Cheryl Fischer was one of many volunteers who helped contribute summaries to the online news for the World Civil Society Forum.
During the course of the World Civil Society Forum (14 to 19 July 2002 - side events 8 to 20 July 2002), summaries of the main conclusions and points of interest from the sessions were being posted on the in the Online News of the Conference. Where is all this material coming from?
If you had been able to attend each session of the Forum at the same time, you would have noticed that somewhere in the room, there was one or more "delegates" diligently taking notes on everything that was happening.
Armed with a pencil and a template to take notes, 59 volunteer reporters attended the 150 sessions of the Forum along with the delegates. But instead of taking a coffee break after the session concluded, the volunteer reporters headed back to the computer to type up a summary of what they saw.
We caught up with one of the volunteer reporters and were able to get a few insights into what it is like from a volunteer perspective.
Cheryl Fischer is originally from Louisiana, and now lives in Springfield Missouri, USA. Cheryl came out to Europe to help out with both the XIV World AIDS Conference in Barcelona, Spain, and the World Civil Society Forum in Geneva. "I am really enjoying it. It's a lot of work; a lot of responsibility. I'm kind of a note taker by nature."
According to Cheryl, summarizing sessions is exciting and enjoyable: "It's a chance to listen to interesting, provocative discussions. It's really a chance to learn. For example, I attended a session on environment and biodiversity and acquired lots of information I never knew about. I want to remember what I heave heard and refer to it in the future."
So is it difficult to take notes for others?
"I do feel a keen responsibility of capturing the essence of what is presented. But I have done this type of work with others, such as IMADR, the International Movement Against Discrimination and Racism, and reports on trafficking children in Asia."
Like many volunteers, Cheryl applies skills from her professional life to her unpaid work.
"I work in civil rights professionally. As part of my job, I have to write up complaints in a presentable manner to send to city, state and even federal government representatives. I do this two, three, four times per week. I have also done work with the Buraku-man-- the lowest caste during feudal Japan. Even after Japan became modernized, there is still discrimination."
At the end of the day, why does someone with such skills decide to work the long hours required to summarize sessions from a conference?
"I find it enjoyable. I feel glad to be a part. It's a way to learn, keep up editorial skills, and experience other cultures. It really provides information and experiences to take back with me."