On my first day at my host organization, I woke up early preparing to start my fellowship program at Global Press Institute in Presidio. These past few weeks of my stay in the US made me realize just how functional phones are. Very quickly I learnt that my old phone from home could not keep up with the digital life in America, so I replace it with a smart phone, which quickly became my best friend. Not because I was crazy about the smartphone, but because you need the phone to show you where the directions to place, bus stops, the metro, where to eat, where to shop and even where to stay. Whatever you are looking for, your smart phone will help you find it.
Back to my first day, since I was going to an unfamiliar I left quite early in order to reach the workplace on time. I was hoping to have a smooth ride to work given that it was not so far from where I was staying. After using the Google maps on my phone to get directions, I walked to the nearest bus stop thinking how hard can it be, catch a bus and get to GPI, easy right? I hopped into the next bus and paid $2:00 for a fifteen minutes ride. Back in Kenya, this would take me to and from work. Before I knew it the bus had passed my stop. Nervous and confused, I decided to just wait for the bus to make its rounds and reroute back to my initial stop. What I didn’t know was I was going to be in this bus for the long haul. To cut the long story short, the journey that was meant to take about 15 minutes ended up being a two-hour ride.
Instead of being worried about getting lost in a big city and since there wasn’t much I could do at the time except sit and wait, I decided to take a positive attitude and made lemonade out of the lemons that the world had just thrown at me, which in this case meant sight seeing and taking pictures. I saw the picturesque view of the Golden Gate Bridge, the park and a breathtaking view of the lake all from the comfort of my seat. So for what many tourists pay $ 30.00 to get on a tour bus see the city, I only paid $2.00 and what quicker to get to know my new city.
Finally, two hours later and several phone calls to my supervisor, I arrived at the GPI offices in the Presidio, a military base, which is now part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The GPI founder and Executive Director Cristi Hegranes together with Maura the Managing Editor warmly received me and gave me a brief background of the organization and its foundation.
GPI is an amazing organization, which uses journalism as a development tool to educate, employ and empower women from developing countries. I am passionate about sharing knowledge and skills with young people in order for them to make informed decisions and choices in life. I feel honored to be part of an organization that is focused on changing the way the world sees the developing world makes this worthwhile course to take.
GPI’s three foundational goals are to empower women, increase access to information and create a global awareness of the developing world and the people in it. I couldn’t agree more that the world needs to see Africa, Asia and Latin America for who they really are and not the negative image that has plagued developing countries for a long timeout. It is unfortunate that certain terms such as corruption, famine, drought, poverty and war are synonymously used in when describing third world countries.
One challenge I faced some years back while managing a HIV Prevention Project in Kenya, was how to translate knowledge we shared through Information, Education and Communication materials into real actions. I remember visiting a village near the shores of Lake Victoria in Mbita Island where women exchanged sex for fish in order to make ends meet. We carried out an outreach program in the area, shared information on how to prevent HIV/AIDS and as we were handing out IEC materials, a young mother of three came up to me and said, “All the information that you have given us is good however, I have to feed my children at the end of the day. The fish I get, I sell to buy vegetables and cook for my children. The future seems so far away and I can only think of now, today and not what will happen to me tomorrow”. This really disheartened me because I couldn’t do more to help this woman who just like many other women without education, jobs or skills have turned to risky behaviors to fend for their families. GPI’s training-to-employment program not only creates jobs for the women trained but it also empowers them to be involved in their society by reporting on issues affecting them and their communities. With a fare wage these women are changing their lives for the better and making an impact in the communities they live in. Some of the stories written by these women have influenced policies in their country and that’s the change that we want to see in communities.
My experience working with communities at the grassroots level has taught me that the fastest way to make social change is to let the communities make the change they want to see and this is what GPI does through journalism.