on that you love but they're not really technically savvy and they don't want to have their phone nearby we don't encourage that person to be here when five you want to pick somebody that really has their phone with them at all times. And it's a silent alert. You push a button and it notifies the five people where you are in GPS latitude and longitude if you're in another country and guess if you're near Google Maps satellite. What was important back then for this whole program was to be able to have that safety app.

We built it really well Brad's team built it beautifully so it lasted on Google Play On iTunes For about three years and then when it started to kind of falter because their technology was taking off we pulled it off for safety purposes and I've been wanting to get a new version out there for three years now so we're finally in the process it's in production right now and by the time this airs it should be out by the end of March. And it has new features like voice activation and video component and Nine one by one. I'm really passionate about. I'm so excited Brad and I have been talking about it for three years.

So it's coming back out. So let me go on this ten city tour my goal is to be able to go into the community give the lights out go on local news talk about the lights talk about the homeless issue go to the universities have some workshops. You know do whatever we can within that community we're going to be giving out some awards to the local communities to shine a spotlight on them doing amazing work and to download it it's free. So we're really excited about that. I'm thrilled that it's back out. Version 2.

Amy and Nancy Harrington:What's your definition of success?

Tess Cacciatore: That can come in a lot of forms. I think just knowing that you're on your life purpose and your life plan and that you're doing what you're brought to the world to do that to me is success. I don't think it's anything about material goods because I know plenty of people that have millions and millions of dollars in the bank and they still say oh my god I'm so broken oh my god I don't have enough. It's so to me it's not the monetary thing at all. Even though I think that the money side does help them as I said I'm opening up myself to magnify the receiving end of that. But it's really about feeling good in your body and having the self-love and feeling like you're here you're doing what you're supposed to be doing and you keep on going.

Amy and Nancy Harrington: Thanks for listening to the passion project podcast and our interview with Tess Cacciatore. Visit her website Gwen.global. To learn more about the Global Women's Empowerment Network and go to pop culture Passionistas dot com. To seek one solar powered lanterns and donate to the program every ten dollars raised gives the gift of light to those in need and be sure to subscribe to the Passionistas Project Podcast. So you don't miss any of our upcoming inspiring guests.

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