An Outlet for Expression

It has been more than a month since “Bolivian Voices Day” took place all across the country. Some have mentioned that a one day workshop was not nearly enough and point to the fact that many of the new bloggers for one reason or another have not continued to blog. However, I am still under the notion that we reached 86 new potential bloggers, who at least now know that this option exists. Perhaps in other circumstances, such as better internet access in their neighborhood or more time to write, then they can pick up where they left off.

One participant from the April 19 event, Nancy Condori, participated in the city of El Alto. Her blog called El Chairo [es] had been updated only once since the first workshop. However, reviewing the RSS feeds, I came across a very authentic and heartfelt entry. Perhaps Nancy did not write the entry for any particular audience in mind, but thanks to the blog workshop, she knows that she has an outlet to write about her feelings and begin to heal. Here is a translation of her blog entry:

Did you know that having a baby in your home is the most beautiful thing?

Well, I had a baby in my home, but due to circumstances, she wen to heaven and is no longer with me. I feel sad because of the little one's absence, maybe for some it might seem absurd to cry for the loss of someone that was at my side for such a little time, but she meant a lot to me, even though some of my friends said that it was for the best so that she wouldn't have to suffer. Who know? All I know is that wherever she is that she will take care of me. I haven't stopped thinking about the beautiful baby called LINMEY, who went to heaven like a small angel. Only God knows why she left my side. I still weep for her departure, even though her parents abandoned her. For me, she was like my daughter, and writing these lines still move my heart and I can't keep from crying because of her absence.

A piece of advice for single fathers, single mothers, and parents: love your children because it the most beautiful gift that God and life can give.

Meet Gabriel, Budding Citizen Journalist

Meet Gabriel Zuleta. He has easily been one of the most enthusiastic new bloggers in the Voces Bolivianas – Santa Cruz project. His blog is called Eufenismos [es] (Euphemisms) Always ready to help, he was instrumental in gathering all of the participants for the closing ceremony held in March. One afternoon in May, I had a long layover in Santa Cruz, so I called Gabriel to see if he was willing to accompany us around the various parts of the Plan 3000 neighborhood to record testimonies and stories from residents after the May 4 Autonomy Referendum. He readily jumped at the opportunity and walked the dusty roads of the outlying areas of Santa Cruz. Together with Santa Cruz coordinator, Jessica Olivares, we interviewed directors of schools where the voting took place, caretakers of schools where ballots were stolen, election officials, and others who witnessed some of the incidents of violence.

Gabriel has the making of a great citizen journalist, as he is very knowledgable about places and people in his neighborhood. For someone in his early 20s, he knows an enormous amount about the history of this part of Santa Cruz that rarely is seen in the mainstream media. Perhaps, most importantly, he is also very curious and unshy when it comes to interviewing others. Here is one interview he helped conduct of the caretaker of one of the schools where ballots were stolen in the middle of the night.

In this video, Gabriel takes us the school where he voted and fortunately, there was no incidents of violence.

Profile: Youth Group to Participate in Bolivian Voices Day in El Alto

After each Voces Bolivianas project in El Alto and Santa Cruz, we give each participant a survey and evaluation about their experiences in the workshop. One question was, “Are you interested in participating in future workshops in order to each others?” The vast majority said, “Yes.”

When we launched the campaign, “Voces Bolivianas in Your Community,” one of the most enthusiastic responses came from one of the new bloggers and participante in the project Voces Bolivianas – El Alto 2, Santos Huanca. He works in the radio station “Pachamama” in the city of El Alto and he has been a big supporter of our project. On many occasions, one of us has been interviewed and he has given us a space to talk to about the project.

In his free time, he works with a youth group called, “Young Communicators,” which is comprised of youth, who primarily study at night because they work during the day to support their families. Each weekend, they participate in the radio station to share their experiences with stories, interviews and commentary, but now they have the interest in transferring the same information to cyberspace and to open their own blogs. The group wrote in their proposal:

We arrived at the conclusion that the media is an important instrument for the development of a more just society, free of discrimination. We think that one of the best options in this communicative process, free of filters, possibilities of reciprocity or “feedback” and one that can help with this interculturality is the blog. It is easy to use and it is relatively inexpensive. We would like to write about our daily lives, our neighborhoods, our problems, our joys and our loves.

They live in semi-urban ares of the city of El Alto, such as in the neighborhoods of Alto Lima, Rosas Pampa, Zenkata, Santiago I, Villa Tunari, etc, where hte majority of their streets are of dirt, and the houses lack basic services.

Santos will share his experiences and his knowledge about blogs with the youth. He has been one of the most active bloggers ad he provides commentary on his blog “The Power of the Word” and writes about culture, his experiences in school, and of children that must work in order to make a living. These are just some of the examples of some of the topics that he writes about.

In addition, the workshop will also receive support from Wara Yampara, who also formed part of the project of Voces Bolivianas – El Alto 2. Her blog called Productive El Alto, writes about agriculture, but also about the traditions such as the Alasitas Fair and about the commercial movement of the markets.

Many thanks to these two participantes from El Alto 2, who have committed to teaching what they have learned in the workshops. This ripple effect is very powerful, and will allow for even more people to learn about this tool. This workshop of approximately 15 people will take place in El Alto on April 19, “Bolivian Voices Day.”

Bolivian Voices Day – April 19

Please note the new date of April 19,

The need to reach more Bolivians in underrepresented groups created the need to launch the campaign “Bolivian Voices in Your Community” in order to ask for the help of local bloggers to bring a Bolivian Voices 2-month project to they communities and teach the use of web 2.0 tools (blogs, digital photography, audio and video). The response was overwhelming and moving and included proposals from more than 24 people and institutions from 6 of the 9 departments. In order to reach more people, Bolivian Voices decided to change the workplan in order to accomodate more teaching sites and reach a wider audience.

Bolivian Voices would like to announce that April 19 will be “Bolivian Voices Day” where in approximately 10 sites across the country, a workshop on the creation of blogs will be helpd. With the help of local bloggers, approximately 120 participants will receive instruction on how to open, create and maintain their own personal blog and how to be a part of the Bolivian Voices community, as well as the local and national blogosphere.

The confirmed sites include the continuation of the sites in El Alto and Santa Cruz, but also the launching of new sites in La Paz, Oruro and Cochabamba. More sites will be confirmed this week. More details and a list of sites and collaborators will be released this week.

“Bolivian Voices Day” will also be an opportunity to talk about some of the topics of why there are so many voices without representation in the Bolivian blogosphere and what we all can do so that these internet tools can help bring people together and look for ways to overcome these obstacles such as lack of access and lack of knowledge from the population.

Many thanks to all of those who are supporting this blogger citizen's movement, including all of the participants of the projects in El Alto I, El Alto II and Santa Cruz I, the coordinators, the volunteers, special invited guests, media, institutions, organizations, national and international bloggers, Rising Voices network of projects and Rising Voices for the funding that made the first three projects possible.

More details in the days to come….

Delayed Reaction

One night on Instant Messenger, I received a message from one of our Coordinators, Hugo Miranda, who said, “guess who is back?” He proceeded to pass me the link of one of the participants from the first project El Alto I. Ruben Lipe, who opened his blog Rubensistem [es] only attended two of the four sessions and was unable to participate in any other activities. Perhaps he became bored with the idea of a blog or maybe he had better things to do.

However, nearly six months after his first post, Ruben returned explaining his absence. Ruben works in the field of education and works in a rural province in the Bolivian Altiplano, where the internet connection is even less available than in some parts of El Alto. He then proceeded to write about some of the experiences working in the rural parts of Bolivia, as well as the fact that the local population stage football tournaments during Easter week and even hire professional football players from La Paz to act as ringers.

The most satisfying part of discovering the return of Ruben is that the lessons taught about how to write and publish on his blog were not lost nearly half a year later. Ruben obviously has a lot of interesting stories from his days spent in the provinces, and remembered that his blog is an excellent resource and place to share those stories.

Closing Celebrations Scheduled

An important part of the workshops is the closing program, where the participants get the opportunity to invite friends and family to hear about their experiences with Voces Bolivianas. On Tuesday, March 18 the closing program will be held in El Alto for the participants of the 2nd round of workshops. Later in the month, the closing program for the Santa Cruz project will also take place.

In addition to sharing a meal with fellow participants, friends and family and other local bloggers, the Voces Bolivianas participants each say a few words and show off their blogs on the overhead projector.

However, there will also be a special announcement made at the closing ceremony on March 18 in regards to the next plans for Voces Bolivianas.

What Constitutes Success?

What makes a participatory media project successful? Reviewing the original Rising Voices application, we wrote:

How will you measure and evaluate your project’s impact – on your main participants? other contributors? on the larger community? How many participants do you expect to be involved in your project? How will you seek and sustain their involvement? (200 words)

According to unofficial estimates the city of El Alto currently has 10 blogs, many of which are maintained by the same author. The main evaluative measure will be the number of blogs and blog entries that are created and maintained over the course of the two-month project. Follow-up after the project ends will be essential to ensure that the blogs continue, which will be encouraged through additional opportunities for internet access. For selected participants, the digital cameras and voice recorders will be awarded, which will be an incentive to produce high-quality work and making it easier to create content in the future.

Some of the participants will be encouraged to be part of future outreach programs and help continue to teach others about these tools.

Another evaluative measure will be participants’ attitudes towards these new technologies. A pre and post-test will be provided to measure the participants’ attitudes towards the ability to express themselves, as well as their comfort using internet tools.

This has been a topic of discussion internally, as well as some observers and supporters of the project. The Bolivian blog community site Blogs Bolivia took a look at the 23 new participants blogs and indicated which ones were still writing 3 months after the final workshop took place. They found that 25% of the blogs were still writing in the blog and observes:

Sadly we find that the majority of the (new bloggers) have stopped publishing between the months of October and November. This means that even though they learned the new technology, there are still reasons related to costs, interest, or habit, which caused them to stop writing. Or maybe the teaching methods have not found the right group.

The article goes onto say that when looking at it from a more optimistic viewpoint, one could say that there are six more blogs in El Alto that there were before. Since this is the first project of its kind in Bolivia, would some be happy with these results or would a perfectionist like me feel like we didn't do enough. I offered up these possible remedies for this number, with the hope that the numbers will increase after the second project in El Alto:

1) During the registration, we should find those with more of a commitment. There will always be people that love to blog and others that will say, ‘this is not for me.’ Maybe we can charge a small registration fee and if they complete all of the workshops, then they will be refunded in full. (This is a little complicated, because we want to ensure everything remains without cost.)

2.) More support during the week. If they are not writing, then there should be calls or text messages to see if they need help or additional personal help. The lines of communication have always been open for those with questions, but maybe this should be increased.

Is it simply a question of raw numbers, i.e. an increase in the number of sustainable blogs? We also sought to measure attitudes and acquisition of knowledge. A pre and post test was given to the participants to ask them about their knowledge regarding the use and familiarity of blogs. For the pilot project, on a scale of 1-5, we found that the participants felt that they increased their knowledge in the use of blogs from 1.5 to 2.6. In addition, we also asked them about their knowledge of the advantages of having a blog, i.e. their utility. This also increased from 3.0 to 4.1. This may not be entirely scientific, but it does show that these workshops do help in some way in regards to the participants’ knowledge and attitudes towards the use of blogs.

Nevertheless, it is still a learning process in seeing what works and what should be scrapped altogether. Some things cannot be measured, but can simply be observed, such as when Bolivianas, who had no previous knowledge of these new tools, become excited to write and share their stories. It can also been seen in young people, who continue to share their traditions handed down from generation to generation, as well as write in their native language of Aymara.

It is still a work in progress, and hopefully the percentage of new bloggers that continue will begin to rise more and more.

Voces Bolivianas Begins in Santa Cruz

Welcome to Jessica Olivares, the new Santa Cruz Coordinator and Enrique Canedo, project assistant. They wrote this description of the first day of Voces Bolivianas – Santa Cruz, our newest iniciative.

The crazy weather in Santa Cruz played tricks on us, as it began to rain very early in the morning, and as we came closer to our destination, the streets and avenues beyond the 4th Ring of the city truly became rivers.

After 25 minutes of an eventful journey in a small taxi, we heard the continuous complaint from the taxi driver. He talked about his theory of the phenomenon “La Niña” that it was not the result of global warming, rather it was due to human consequences: according to him, human sin was the cause. In the middle of his whining, he spouted, “Repent, heathens because the water will wash away our sins..” in that moment we realized that we were finally arriving to our final destination, Paurito Avenue in the area of Plan 3000 near the neighborhood La Ciudad de la Alegría.

The rain was beginning to cease, and 11 individuals were waiting to begin the first class of digital literacy through the use of blogs… 11 individuals that were transformed from real-life to virtual and became part of the Bolivian blogosphere.

It was satisfying to see the commitment from the attendees, and it was also surprising to see the variety of backgrounds in this heterogeneous group. There were young people, professionals, students, commercial vendors, and novices. Most were brand-new to the world of blogs, but they had the complete interest to learn how to create their blogs, and express themselves through words to the world what they live on a daily basis.

Here are their new blogs:


Prof. Miriam Vidal- – Miriam Vidal
Capuletos- – José Armando
Eufenisimos – José Luis Alanoca
Travieso - – Kevin Ayllon
Reciclaje – Edmundo Vaquila
Turismo en Bolivia – Deisy Díaz
Crucenhito – Sergio Gutierrez
Litoraleño – Pedro Velásquez
Mi Cofre Musical OK – Silvana Salvatierra
La Docente de Siglo XXI - Elsa Muruchi

To visit their page: Voces Bolivianas – Santa Cruz

When the clock struck 2 pm, the rain had stopped and we had finished providing answers to the rainfall of questions from our new students. Once more, they demonstrated the commitment to learn and we showed our commitment to teach them. We would appreciate if you visit their new blogs!