Below is this week’s newsletter to the Rising Voices mailing list. I’m so happy with the progress that Rising Voices has made, however, that I want to share it here as well. I’ll be publishing photos from last night’s event soon.

I write today’s newsletter after what has been, without any doubt, the most satisfying week of my professional life. I am incredibly proud and honored to work with each of the Rising Voices projects and with this entire community that has been so supportive over the past six months.

HiperBarrio

Last night the facilitators and participants of HiperBarrio organized a multimedia event at the San Vicente Ferrer Parish in San Javier La Loma, Colombia. Over 100 people showed up, which, given the size of La Loma, felt like the entire town.

The newly trained bloggers, podcasters, and videobloggers of HiperBarrio showed off the movies that they have been producing, the photographs that they have been posting online, and the articles they have written. I am certain that it was the first time that the residents of La Loma saw their own daily reality, as documented by their sons, daughters, and friends, displayed on a big screen.

And they were clearly impressed. As I was hiding in the back of the room with my videocamera, I had the satisfaction of hearing the audience members exclaim how beautifully the photographs and videos were produced and giggle when some embarrassing moment was caught on film for all eternity. Not only did we celebrate the new media skills of the HiperBarrio participants, but they also shared their offline talents. Milthon entertained with one of his infamous clown routines, Sady had people dancing and clapping along when he played clarinet with his band, and Jorge amazed all with an incredible hip-hop performance which mentioned the names of every HiperBarrio weblog. Last night the residents of La Loma realized just how much talent the youth of their small working-class community has cultivated. And, thanks to the internet, the rest of the world is starting to realize as well.

Before the event concluded, we also watched a video which was recorded the previous evening in El Alto, Bolivia, where the participants of Voces Bolivianas sent video messages to La Loma in order to establish stronger links between the two outreach projects. You can view the video here – English subtitles will hopefully be available in the coming week.

Voces Bolivianas

Thursday night was the closing ceremony for the first pilot project of Voces Bolivianas. Diplomas were handed out to all of the 20+ new citizen journalists and prizes were awarded to some of the most-dedicated bloggers. But, perhaps most exciting, was the announcement that this week Voces Bolivianas will carry on with two new workshops. One will focus on women bloggers in El Alto while the other will be held in Santa Cruz and facilitated by Jessica. Make sure not to miss Rezwan’s latest feature post on VB and you can see photos of the closing ceremony on the Voces Bolivianas website.

Nari Jibon

After a brief break during the holiday season, Nari Jibon’s young women bloggers of Dhaka, Bangladesh are back at work. Just a few days ago the Nari Jibon participants were visited by Shawn of The Uncultured Project. Forty-four of Nari Jibon’s students showed up to the workshop where they learned how to upload videos to YouTube and create podcasts. Shawn also shared his experiences of visiting areas that were devastated by Cyclone Sidr and showed them videos and pictures of his trips. Shawn says that he will visit Nari Jibon again in the near future to help them expand their new media knowledge.

Neighbourhood Diaries

For anyone wanting to learn some of the most original and innovative ways to start a local new media workshop, the project blog of Neighbourhood Diaries is practically a manual. Though Neighbourhood Diaries got off to a late start compared to some of the other first round grantees, we are slowly but surely becoming better acquainted with all of their talented participants. Make sure not to miss Rezwan’s recent feature on the Neighbourhood Diaries project.

Think Build Change Salone

The Thing Build Change Salone, which has armed NGO interns with blogs to describe their experiences in helping rebuild Sierra Leone after years of civil war, was confronted with all the obstacles that could be expected of a project based in a country that is still rebuilding its infrastructure and institutions. Even so, thanks to the TBCS participants, we are able to become much more familiar with Sierra Leone than would otherwise be possible.

I recently heard the wonderful news from project leader Vickie Remoe-Doherty that Sierra Visions recently received a grant from the Internet Society to establish a digital village in Freetown. With ready and consistent internet access, we will surely be hearing much more from the TBCS interns in the months to come. Once again, Rezwan’s feature article on TBCS is a must-read.

Five New Projects

Of course, one of the most exciting developments to cap off this extraordinary week has been getting to know the project facilitators of our five new projects based in Uruguay, Jamaica, Iran, Madagascar, and Kenya. Deserving special mention is Repacted, a citizen media project in Nakuru, Kenya which combines the techniques of Magnet Theater with the power of new media tools. Over the past few weeks, they have been instrumental in encouraging peace and conflict resolution in the aftermath of Kenya’s post-election crisis. They received special mention from popular Kenyan blogger Daudi Were.

We have witnessed an incredibly sense of community take place among the participants of each of the first five Rising Voices projects. They have become more than just bloggers. In fact, through their weblogs, they have become much better friends. Over the next six months hopefully those friendships will extend from one project to the next, over borders, differing cultures and languages.

I want to end by saying thank you to all the many people on this list who have written me personal emails asking how they can be of greater help. One of my priorities for the beginning of 2008 is to set up a special community and system for those kind souls who wish to volunteer some of their time to ensure the success of Rising Voices.

From Medellín, Colombia, warm regards to all,

David

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