Health groups in Second Life form coalition

(Originally posted on SLNN.COM)
A wide range of health-related groups in Second Life exist, including support groups for those with various conditions and groups whose primary mission is education. Representatives from several groups met this week-end to organize an umbrella group to assist existing groups and to aid in the formation of new organizations.

Representatives of numerous groups that provide health support in Second Life met Saturday for a first meeting the Health Support Coalition. Already, the coalition has over forty members with Gentle Heron, The Sojourner and Carolina Keats leading the way.

The Sojourner, facilitator for the Dream Travelers and commonly known as Soj, started off by talking about her vision for the group. Carolina Keats echoed Soj’s thoughts and voiced her feelings that we are here to help one another in both real life and Second Life.

An initial draft of a group charter was presented,

The Health Support Coalition is a group of Support Group leaders within SL who address health conditions and disability issues. The group is meant to be means of sharing information, notifying each other of shared events, supporting each other in keeping our groups viable, and assisting new groups to get their footing.

Then, members of different groups spoke about who they are and the groups they represent. Gentle Heron started off by introducing herself and the Heron Sanctuary which she works with. Gentle described the Heron Sanctuary as “a support community for people with disabilities, physical and mental, who want to come into SL and experience the many benefits of working in a virtual reality setting”. Sodapop Heron also briefly introduced himself. Sodapop is from Canada and was a cofounder of the Heron Sanctuary.

Gentle was followed by Avalon Birke who owns Wellness Island, which provides resources and support on mental health and emotional well being. They have a Wellness Directory, a Counseling Center, an extensive library, recreation, and a new Wellness magazine.

Carolina Keats spoke next about her work with Healthinfo Island. It is funded by The National Library of Medicine to see how people with real life health information concerns can be helped in a virtual environment. Namro Orman also attended the meeting and works with Carolina at Healthinfo Island

Soj spoke about various projects she has been involved with in Second Life such as the Dreams, ShockProof and the Brigadoon Explorers. Dreams is the activity and support group for the other two groups. ShockProof is a group to support stroke survivors, their friends and family members. Brigadoon Explorers is for people interested in Asperger Syndrome and Autism. The Explorers grew out of the original Brigadoon Project started by John Lester, an early pioneer in Second Life.

ChaCha Biedermann, from Germany, spoke about her efforts running a peer support group for people with HIV, networking people who are willing to help with the battle against HIV, and various fundraising activities. One activity worth highlighting is the Dance for Healing.

Ricken Flow spoke running the Nyuma Rafiki Gay and Lesbian Community Center. The Center offers peer support for gay, lesbian and HIV positive people. Ricky helps organize fundraising events and is the director of adverting and marketing for Second Life Gay Pride 2008.

Widget Whiteberry, who in real life is the Public Affairs Director for the Rockridge Institute, spoke about some of Rockridge’s activities in Second Life. Rockridge Institute was founded by George Lakoff. They write about the cognitive dimension of policy and politics. In early January, members of Rockridge spoke in Second Life as part of the public affairs program, Virtually Speaking. Rockridge is currently working on "Don't Think of a Sick Child: The Logic of the Heath Care Debate.” They will be having a two-part conversation with Mr. Lakoff in Second Life later in February. People interested in participating should contact Widget.

Kat Klata, founder of the Multiple Sclerosis Help and Support group spoke about the MS support community in Second Life, which several attendees of the meeting were participants of. She also co-founder of Open Gates Peer Support Community, a project of The Heron Sanctuary. Namav Abramovic, another participant in the morning’s meeting also helped found the Open Gates Peer Support Community.

Poppy Zabelin, from England, spoke about various Cancer Support activities. She is chair of the Second Life Cancer Survivors Group. The group is affiliated with the American Cancer Society and meets regularly on the ACS Island. They have meetings for survivors and caregivers, and lead workshops, such as a journaling workshop starting next week. They also participate in fundraising activities, like the Survivor and Caregiver Lap in SL's Relay For Life. Another participant very involved with the Relay for Life was Fayandria Foley.

Patty Streeter spoke about They have a seven sim Motorability Island which is an education and car culture complex, made possible by a contribution from Pontiac. It is undergoing construction and will re-open early February.

For everyone who had problems keeping track of all the wonderful groups, Perplexity Peccable and Skaidrite Norse presented a great resource, SLHealthy, a Wiki where Second Life residents can find Second Life health groups.

Beyond that, on February 9th, SL’ang Life Magazine will be hosting a Health Care Day in Second Life. It is being organized by Uzi Boa. Many of the participants in Health Support Coalition are likely to be represented as part of the Health Care Day.

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