Catching Up with Rising Voices Outreach Projects

Rising Voices logoSince we last visited the Rising Voices outreach award winners, much progress has been made, including the introduction of the world's first weblog in the Andean indigenous language of Aymara.

HiperBarrio Featured in El Colombiano

But first, let us begin in Medellín, Colombia where HiperBarrio continues to make strides in its hillside working class neighborhoods. And they've attracted some much deserved recognition for their efforts.

In the El Colombiano newspaper, a feature article describes HiperBarrio's work in La Loma San Javier, just one of the three sites where they are training young people to take advantage of computer labs at their neighborhood libraries by sharing stories, photos, and videos of their communities with the rest of the world.

En el computador de la Biblioteca La Loma, un grupo de estos jóvenes, que suman 25, pasan las fotos y muestran sus blogs. Johnnatan García se detiene en una imagen con una vista inédita. “Es la ciudad vista desde La Loma”, asegura. Muchas de estas zonas del barrio son extrañas, incluso para sus habitantes, quienes se acostumbraron, en otras épocas, a no pasar por allí cuando cargaban el lastre de la violencia. “Nos preocupa la historia del barrio”, dice Gabriel Jaime Vanegas Montoya, el coordinador de la biblioteca.

Para él, el punto de partida es contar cómo se llega hasta allí y dónde queda esta zona, olvidada quizás para algunos. Por ello, equipados con cinco cámaras digitales, una videograbadora y conexión de banda ancha, ahora todo lo que allí sucede se relata.

In the computer lab of La Loma's library, a group of 25 young people exchange photos and show off their blogs. Johnnatan Garcia stares at a photograph of a vista. “It is the view of the city from La Loma”, he confirms. Many of these parts of the district are strange, even for their inhabitants, who were accustomed, at other times, to not pass through them when they were loaded with violence. “The history of the neighborhood concerns us”, says Gabriel Jaime Vanegas Montoya, the coordinator of the library.

For him, the departure point is perhaps to describe how the neighborhood reached such violence and where the forgotten area has sinced arrived. Which is why, equipped with five digital cameras, a videocamera and broadband connection, now everything that happens there is chronicled.

Así, estas historias, con un punto de vista fresco, van a los blogs, algunos de ellos íntimos y personales, como el de Carmen Pan y Agua, llamado Baúl de Letras, en el que refleja su pasión por la literatura.

“Es una forma de expresión”, que no tenía antes, dice Carmen. Con 15 años, Catalina Restrepo publica con regularidad en su blog, que se llama Cosas del alma. Se trata de decir “lo que va surgiendo, realidades que observé y darle sentido al título”, dice sonriente.

Ahora Catalina tiene “el privilegio de contar con ellos”, los bloggers, como se denominan. Sus compañeros se contagian de lo que escribe y le dejan comentarios. Enriquecen su particular manera de ver el mundo. Sin embargo, su ejercicio no se queda allí, pues lo que escriben puede ser leído por cualquiera en el ciberespacio, que visita el sitio que los aloja a todos en

These stories, with a fresh point of view, go to the young persons’ blogs. Some of them are intimate and personal, like the blog of Carmen Pan y Agua, called Trunk of Letters, which reflects her passion for literature. It is a form of expression that she did not have before, Carmen says.

At just 15-years-old, Catherine Restrepo publishes with regularity in her blog, titled Things of the soul. It tries to convey “what is arising, realities that I have observed and to give some sense to the title”, she says smiling. Now Catherine has “the privilege to be part of the group”, bloggers, as they call themselves.

Her companions are infected by what she writes and they leave her comments. They enrich her particular manner of seeing the world. However, its an exercise that does not just remain there, because what they write can be read by anyone in cyberspace that visits the site

If you speak Spanish and would like to follow the daily updates of these new bloggers from La Loma de San Javier, head on over to ConVerGentes and click on the links on the sidebar. You can also listen to a podcast by Juliana and Jorge and explore their Flickr gallery.

Bangladeshi Bloggers and Businesswomen

The Nari Jibon project in Dhaka, Bangladesh has also been moving along full steam ahead. The young women of the Nari Jibon center began their blog with a focus on their country along with the occassional feature of a friend or acquaintance. But in recent weeks they've clearly become more comfortable with the medium and the resulting posts are at times personal, other times powerful, and frequently both. In Shahana Akter's introduction she writes:

My name is Shahana Akter Munia. I live in Dhaka City with my family. I am a student of B.A [Bachalor of Arts]. Beside this I am an English and Computer student of Nari Jibon Project. I am very glad to take training from this project in a safe environment. I have many friends. I like to gossip with my friends. Reading detective book is my hobby. I like to see Bengali movie. Some of my favorite Bengali movies are: SHUVA, JOY JATRA. I also like to hear music of Bengali Band. I am very happy to involve here in Nari Jibon Blog. I want to write about our country and myself. I am very happy to get this great opportunity from Nari Jibon.

We are also introduced to Sultana Akter and Jannatul Ferdouse, two Nari Jibon students who have started their own business, the “Rongin Tara Fashion and Boutique,” which we are told means “Color of Stars Fashion and Botique.” At just 21 and 22-years-old Sultana and Jannatul opened their shop at Khilgoan Chowrasta Moshjid Market with a 42,000 Taka investment. There are pictures of the botique and the colorful items they sell on the Nari Jibon blog. Next time you're in Dhaka, you know where to buy your female friends and family their gifts!

Another successful business woman is 36-year-old widow Ruby Rahman. In a multimedia blog post by M.G. Rabbany and Taslima Akter, we learn that Ruby was a housewife and busy mother of two until her husband – a government worker – passed away last year. She then transformed her mourning into a passion for entrepreneurialism which has resulted in a successful handicrafts business. We get a peek into her production process thanks to the great photo- and video-reporting by Rabbany and Akter.

Don't miss the recent photo essay by Sherin Sultana as she fondly and eloquently looks back at her university days and another photo essay about the good and bad of Bangladesh's intense rainy season by Mahfuza Parul Tania and Mohtarimun Nahar Bipa. And, finally, for the true polyglots, don't forget Nari Jibon's Bangla-language blog.

Weekly updates of Nari Jibon's blogging activities are available on the Rising Voices Wiki.

The World's First Aymara Blog

When we first checked in with Voces Bolivianas, just about a month ago, they were still hurriedly looking for a reliable internet cafe to host their workshops on blogging, photography, and online video. Since then, the hard work invested and the progress made is almost too much to believe.

First, Voces Bolivianas sponsored two Bolivian bloggers to attend last month's Bloguivianos gathering in Santa Cruz. Then Hugo, Eduardo, and Mario found an internet cafe in El Alto suitable for their Saturday morning workshops. They posted a video of the cafe, adding that “it is centrally located in an area with a lot of foot traffic. The video shows the surrounding area, as well as the space that will be used for the four workshops.”

Perhaps most impressive was their success in finding an Aymara translator for the project. Voces Bolivianas en Aymara is the world's first Aymara-langauge weblog. Select Spanish-language blog posts from the workshop's participants are posted to the front page of and translated into English and Aymara.

It hasn't been easy and the Voces Bolivianas team has volunteered countless hours to make the project a success. Via email, Eduardo Ávila writes:

On September 22, Voces Bolivianas held its first citizen's media workshop in the city of El Alto. Through a variety of recruitment channels such as a presentation at a local cultural center, interviews on a local radio station, handing out flyers at the public university, and word of mouth, 23 interested individuals showed up for the first session of 4 workshops that will be held every two weeks. The facility had capacity of 20 students, however, we did not want to turn anyone away and accommodated the three additional students at an adjacent internet cafe. Participants come from a wide variety of backgrounds, such as a baker, a textile factory supervisor, neighborhood librarians, university students, and individuals interested in the arts. Demographic information was collected through an online survey and among the interesting findings were that 61% of the participants had a computer a home, but none had home internet access. However, approximately 87% had access to internet cafes in their neighborhoods.

You can read the lastest posts from all of Voces Boliviana's El Alto workshop participants and view their photos on Flickr. More videos will be posted to dailymotion.

Coming Soon …

Our last two Rising Voices outreach award winners are still navigating through the obstacles that are to be expected when implementing a citizen media outreach initiative in communities that have little experience with computers and, often, extremely slow internet connections.

Vickie, of the Think Build Change Salone, describes the difficulties she encountered when seeking out young, passionate interns from the capital city, Freetown. In total she received over 119 applications, but many of them seemed unsure about what an internship even was. But in the end, Vickie found 14 young leaders who, as she writes, “are the future of Sierra Leone.” You can get to know the 14 young interns yourself and see their pictures in Vickie's introduction to the program. Over the next few months these young men and women will start their own blogs and describe their experiences as they work with NGO's and social groups throughout the country that are helping to restructure and reunite Sierra Leone after years of civil war. They will also organize outreach workshops in which they relay their citizen media skills to other Sierra Leoneans outside the capital.

The Neighborhood Diaries project has gotten off to a slow start, but the project's organizers have been extremely busy registering their organization, Kalam: Margins Write as an ‘official independent literary arts organization recognized by the Indian Government.’ As they should be, the group is all smiles after signing all the necessary forms in Dalhousie's West Bengal Registration Office. As an independent organization, it should now be easier for Kalam: Margins Write to find the perfect project coordinator for the Neighborhood Diaries project, which promises to train young people in Kolkata's slums to use digital photography and blogs as an outlet of creativity and a way to document their neighborhoods from their perspectives.

The Rising Voices website has also gotten off to a slow start, but that should be changing soon. Please keep your eyes on for more updates from our outreach award winners, more features on media activists from the developing world, and more resources to make entry into the world of participatory media less daunting. Stay tuned!


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