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This will be the first of our bi-weekly posts to clue you guys in on what Peace Train is doing for Imagine Peace Fest 2011. First things first, if you haven’t heard of imagine peace fest it’s a yearly drive to help raise funds for NPO’s that do charitable work across the world. We’re taking part this year with several events live in Second Life and some live events at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia!

This week I’d like to give you guys a little look into how we’re putting this together to make this a great and inspiring event for everyone included. Gregory and myself are each in the process of putting on two shows, both spoken word, to help raise awareness on campus and spread the word about Imagine Peace Fest and the plight of the charities which we’re supporting.

If you guys have any ideas as to an event you’d like to put on to support Imagine Peace Fest in Second Life or real life, or if you want to know how to help contribute to this wonderful cause feel free to reach us here:

Peacetraincharitabletrust@gmail.com

Follow us on Twitter here

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The Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) is one of the three Charitable organizations to which we will be donating during Imagine Peace Fest 2011. I think that it’s only appropriate that we provide a brief introduction to their work and purpose.

RAWA was founded in 1977 by Meena Keshwar Kumal in an attempt to fight for Afghan Women’s right to education, right to participate in political life, and be full members of the Afghan society. Through her work she visited France during a French socialist Congress to speak on the behalf of Afghan women. Meena also helped set up schools and medical centers across Afghanistan to help alleviate the plights of her people.

Sadly Meena’s activist role in the advancement for the women in her culture led to her assassination in 1987, a mere ten years after the establishment of RAWA. Her spirit still lives on as her legacy and work helped inspire generations of RAWA members after her death. The following is a message posted about her influence on the RAWA Website,

“Meena gave 12 years of her short but brilliant life to struggle for her homeland and her people. She had a strong belief that despite the darkness of illiteracy, ignorance of fundamentalism, and corruption and decadence of sell outs imposed on our women under the name of freedom and equality, finally that half of population will be awaken and cross the path towards freedom, democracy and women’s rights. The enemy was rightly shivering with fear by the love and respect that Meena was creating within the hearts of our people. They knew that within the fire of her fights all the enemies of freedom, democracy and women would be turned to ashes.”

Since Meena’s assassination RAWA has gain strength and continued to fight for women’s rights in Afghanistan. By going against the law and filming the savage beating and killing of women at the hands of their government to show how these women were and are being treated. RAWA has protested occupations of Afghanistan and radical fundamentalist culture that berates their rights. They continue to build orphanages, hospitals, and schools to help protect and educate future generations of Women in Afghanistan.

To support RAWA go visit these sites to help raise awareness:
Twitter
Official RAWA Website

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We are very excited and thankful to have secured two internships through Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia – US.  It’s actually an interesting indicator of the level of attention new technologies – virtual worlds and social media – are getting from academic institutions.

In a few days, Tim and Greg, two students at ODU, will begin their work to help expand awareness of IMAGINE PeaceFest.  Thanks in advance, guys!  And thank you very much to Nakia, Tom and team at ODU for making this possible for us and of course for the organizations we are supporting this year.

I’ve posted also about our planning on the Nordic Virtual Worlds Network blog.  I have the good fortune of knowing a number of the people involved in that interesting work, and have shared the planning for our upcoming event with them – as they are interested in the innovative uses of virtual worlds technologies.

For now – planning meetings are happening each Monday at 1pm and 6pm pacific time (Second Life time) – we are meeting online in Second Life at the Peace Train meeting space on Virtually Speaking island:  http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Virtually%20Speaking/226/65/25 

More soon!

On Wednesday April 27th, we’ll be speaking with Sandra Bérard of the Rural Economic and Agriculture Development Agency (READA).

Sandra will join by phone and tell us about the work that READA is doing to help families secure drinking water,Rural Economic and Agriculture Development Agency - Cambodia

learn sustainable farming methods, and address the ongoing issues affecting our fellow humans there – after 30 years of civil war.

I’m sure you will enjoy hearing from Sandra, and if you are able to join in Second Life, please do submit your questions for me (Cotton Thorne) to ask during the interview.

Peace Train would also like to thank Zachh Cale for volunteering his time and talents!  Zachh will be entertaining us with live music just before the talk with Sandra begins.  I personally think he has a bit of Bob Dylan in his style, but will leave that assessment to you!

What you need to attend:  the Second Life software and your computer sound turned on.  We’ll be meeting in the Garden For Change, a fantastic site in Second Life.  The specific landing point for the concert and interview is at this SL URL (which will open a window to let you teleport to the destination in Second Life).

Hope to see you there!

Like the Spring…

We are awakening after a long winter.

At Peace Train, we have been resting from PeaceFest 2010 (read the posts below, or archives to learn more about that!) and have quietly been repositioning ourselves for greater impact in 2011.  First, I can’t leave the post alone without mentioning the incredible duress our friends, families, Peace Train volunteers, and others are undergoing in Japan.  Our hearts have been with you, and will continue to be so.  For links to sites to donate and help, I have provided some of that below, thanks to the good work of Siri Vita.

We are living in a time of incredible change.  One might call this the year of revolutions.  As the earth spins and plates shift creating incredible earthquakes off the coast of Japan, so has the citizenry of a number of countries in North Africa and the Middle East shifted, dug in, and exploded in an eruption of voices for freedom.   We are in the throes of it with Japan as I write this – the near-term impact will be known in the coming days as nuclear fuel rods react, damage is assessed, bodies are recovered.  The longer-term impact awaits us like a bad report card we know we’re going to get. The chickens are coming home to roost, as we might say, in Bahrain, Egypt, Tunisia, and the other countries inspired by those who have dared to speak the truth.

For Peace Train, we will stay connected on these and other efforts around the world to bring peace.  As I think of it, peace is a goal we continually strive for in response to the trials of the day.  As we move towards November, we will do our work to identify a few organizations that are doing incredible things to advance peace, and will be stoking the fires of goodwill across our network to organize for PeaceFest 2011!

Watch this for news on PeaceFest developments.  Consider giving to the organizations below now.  Enjoy the season where you are.  Be at peace.

Steve

Red Cross:
Donors can contribute to the relief efforts by calling 800-733-27677 or visiting http://www.redcross.org Each text message is a $10 donation to the Red Cross, which will be added to the donors’ next cellphone bill. Very convenient.

Medical Teams International:
Medical Teams International is also on alert and staying closely in touch with its nine partners along the coast and in Japan. To donate to Medical Teams International, visit http://www.medicalteams.org

World Vision Canada:
Among the first organisations to begin relief work by distributing emergency supplies and sending highly-trained staff to assess and respond to the most urgent needs. To donate, visit http://www.worldvision.ca/give-a-gift/Pages/Pacific-Tsunami.aspx

Mercy Corps:
Mercy Corps has not sent its own team to Japan but it set up a donation fund for its partner, Peace Winds Japan, and its emergency assistance on the ground. To make a donation, call 888-747-7440 or visit https://www.mercycorps.org/donate/japan

Medecins Sans Frontiers (Doctors Without Borders):
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international humanitarian aid organisation that provides emergency medical assistance to populations in danger in more than 60 countries. MSF workers are already on ground in Japan, assessing the situation. For more visit http://www.msf.org/msf/donations/donations_home.cfm

Shelter BoxShelter Box:
Providing tents, basic living supplies and cooking and water purification supplies to victims of natural disasters all over the world. http://www.shelterbox.org/donate.php

The Salvation Army:
The Salvation Army  in Japan has three emergency service relief teams working in areas affected by the earthquake and tsunami. One of the teams is assisting people who have been evacuated from areas threatened by the damage of nuclear power plants.- Text the words “Japan” or “Quake” to 80888 to make a $10 donation- By phone: 1-800-SAL-ARMY- On-line at: www.donate.salvationarmyusa.org

From a hotel in Rwanda

I sit here after three days of amazing tours, meetings and meals provided by the wonderful people of UMUSEKE.  “Umuseke” is a word with two meanings; first it is a descriptor of a bamboo shoot that is very straight.  The second meaning is that of ‘aurora’ – the colorful light before dawn.  As we bumped down a road in the Toyota pickup truck, Emmanuel at the wheel, Mariette explained this to me.  The two definitions work really well together to capture what they are trying to provide for the kids, and for their country.

Look at these kids!  When I arrived two days ago after a crazy-exhausting set of flights from Stockholm – Rome – Addis Ababa – Entebbe – Kigali, the UMUSEKE team was waiting for me at the airport.  They checked to see if I was not too tired, and then we all (5 of us packed in the Toyota) went directly over to the Ecole APAPER (a primary education school, privately funded).  Now, all the kids were on holiday this week, but the principal (Pierre Muvunyi) and several of the children were waiting for me.

After a tour of the school (provided by the kids) and a game we all played in a circle in the courtyard, the children took turns telling what ‘peace’ means to them.   Their English was remarkably good.    The work that UMUSEKE is doing with them is essential to re-establishing a peaceful society here after all the pain they have been through.

Will send more as I can – one last funny tidbit; it was really cool to hear Mariette and others in the truck (Clement, Constantin, Emmanuel, Jacqueline) talking in the native language and occasionally hear the words “Peace Train” pop out amidst the rapid, and very foreign to me, cadence!

 

As you all may know from reading up here, we collect money in Second Life and convert those virtual dollars to real dollars, combine that with whatever has been contributed through our PayPal donations and other events, and the total of all that is divided evenly among the 3 organizations and sent to them as a contribution.

Today, we have a financial update:  There are $132,000 linden dollars in our Second Life account – a HUGE thank you to all of you who contributed online.  ALSO, we have US $640 in donations from those attending our Dining on the Peace Train events.  This is the tally today – final tally will occur later this week.  For now, we estimate this to be about US $1,100 in total contributions.

For each of these orgs, this is significant help!  We’ll have sponsored a child at SafePassage for the better part of a year, ensuring good food, water, medical attention, shelter, and education.  We will have contributed to the materials development and provision for our friends at UMUSEKE, making a real difference in helping the children of Rwanda and surrounding regions have tools to bring people together in peace.  And we will have helped impoverished women in India have an opportunity to achieve financial independence through the Self Employed Women’s Association.

You have done this.

The connection of virtual world and online activities to creating real peace in the world is tangible.

Speaking of connections; I’m now sitting in the warm comfort of the Stockholm airport in snowy Sweden waiting for a connection to Addis Ababa and finally Kigali, Rwanda, where tomorrow I will have the pleasure of meeting Mariette Utamuvuna of UMUSEKE in person.  Stay tuned to this blog for pictures and updates : )

And thank you for helping make peace real.  It’s an ongoing construction.