Meet Big Ocean: Elisabeth Weagel

Elisabeth Weagel is a master of words, someone who expresses herself in beautiful, poetic terms, and can make magic out of even the most ordinary of events, so her involvement in Big Ocean’s media team seemed a natural fit. She lives in Albuquerque, NM, about which she says, “This is where I grew up. The New Mexico landscape is an acquired taste for a lot of people, but when I’m here I feel like I’m woven into the natural world. There is something spiritual about the land and sky in New Mexico. I love it!”

Elisabeth is the youngest of four children. “I have three brothers, one sister-in-law, a nephew and another nephew on the way. My brothers are my best friends. Two of them live in Albuquerque, so I see them often, but I get so excited to see them you would think they live far away. My sister-in-law, Evita, and I both had only brothers. We were each other’s first sisters and love each other like sisters. My nephew, Charles, is my sun, moon, and stars.”

Elisabeth is enthusiastic and optimistic, and describes herself as “overly passionate about too many things.”  She continues, by saying, “in no particular order, these are a few of those passions: Jane Austen, Whales, Baking, Fairy Tales, Cinema, Plato, Descartes, C.S. Lewis, Ina Garten, Women’s Studies, Religion (All sorts of religions. Going to churches is one of my pastimes), Food, Opera, 19th century literature, Travel, and London.”

Her love of travel and Women’s Studies are some of the interests that first led her to Big Ocean. “In 2015 a friend asked me if I would be interested in doing some videography for an organization attending the UN. I was in film school at the time, and jumped at the opportunity. The women embraced me as a part of their group, but I thought of myself as a freelancer. I made a few videos and then my relationship with BOW naturally dwindled.”

Later that year Elisabeth moved to London to complete her Master’s degree. “While I was there, there were a lot of things going on in the United States, and though leaving England broke my heart in two, I also felt like I needed to return to my home to be on the frontlines of everything that was happening. I didn’t know what it was, but I felt like I had work to do for my community and my country. A few months later, Carolina contacted me with a financial question from our 2015 trip. That initial contact led to me joining the media team as a writer, which it turns out is a far better fit for me than filmmaking.”

Elisabeth is trying to have an impact in her community through what she chooses to do each and every day. “I think there is a massive amount of impact in small choices. Sometimes we feel like we need to do grandiose things in order to change the world, but people’s days are changed by kind words and acts. And days grow into months, years, and eventually lifetimes. It begins in my home with how I treat my family. And then how I treat people at work. Am I kind? Am I honest? Am I willing to be inconvenienced or to make sacrifices in order to help someone who needs it? (And then do I actually do that?) I think about these things often and try to live affirmatively.”

Her desire to change her actions in order to have an impact on the world stems, in part, from a deep spirituality. “My relationship with God is everything to me. It brings glorious technicolor to every aspect of my life. People sometimes talk about the material world as if it is the only real thing, but to me the Divine world is far more real and substantial than anything that we experience physically. Like Plato’s cave, what we see and experience here feels like reality, but we are only experiencing shadows in comparison to the glories of the eternities.”

Elisabeth’s desire to change the world around her has not been without its challenges. “I got epstein-barr virus when I was 18, which caused a bad case of mononucleosis. I was still in high school at the time, but I was taking classes at the University of New Mexico. My family did everything they could to help me continue with school, including driving me to the university and accompanying me to my classes when I became too weak to walk by myself. Eventually I had to drop all of my classes four weeks before the end of the semester. Months later my case of mono ended, but the virus caused long-term damage to my body and I have had ongoing health problems ever since.”

The health problems led her to take a year off from school when she was 19. When she recalls that period of her life Elisabeth says she thinks of blackness. “I am an unrelenting optimist, and during that time I learned what it felt like to be hopeless. But even then, even in that pit of complete despair, God threw me a lifeline to help me hold on until the lights turned on again. I had just moved in with two girls I didn’t know and they were my angels of mercy. We held onto each other and took care of each other at a time when some of us felt like we had nothing to give. That experience has made me more resilient, more charitable, more empathetic. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but I would do it again for everything I became as a result.”

Elisabeth’s desire to serve and to have an impact in the lives of others is something that came about naturally during her health challenges as she connected with others who made a difference in her life. Some of the most impactful of her experiences were during her early years of college.  “I remember watching Amazing Grace for the first time in my dorm room when I was a freshman. On the DVD there was a message that said something to the effect that slavery still exists today, and we have a responsibility to do something about it. As an 18-year-old, in small-town USA, I felt the weight of that responsibility descend upon me, but I didn’t know what to do or how to begin. I think many of us feel that way about things that are plaguing our world. We feel hurt and burdened—and we also feel incapable of helping.”

The urge to help and to serve drew her to Big Ocean, and has helped her begin to make the kind of changes she has dreamed of seeing. “Big Ocean’s efforts to find actionable solutions has revolutionized my life. A kind of slavery that exists close to home is human trafficking. It is a global problem, but it is also a local problem. So how can an untrained civilian like me do anything to stop this ever-growing monster? Start where I am. I can educate myself on the trafficking scene in Albuquerque. I can find out about organizations working to prevent and combat trafficking here. And then I can find out how I can support them. There are so many people fighting desperately for what is good and true in this world—we just need to find each other!”  This year when she attended CSW at the UN, Elisabeth went with a renewed desire to get involved. “CSW helped me to expand my vision to know better what I can be doing in my own home and community, to know how to help weed out the ills and cultivate the good in this world. I met people from around the world that I hope to work with on projects in the coming year. I imagine the BOW model of positive impact and see our ripples meeting as they spread outward from our spheres of influence.” Elisabeth is using her gift with words and her desire for change to make a difference, one life at a time.


photo-2 Written by ShelliRae Spotts