Last November 2014, I came across an announcement on the Peace and Collaborative Development Network (PCDN), an international organization of peace advocates of which I am a member. The announcement held the banner “Global Voices Summit 2015: The Open Internet: Local Perspectives, Global Rights”. I got curious and clicked on the link. Lo and behold was an opportunity for Filipinos! If I were to post the event on my blog on Twitter or Facebook I could get a travel grant as long I commit to share the event on my blog.
I met the requirements and proceeded to reply the online application. As required, I posted the announcement on the website of and in my journal on World Pulse, an international organization composed of gender advocates. Just before Christmas, I received a pleasant surprise from Eddie Avila, Executive Drector of Rising Voices, a program of Global Voices (GV). He emailed me that my request was approved and that I would be given a travel grant of PhPeso 3,000 (about $70). It was an early Christma gift.
About two weeks before the summit, one WP member from the Democratic Republic of Congo responded. She wanted to attend too but had no means to. She wanted to learn how she could speak out without getting killed. How I wish I could help her get a HUGE grant and get her to attend the summit.
Cutting the story short, I was able to make it to Cebu City. I did not get lost because the gigantic streamer at the facade was very visible and the organizers were on the steps of the Provincial Capitol Building - the venue. I was led to the second floor where I was attended to by more young and vibrant ladies. I guess I was too early because there were only a few participants in the spacious convention hall. It was my first time to enter that hall and the building itself despite my prior visits to the city. If not for GV, I would never have stepped into the seat of government of Cebu.
Making the long story short again, I attended the plenary and break up (simultaneous) sessions. In between were the light but delicious snacks and lunch. The food ran out during lunch of Day 1 but it was no problem for me. Little food meant no extra calories. But GV did not want to displease the other participants especially the ones who paid (I also got free event tickets). Hence, additional food came. The quick thinking organizers quietly managed the situation and pulled it off. Many thanks to them!
I was able to complete the two hectic days of discussions and sharing of experiences. Collecting my thoughts and memories of the summit, I have realized that:
GV is one big happy family and it continues to grow. I was amazed to know that this global community started small 10 years ago but now has hundreds of members of different colors, tongues, religion, cultural background, professions, academics and politics but with one common goal - to let every individual communicate safely online. I found the GV members to be highly intelligent, well educated and experienced in their respective fields but surprisingly, I sensed that they are humble, kind, tactful and willing to help. One can rarely find people of superior intelligence who do not have airs. But in GV, were over 300 of them in that hall!
Making friends in GV is easy and fast. I met this wonderful lady from Fiji. Her name is Mereoni Leweshi Raivalita, Program Officer of the Fiji Media Watch. She is so amiable and sweet that I felt comfortable and welcomed. My opinions and stories mattered to her. We sat, ate and attended all sessions together for one a half day. It seemed she wasmy twin sister. I missed her in the afternoon of Sunday though because she had to fly back to Manila. But I am glad because she invited me to visit Fiji. I pray that I could.
GV has a number of windows through which volunteers can participate. Three of these stuck to my memory - Global Voices Advocacy (anti-censorship and protection of Internet rights), Lingua (translation works), and Rising Voices (empowering under-represented communities through micro-grants; participatory media tutorials; and cultivating citizen media activists). I am interested to join the Lingua group because in one of the session “Filipino Indigenous Languages in Citizen Media”, I learned that the Hiligaynon (my mother tongue) has yet to find its way to the Wikipedia. Yes, I will do that.
I have other insights but I can’t be a burden to the readers. Let me just end by expressing my gratitude. I felt accepted and important. Everyone I talked to listened. I was truly blessed to be given the chance to participate and so say: THANK YOU, GLOBAL VOICES FOR THE CHANCE TO BE PART OF YOUR 10th ANNIVERSARY. MAY THE ORGANIZATION LIVE ON AND BE A BLESSING TO MORE PEOPLE AROUND THE WORLD.