KVUE’s Tyler Sieswerda: Finding Purpose in Swaziland

Posted: April 17, 2012 in journalism

Channels of Hope: Austin to Africa

It’s the trip of a lifetime. An international charity approaches your local TV news station with a proposition: Provide us with an eager journalist willing to tell stories that’ll literally save lives and we will cover the costs of your trip to Africa.

“Going to Africa? That’s not what local news usually does.”

KVUE TV’s Tyler Sieswerda is emphatic over coffee at a downtown Austin, Texas Starbucks. “There’s a bigger purpose.”

 The 43 year-old anchor/reporter is referring to the trip he took in January to Swaziland with international Christian charity World Vision. The KVUE-TV series entitled, “Channels of Hope: Austin to Africa” airing this Thursday and Friday at 6pm chronicles the ongoing struggle to get clean water for those living in extreme poverty.

On Saturday, April 21st, Sieswerda will host a special also entitled, “Channels of Hope: Austin to Africa.” http://www.kvue.com/

KVUE did not promise World Vision anything in exchange for passage to Swaziland. The station agreed to come and see what was going on and consider doing stories.

The series and special (shot by KVUE photogragher Robert McMurrey) also follow the  life-changing trip taken by Austin pastors witnessing the work World Vision is doing in Swaziland to help save lives. Providing clean water is one step. The sub-Saharan African nation has one of highest per capita rates of AIDS in the world.

What did Sieswerda take away from the trip? He won’t worry or stress about his day-to-day issues because he says, “there are many people in Swaziland who aren’t sure if they can find a single meal to feed their children today.” Or, he says if they’ll be able to give them a simple thing like water that won’t make them sick. “There’s a lot more to life than what we’re doing every day at work,” says Sieswerda.

Sieswerda struggled to find his purpose earlier in life. He credits his TV career to his mother who suggested he pursue journalism when he was selling insurance. Tyler took a couple of community college classes and that was it. He was hooked.

Journalists he looks up to are Anderson Cooper at CNN, David Mur at ABC News and NBC’s Brian Williams. After a 17-year career with stops in Grand Junction, Colorado, El Paso, Texas, Phoenix and Atlanta, Sieswerda was ready when the opportunity to travel to Africa presented itself late last year. World Vision was looking for a station to partner with on the Austin Campaign for Children http://austincampaignforchildren.org/ Siesewerda jumped at the chance to go. He says, “Taking that step toward re-purposing was easy.”

Sounds easy. Sounds like the trip of a lifetime, right? Sounds like anyone would jump at a free trip to Africa if given the chance. 

Wrong.

Of the 12 reporters and anchors on the KVUE TV staff only three said yes. “I just don’t understand it,” says Sieswerda. “Anytime you go – you change, it broadens your perspective … it gives you a better understanding of the planet.”

And maybe a little deeper sense of purpose.

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