Saturday, July 26, 2014

Helping Others in Second Life II


No one has ever become poor by giving.

Anne Frank



          Those of you who are regular readers (My thanks to both of you!) know that I’m very interested in how virtual worlds like Second Life (SL) interact with Real Life (RL). (Significant Other gives me that warning look that SL had better not ever show up at our front door.)

          For many, this involves hanging out with friends, music, dancing, parties, sex, and lifestyles like BDSM or naturism.  (I should know, I’ve blogged just about all of them!)  All of which contributes in one way or another, fairly or not, to how some in RL perceive SL.

          I’ve always felt that the positive aspects of SL such as friendship and community bonding don’t get the proper attention and respect that they deserve.  One of the reasons I’ve marooned myself inworld instead of going out across the Metaverse was that I found SL and its residents and their lives to be so fascinating.  They have to be great people no one’s kicked me out yet.  (Well, there was that one time.  But, it was a misunderstanding.  Better yet, let’s just not bring that back up again.)

          One aspect that I’ve found particularly engaging about SL is how willing people are to go out of their way to help others.  Recent examples in this blog include Relay for Life (RFL) raising money inworld for cancer research in RL.  (Which as of this writing has collected over $400,000US.)  The Mieville sim had a yard sale to help raise money for a member suffering from leukemia in RL and who didn’t have health insurance.  (Which has surpassed its goal for its member in need.)  Finally, First UCC maintains a ministry inworld helping congregants, and anyone else who needs it, with their spiritual and other needs. 

          There are many others and I don’t wish to slight them.  These three groups I’d just stumbled across in my wanderings across the Grid and became aware of their activities.

          Recently, while hanging around with the First UCC crew (The only places in RL that I have yet to thrown out of are churches and Starbucks.  Since there are none of the latter inworld, I tend to hang around with the former.  It’s safer.)  I learned about their upcoming fundraiser to support a child in RL.

          Yes, you heard me correctly.

          A church group in SL is raising funds to support a child in RL.  Not only that, but this is the second time they’ve doing it!  I had to learn more.

          Reaching out to my SL friend, Becca Kellstrom, a minister in both worlds, I asked about the possibility of an interview.  She promptly connected me with YoYo Rez, one of the two non-clergy staffers at First UCC and who is also responsible for running the program.  (Significant Other suggests the promptness may have more to do with not wanting to be seen with the likes of me.  I politely remind Significant Other that but for the likes of me, folks like Bec would be out of a job.)    

          YoYo and I were able to schedule a time to meet and to discuss the children’s aid program run by the church. 

          What follows comes from that interview and materials that YoYo was kind enough to send to me.  (BTW, YoYo’s a big time Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan.  We hit it off from the get go!) 

          The program is called RealReach by First UCC and is run in RL under the sponsorship of an organization called Children International. 

          YoYo was originally attracted to their program because they are not a directly sectarian effort tied to a single denomination.  They had strong ratings through charity tracking sites, and she liked how they tied education and skill-building programs into their outreach efforts.  They actively involve the families of the sponsored children in in-country community efforts.  They are not just a drop-off-the-food-and-clothing kind of place.  They have programs right in the neighborhoods they serve, and they interact daily with those they're helping.          Children are normally supported until their eighteenth year when their education ends.  Although, YoYo cited as an example a young person she sponsors herself whom she supported until his nineteenth birthday so that he could complete technical training. 

          To me this sounds like a very effective program.  (Look, I’m not going to pretend that I’m some sort of expert in helping others.  (We won’t go into Significant Other’s observation that I can help best by staying away.)  But, my limited experience has taught me that getting and staying involved with folks who need help is beneficial for all concerned.) 

          The cost per child is approximately $350US annually. 

          There are benefits accruing from this program other than just caring for children.  YoYo observed how this effort unifies everyone in First UCC.  It focuses them and draws them together as a community.  Naturally, they grow in unity through their services and their prayer times, but there are very real friendships and relationships being forged here.  Many of the members have already met in RL.  Some have made decisions about moving to be closer to other First UCC members and to join their worship communities, and are beginning to visit one another from across states and across the country.  So certainly, First UCC gets a direct benefit from joining in projects that never could have united them without a virtual world community.  They never would have met.  This extra good would never have been done.

          Now, for the good part, how can we help!

          First UCC is having its next fund raiser to sponsor a child on Saturday. August 23rd, from 11:00 AM SLT to 1:00 PM SLT at their inworld location. 

          It’s going to be a “Battle of the DJs.”  There will be four DJs and each DJ will receive thirty minutes of allotted time.  At the very start of the event, YoYo will trigger a device that spits out rolly balls with a single word on it.  She’ll do eight of these.  The DJ must play up to eight songs with that random word in the title.  The person who goes first has less time to think about it ... but those who go last might see the song they want taken by an earlier DJ.  (Sure beats the old bake sale idea, huh?) 

There will be four donation stations, and people can donate to the DJ they want to "win." And of course, the real winner is the sponsored child, although the DJ who wins walks away with bragging rights.

Sounds like a plan! 

          At the first fund raiser, expectations were modest.  YoYo and her colleagues didn’t expect to raise the full annual fee for the sponsored child.  They were stunned to not only hit the goal but to exceed it.  YoYo admits freely that she cried for joy. 

          If you want to want to make a difference in the world, the real world, and help a child then I’d recommend you join YoYo and First UCC on August 23rd and join the fun.  If you can’t make the date how about dropping by some other time to make a donation?

          Remember no donation is too small.  (The widow’s mite is one of my favorite parables!) 

          At a time when so many children seem to be suffering in this world either dying of thirst in a desert or hiding in basements from bombs, here’s a chance to make a difference in the life of at least one child.  

           I’ve included a few pictures of my interview with YoYo and the First UCC sim.  Drop by and walk through the gardens there when you find yourself in need of a quiet moment. 

          I’d like to thank YoYo again for taking the time to meet with me and answer my questions and Bec for arranging for us to meet! 

As always, I’m grateful to all inworld for their kindness and time in stopping to talk with a stranger who was passing through their lives.   

My Twitter handle is @webspelunker.  Please feel free to follow me and I’d be happy to follow you.

I welcome feedback from readers, please either comment on my blog or e-mail me at . 

          If you would like to read about my other adventures in Second Life
please click here.



Photo No. 1 YoYo Rez

Photo No. 2 The Interview

Photo No. 5 Church Grounds


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