Salamat, Cebu: Random notes on the Global Voices Citizen Media Summit

This post has been translated into English by Marianna Breytman. The original post can be found here.

It's been a week since the Global Voices Citizen Media Summit came to a close in Cebu City in the Philippines, which I was lucky enough to attend. Forty hours of flying later, I arrived to this tumultuous and confusing country that I call home and slept for 30 non-stop hours (seriously) until I achieved something resembling a sense of balance. Not for nothing, Elena [es] told me that the soul and the body travel at different speeds: just today, after tending to a few urgent responsibilities and taking the rest of the weekend to be alone with my demons, I managed to organize a few ideas that have been floating around in my head following that beautiful and eventful week, during which I had the pleasure of seeing people I love a whole lot and hadn't seen in years, and those who I love a whole lot but had never met face to face, and finally meeting people I didn't know and who I now consider my friends.

In the upcoming days, I hope to post (be it in Spanish or English) my concrete notes about the different activities in which I participated. This post is not about that, but rather a way to acknowledge the emotional state — a mix of post-summit depression and infinite gratitude — that I find myself in upon landing back home, to reality and to everyday work again.

Global Voices is marking ten years since it was created by Rebecca MacKinnon and Ethan Zuckerman, and I have had the good fortune of volunteering for the organization for the past four years (particularly for Advocacy). Suddenly it sounds like a crazy commitment, especially when people ask why we give our time and work “for nothing in return”. Those who see it that way obviously don't know Global Voices and don't have the slightest idea as to what we get in return.

A family that reaches every corner of the world

Many of the Global Voices volunteers are migrants in one way or another; many others, although we live in our countries of origin, have serious problems feeling comfortable anywhere. In part, I think, it is because of the inescapable feeling that the world is bad, truly bad, and that there is very little we can do with respect to that, even though we keep trying. That is why the support, acceptance, and feeling of community that comes from being part of GV is possibly our greatest reward.

It's something special being in a room with over a hundred people and feeling safe, secure, knowing that you share values and ideals with all of them, knowing that everyone, including those you don't know yet, are your friends. Not in a stupid, Hallmark card kind of way, but genuinely: knowing that you can sit next to anyone and start a genuine conversation, like the ones we had when we were five years old and inviting someone to play was enough to make him or her your friend. It becomes easy when everyone wears their heart on their sleeve, when we accept peoples’ good faith as self-evident.

It's not necessary to be at a summit either — they happen every two years — for us to feel this way. Wherever there is a GV'er, we have a place. The world suddenly stops seeming strange: it's just an enormous, immense home that you haven't gotten to know yet.

Voices for those who don't have one

I think that the most surprising thing about being part of a project that grows organically, that moves to the extent that the members of its community change, evolve, and aspire to new things, is realizing that the values on which Global Voices is founded continue to be the same as they were ten years ago, and that those values continue to guide our actions as a community, as well as our plans and projects, regardless of how much the tools change or how much the networks that we build are reconfigured.

Creemos en la libertad de expresión: en proteger el derecho a hablar – y el derecho a escuchar. Creemos en el acceso universal a las herramientas de expresión.

Con ese fin, queremos empoderar a todos los que deseen expresarse para que tengan los medios de hacerlo – y para aquellos que quieren escucharlos, los medios para oírlos. ((Del manifiesto de Global Voices))

We believe in free speech: in protecting the right to speak — and the right to listen. We believe in universal access to the tools of speech.

To that end, we seek to enable everyone who wants to speak to have the means to speak — and everyone who wants to hear that speech, the means to listen to it. (From the Global Voices Manifesto.)

For those of us who become volunteers, life can sometimes become a frustrating and painful experience. You end up feeling like nothing you do is enough, no matter how hard you try. For me, belonging to Global Voices is, in a way, a refuge from that feeling; being, at least once a week, among these extraordinary people and feeling like, while individually it may be difficult, all of us together are capable of achieving real changes and building lasting things.

2014 was an extremely difficult year for me. A year that I ended immersed in a deep depression without any desire to continue on. So when I was told that I was going to participate in the Global Voices Summit in January, I knew that I just had to bear just a few more weeks, that meeting with these people would recharge my batteries, restore hope for me, reinstate my desire to work.

As always, I was not let down.


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