Serving with the United States Peace Corps in Kyrgyzstan these last two years has been a tremendous experience. During my two years in Kyrgyzstan I accomplished many things; too many to attempt listing here. So let me just describe the cornerstone achievement: Mobile Community Media Centers.
Rural and underserved populations of Kyrgyzstan, especially women and children, have a very weak voice in the country and in society. Enabling a wider voice to this population but with a lack of social mobility and weak technological resources posed a great challenge. While working with the Kloop School of Journalism I realized that harnessing mobile technology could provide a sustainable solution. The country has well-developed cellular and data networks, and smartphones are a cheap and prevalent technology in the region.
I wrote a concept note to support this project and found funding in a joint United Nations / European Union Commission program. I had close contacts at the UN who helped guide our ideas into a framework which would fulfill our mutual goals. This developed into a self-sustaining project between Kloop and the UN. A journalism and technological training series are now underway in all regions of the country and in just six-months, 10 of these Mobile Community Media Centers have been deployed into the field in addition to two new stationary Community Media Centers.
Together, a great victory was achieved in supporting freedom of speech In Central Asia and the development of the press corps–both essential elements to promoting stable democracy in the region.
I can’t begin to thank everyone who has made all of this possible. From those who have encouraged me throughout all the years to all of you who sent me care packages, and all of the project funders to my wonderful counterparts at RadioMost, Kloop and the Braille Literacy Project, you will all forever be a part of me. I hope my story has inspired you to make the world we live in a better place.
I have now returned to the USA and am living in Austin, TX where I am leading the charge to establish Kloop-USA. Kloop-USA is a non-profit aimed at promoting journalism and freedom of speech in Central Asia. We have short-term goals of fundraising and advocacy, and long-term goals to create study abroad opportunities for Central Asian students to study journalism in America. For more information about Kloop-USA, please stay tuned to my website.
Often when I receive feedback from people who have heard my story, they tell me things like, “I wish I could do that,” or, “I always thought about it…,” and to them I say: just do it. There is nothing special or magical about me or my story–I am just the guy who showed up, raised a hand, walked through a door and followed my heart. If Peace Corps sounds interesting to you, then call a recruiting office–you might just be surprised what all you will learn about, “The Toughest Job You’ll Ever Love.”
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