The generosity of a feminist blogger – and a fortunate stroke of serendipity – got me into Global Voices in the Autumn of 2008.
I had just settled back home in Porto, living alone for the first time after half a year teaching in Timor-Leste. The experience in the antipodes had been such an epiphany that I came back with an invincible feeling of urgency, a strong will to change the world – with as much ingenuity as one can in their early 20s.
So I grabbed my computer, charged my digits and started shooting emails, blog posts and tweets in all directions. I needed to widen my online social network so that I could give more visibility to an inspiring handcraft & traditional arts co-op lead by Timorese women I had met. As a young software engineer who had just recently heard about socent for the first time, my dream was to help settle locally some kind of ICT cluster for women, including girl students I had taught informatics to in Dili. I wanted them to take on IT to tell their own stories of emacipation. (Back then I was trying to do the same, in a way, through my too-personal blog :)
Going through this cathartic phase of discovery of social issues and web 2.0, I somehow ended up subscribing a mailing list called “systers”. It has opened several doors for me, but I'll focus on the one that has lead me to GV. Early December 2008, a “Magic Internet Fairy” sent an email to the systers list announcing a computer giveaway contest she was running in her poetics & tech blog.
Liz Henry said “an amazing abundance of computers” was about to pour in for the one who “would put something unique and interesting into the world, given the right tools”.
I thought about “magic” and what my computer means to me. It lets me express all the million layers of my ideas and creativity, and helps me put that into the world directly. Because I do that, I can connect directly with other people and their ideas. The magic for me in this contest is in spreading that empowerment and connection. Who could I make the happiest? Who would put something unique and interesting into the world, given the right tools?
I submitted my short story, et voilá, she picked it, offered me $6,000 worth of computers – AND introduced me to Global Voices, suggesting I should start reporting there about Timor-Leste.
Liz has absolutely no idea of the impact that gesture has had in my life in the years that followed. Her generosity inspired such confidence in me that I decided to risk and quit my conventional job in order to dedicate exclusively to “stuff that really matters”, including writing for Global Voices as a volunteer. Later I would become the editor for Portuguese language countries, a part-time job I kept until a couple of months ago.
I owe to Global Voices, and everyone I have worked with in the community (especially my first editor, Paulissima! <3) a long and deep learning about journalism, politics, activism, networks, intercultural understanding, sharing and humility. I often say that although my college degree is in computer engineering, I also got an utopian media diploma from the Free University of Global Voices which I am profoundly thankful for.
As for the computers Liz gave me back in 2008 – although the “top web development company run by Timorese women only” I had dreamed of hasn't yet come to life in that shape – I did manage to put them in very good hands in an unexpected place – a Dominican Convent in the isolated Timorese exclave of Oecussi, where roughly 50 poliglot, super intelligent girls live and study. I spent one month with them there as a volunteer ICT trainer, trying to spread the empowerment and connection Liz had written about in her challenge to “share the magic”.