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REALREACH: FIRST UCC OF SL EXPANDS SPONSORSHIP INITIATIVE

Felipe Antonio of Honduras

Felipe Antonio of Honduras

Demonstrating that a virtual faith community can continue to make an ongoing, real-world difference, members of the First United Church of Christ in Second Life (First UCC of SL) have sponsored a second child through their ReachReal project, an in-world initiative to raise money for the sponsorship of children living in poverty.

On August 23rd, members of the ministry, which conducts its outreach in the Linden Lab virtual world Second Life, conducted its second “Battle of the DJs” fundraiser in which four virtual-world DJs competed to raise the most donations for Felipe Antonio of Honduras.  Felipe is the second child to be sponsored by the RealReach effort.  In the course of two hours of entertainment by Second Life DJs Bellabonita, Robyn Macpherson, Lucian Drezelan, and Lacy2May, the event raised over 150,000 “lindens,” the in-world currency of Second Life.  The amount corresponds to nearly two years of support for Felipe through the charitable organization Children International.

The event’s winner was DJ Bellabonita, whose music set brought in the most donations, pulling ahead after a neck-and-neck contest that saw each of the four performers in the lead at different times.

“The success of our second fundraiser for this additional sponsored child demonstrates the growing commitment of our congregants and supporters,” said the Rev. Dr. Jerold “Jerry” Garber, who serves as senior pastor of the First UCC of SL ministry.  “Felipe Antonio is several years younger than our first sponsor child, Kristine Joy.  We stepped out in faith, believing that we were ready for a longer commitment.  The generous souls of Second Life rallied to affirm our faith, surpassing the contributions of our original RealReach fundraiser.”

“Second Life has a number of religious ministries, and we’re blessed to be one of those that can reach across the virtual divide to bring change to the hurting,” the Rev. Dr. Garber added.  “RealReach is evidence that virtual faith communities are real people of real faith delivering tangible benefits to a world in need of God’s grace and justice.”

WHO IS FELIPE ANTONIO?

When First UCC of SL selected fifteen-year-old Felipe Antonio, he had already been awaiting sponsorship for 231 days.  Felipe lives in the San Pedro Sula area of Honduras, a city plagued by illegal arms trafficking, drug trade that flows freely to U.S. users, unthinkable levels of gang activity, and the highest homicide rate on Earth.  Struggling San Pedro Sula families survive earning the equivalent of $100 US per month.  About 85% of those earnings go directly for food purchases, with little left over for medicine, clothing, or luxuries like schooling.

A child in such Honduran cities has few option – fleeing the country in hopes of refuge in the U.S.; joining the violent gangs as a means of self-preservation; even turning to individual crime as a way to survive.  However, Felipe’s parents urge him along a different path.  They have enrolled him and his siblings in school, and are working with Children International to teach him the personal skills he’ll need to help build a better life for himself and his nation.

Now First UCC of SL joins those parents and the Children International organization to make further contribution to his success.

“We presented the fundraiser as a contest among the DJs, a kind of Battle for the Good,” said Joanna Bell, a First UCC staff member and the real-life person behind DJ Luci. “But everyone competing and everyone donating knows who the real winner is – Felipe Antonio, our sponsor child.”

ABOUT FIRST UCC OF SL, CHILDREN INTERNATIONAL, AND SECOND LIFE

First UCC of SL (www.firstuccsl.org) is an outreach ministry of the Southern California Nevada Conference of the United Church of Christ (www.ucc.org).

For over 75 years, Children International (www.children.org) has provided critical assistance to children in poverty, currently serving over 340,000 sponsored children in 11 countries.

Second Life (www.secondlife.com) is a 3D virtual world created by Linden Lab, with over 36 million individual accounts registered internationally and over one million user visits per month.

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* For a detailed discussion on the nature of “linden” currency and its legal status, see http://www.hypergridbusiness.com/2013/04/could-linden-dollars-become-real-money/.

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