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From Lago Aitilan to Lac Kivu: GPI Expansion 2014

GOMA, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO — In the first hours of the morning, the sky over Lac Kivu transforms from black into a grapefruit pink hue just as the sky that lives over Lago Aitilan did.

Less than 30 days ago, my jet lag woke me up to witness the pinking skies of rural Guatemala. Today, the same confused internal clock (and a cluster of noisy birds) woke me in time to see the sunrise over Lac Kivu in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo.

It dawned on me again this morning that the pieces of our world are more alike than different.

A month ago, I was a passenger in a little grey car that sped up the winding and well-paved road between Guatemala City and the Solola Department, where Global Press Institute opened a new, independent news desk on October 20. As we drove, I remembered the first time I traveled to a far away place all alone.

Nepal. I was 22.

I remember being dazzled by the perfume of Kathmandu – wood smoke and diesel – that filled my nose as I exited the airplane onto the runway. I still love that smell – the very same one I was treated to when I stepped off the plane and onto the tarmac in Kigali, Rwanda on Sunday night. Now 34, that smell reminds me that I am still filled with the same wonder that first pushed me into Nepal a dozen years ago.

Yesterday, on a different winding and well-paved road, the one between Kigali and Goma, the sameness of our world washed over me again.

New crops, the color of neon green finger paint, push through red earth. Rain falls in angry bursts but quickly forgets its temper. Children play with not-quite-full soccer balls. Gaggles of men discuss the disappointment of their politics at tiny roadside bars named amusing things like Eden Pub and Nowhere Tavern. People till the earth covered in the dewy shine of their hard work. Women carry impossible loads on their heads. Schoolgirls in knee socks emerge noisily from schools. Morning skies are pink. White geckos come out at night.

That same sameness, I realized, is what makes GPI work in Nepal and Nigeria, and in Cameroon just as it will in Congo. The universal power of story and the desire for truth live everywhere.

That’s why I’m here.

Nearly nine years ago, I decided to stop being a reporter in order to put the craft of journalism to a better, higher use.

It was my dream as a 25-year-old to train local women in developing countries to become world-class journalists. Trained, employed and empowered by the profession I loved so dearly, I was sure that women everywhere could bolster their own lives, communities and countries with the power of journalism.

I was right.

Proof of concept took time. For years we were lumped in with the citizen journalism crew and the blogging crowd. For even more years we were limited by meager funding sources. But slowly, our powerful, professional journalism began to punctuate change.

As we expanded across the world, women in Mexico, Nepal and Kenya heard our call to become journalists and they showed up in droves. The lure was the opportunity to cultivate their curiosities in hopes of disseminating access to valuable information. This opportunity would not only change their professions, but would also allow their communities to be freer, fuller, more informed, more powerful.

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