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The First Six Months of Rising Voices

As we all get ready to enter 2008, Rising Voices celebrates its first six months of existence. Thanks to the generous support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Rising Voices has been able to distribute microgrants to five citizen media outreach projects based in Bangladesh, India, Sierra Leone, Bolivia, and Colombia. Collectively those five projects have trained over 100 new citizen journalists from communities that previously never entered the online global conversation.

It is worth getting to know each new blogger not just as a source of under-reported foreign news, but also as a neighbor and friend in our rapidly shrinking world. Get to know Carmen, a lover of poetry and literature, from the hillside working class neighborhood of La Loma in Medellín, Colombia. Discover the story of Suso – La Loma's local recyclables collector. Meet Cristina Quisbert who now blogs almost every day from the world's highest major city, El Alto, Bolivia.

Or head to Dhaka, Bangladesh where the Nari Jibon center is training young women like Sifat Binte Qaiyum and Ayesha Parveen how to document their personal and community stories with online media.

Just southwest of Bangladesh we find the Neighbourhood Diaries project taking place in Kolkata, India. Though the ten participants in the neighbourhood of Bow Bazaar have yet to start writing on their own blogs, project leader Sahar Romani has introduced us to each one. Take 16-year-old Surojit Mitra, for example:

Surojit is a student at Bow Bazaar Highschool. During his free time he loves to coreograph dances and listen to music. He is known for his laughter and his coreography in Sanlaap programmes. One thing that no one knows about him is that, once he failed an exam.

In a later post we learn that Surojit's favorite landmark of Bow Bazaar is the Punjabi Hotel. Here's his description:

As soon as you reach the Punjabi Hotel, what you hear first is the sound of conversations and the din of people who are going in. A light wind brings the smell of various food items to my nose. You can see shoe shops, the vegetables in the market being bought and sold. The touch of food items from the hotel and the fuchka. It is a very old hotel. Earlier it was renowned, everyone knew of it. Besides, the proprietor of the place was a friend of my mother’s.

Finally, make sure to head to the Think Build Change Salone in Freetown, Sierra Leone. After a vicious, decade-long civil war made Sierra Leone the least developed country in the world, a group of motivated young interns – such as Noah Dauda and Daniella Wilson – are documenting their efforts to rebuild the country. Make sure to check out Noah Dauda's photographs of microfinance traders and Emmanuel Joseph's experience producing a documentary in the eastern provinces of Kenema, Kailahun and Kono.

Looking Ahead

As you can see, in just six months, each project has made amazing progress in training new groups of bloggers in underrepresented communities. A sense of purpose and community has developed within each group.

In just a few days we'll announce the latest round of microgrant winners. Five new projects will join our current community of outreach trainers and the momentum and good will they've established. In the coming months we'll focus more on encouraging interaction between all 10 projects and highlighting the similarities the share.

We hope that you'll follow along.

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