The UNESCO Chair on Community Media team consisting of Prof. Vinod Pavarala (chair holder) and Arun John, Ph.D student and research assistant had the unique opportunity to visit various community communication initiatives in the Montes de Maria region of Colombia from July 20-23, 2017 as part of a field trip organized by OURMedia/NUESTROSMedios network led by Prof. Clemencia Rodriguez (Temple University) whose pioneering work on citizens’ media and conflict highlighted the role played by community-based initiatives in peace-building in Colombia. Founded in 2000, OURMedia/NUESTROSMedios is a global network with the goal of facilitating a long-term dialogue between academics, activists, practitioners, artists, and policy experts around alternative/community/citizens’ media. OURMedia is founded on the principles that, first, all communities and collectives need to communicate, to express themselves, to inform and be informed, to dialogue with others, and to network; and second, that every community and collective has the right to the appropriate communication and information technologies and know-how to meet its historical communication and information needs and wants.
During the trip, the team, along with 20 other scholars from different parts of the world, visited: the Colectivo de Communicaciones in El Carmen de Bolivar; a community museum of memories in San Jacinto (Bolivar); the Colectivo de Comunicaciones de Kucha Suto in San Basilio de Palanque, the first settlement of free slaves in the Americas and now home to Afro-Colombian people; the Bibliotea Mariamulata Lectora, an innovative community library for children in the beach town of Rincón del Mar; and the Child Reporters of Reporteritos de Paz in the municipality of San Onofre in Sucre. These were amazing community communication projects that have been for over a decade working courageously with deprived communities in Colombia to build a culture of peace and, in Rodriguez’s phrase, to “reweave the fabric of society” torn by conflict.