Exploring the virtual classroom

Online education and the metaverse

Millay Freschi, Four Bridges (transcript)

Millay Freschi/Amy Cross
November 21, 2009

These are the speaker’s notes for the presentation, which were pasted into text chat for those who could not hear. They reflect only a part of what was said at the conference.

Hi, everyone. Thank you, Ellie for that introduction. I am millay Freschi of the Four Bridges Project and virtual world coordinator for Amnesty International. In the other world, I am Amy Cross, a student of Peace Studies at the University of Maine in Orono.

The mission of the Four Bridges project is to create a virtual model of a sustainable community founded on the four principles of respect for nature, universal human rights, economic and social justice, and a culture of peace.The Four Bridges Project in Second Life: landscape

We share resources: venues, streams, volunteers, projects, you name it. If someone needs something they come see us and usually we can help them find it within the community.

And we get to share in a really magnificent place created by our Operations Manager Siri Vita. I’ll tell you a bit more about her later.

The Four Bridges Project started out based on a simple need – Amnesty International needed a home. We had been bouncing around a bit trying to figure out where we belonged and found that there were other organizations that were doing the same.

The Four Bridges Project started out based on a simple need – Amnesty International needed a home. We had been bouncing around a bit trying to figure out where we belonged and found that there were other organizations that were doing the same.

When Chip Pitts of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee approached me about bringing their organization in world as well, we knew that we needed a space.
Our first sim was delivered the first part of February 2009 and housed Amnesty, BORDC and the Imagine Network. Peace Train joined us shortly thereafter and Second Pride headquartered there as well.

We were sharing our resources as a small community. Venues, streams, people, and ideas were shared between all of the organizations so that not one had to bear the costs.

Then something unexpected started to emerge. Collaborations began forming. Creative ideas and events started growing and changing the shape of what we were doing.

We started to see a value in the shared space beyond the monetary. We were becoming a community. It was more than a shared space. It was a shared vision.

Organizations maintained their autonomy but became part of a larger network. By August, we needed more space.

Our second SIM was delivered the first part of this past September. We now house 12 organizations: Amnesty International – E, BORDC, Peace Train, Imagine Network, Social Justice, Second Pride, Saladin Center for Palestine, Coalition of Women for Peace, Veterans for Peace, Invisible Children, Stop Violence Against Women and the Central Asia Institute.

We are an experiment in an organically grown, global community. We didn’t start with a plan and a list of rules or even an idea about what brings people in or keeps them out.

Though we started out under the impression that we would be a nonprofit for nonprofits, we quickly realized that when building a sustainable community, it is imperative that we include ALL members of the community. So we have become an experiment.

The community grows and changes and emerges showing the strengths of the component parts in a stronger, even more elastic web.

Sharing in resources rather than competing for them not only allows all of us to focus on our missions, we can also concentrate on raising awareness instead of dollars.

We bring people together from all parts of the world and learn to create a different sort of language, one that goes beyond all of our native tongues. We work hard to understand each other and we’re patient with our process.

We have a Russian member that speaks very little English. Our conversations are short but take a lot of time trying to decipher what the other is saying. Sometimes we get frustrated, but we never stop trying to understand.

We are able to learn from and about each other instead of from the governments or from what the media and corporations would like for us to believe.

Just this morning I had a conversation with a friend from Sri Lanka. We talked about how the media feeds us such distorted information about each other and how being a part of this community gives us the opportunity to see for ourselves. It’s through that desire for understanding that we’ve grown individually and as a group.

As we grew, we knew that there would have to be an overseer. I am good with the vision and in involving people in our efforts but technically my skills are quite limited and I simply do not have an eye for the artistry that goes into creating space and organizing events.

I had worked with Siri Vita on organizing Four Bridges with PeaceFest (a multi-day festival for peace that raises awareness and money for selected organizations around the world) and I was just amazed at her abilities.

Siri has taken on the task of Operations Manager and oversees every aspect of our group and keeps us all organized and on track. Let me assure you, this is no easy task.

Siri is the hands. She never puts them in her pocket. She is constantly building, growing the community, changing and adapting to the ebbs and flows of our tides. She sometimes goes against her own better judgment because she believes in me and in this vision. Always, she steps out with the grace and strength of a lioness.

Siri understands that the natural environment is imperative to the well being of us humans and she has worked diligently to reflect that at Four Bridges. She has created an amazing space with beautiful retreats for peaceful contemplation and active areas for events.

Siri understands that the natural environment is imperative to the well being of us humans and she has worked diligently to reflect that at Four Bridges. She has created an amazing space with beautiful retreats for peaceful contemplation and active areas for events.

She has created a mood of reflection that permeates every aspect of the community.

She also manages to keep her focus even when her own heart is being tested.
She worked the Twitter lines during the recent Iranian student protests and kept all of us informed as well as informing the Iranian students in matters such as safety, and getting information, pictures and videos to the right places.

She has created a mood of reflection that permeates every aspect of the community. She also manages to keep her focus even when her own heart is being tested. She worked the Twitter lines during the recent Iranian student protests and kept all of us informed as well Informing as the Iranian students in matters such as safety, and getting information, pictures and videos to the right places. As a community we never stop trying to understand each other – especially when it is the most difficult thing to do.

Again, her commitment to the greater whole was a shining example for all of us. As a community we never stop trying to understand each other – especially when it is the most difficult thing to do.

Tempers flare, feelings are misunderstood, sometimes things are said….but we always come back together because we are a group of people in a world trying to understand itself and trying to understand how our actions here create a mood for the world.

What we present to one another has an impact globally. If we can work together through a culture of peace and understanding in small communities, our belief is that those feelings of community will be carried out into our respective physical locations as well.

There is one thing that I would like to append to this presentation. I think that it’s important for all of us to remember that every community, no matter how committed to a culture of peace and understanding is going to go through difficult times.

There will always be situations of misunderstanding, doubt, fear and even betrayal.

Those times afford us an opportunity to look into ourselves and each other in ways that may be uncomfortable and scary. The important thing about community, a GOOD and SUSTAINABLE community is allowing those moments of individual reflection to become a learning experience.

Four Bridges hasn’t been an exception to those dark moments. Rather, we have risen above them.

We recognize the frailty of human nature and welcome the spirit of community to come in during those hours of darkness.

It’s like we have a pact with each other: I will be strong when you cannot.

This is community. This is hope. This is Four Bridges.

Four Bridges Sim (May 2013): http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Four%20Bridges%20North/104/159/28

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