Monday, January 21, 2019

How Second Life Makes Life Better For A Disabled Person

By Deaflegacy

Hello, everyone!  My name is DeafLegacy.  As per my name, I am deaf.  I have been deaf since birth.  I have managed to do just fine when my Mom learned sign language.  I was a lucky woman to have my Mom, who knew sign language.  Unfortunately, I lost her in 2013.  I miss her very much.

I came to Second Life three years and five months ago.  Someone mentioned Second Life, and that caught my attention.  At first, I was a shy person, using a female human avatar.  I wasn't sure how to get more Lindens.  As days went by, I started to know more about this virtual world.  For one, I know now how to get more Linden dollars, from winning contests, to Second Life jobs, or buying them with real money.  I do that once a month to make sure that my lots are paid for.

I find this amazing that when I first started using Second Life, I moved into an apartment on Cape Heron.  I have had two apartments but not at the same time.  I would remember my old living spaces with fondness.  When I was living in an apartment, I would be looking at houses on the parcels, and wanted to live on a parcel.  One day, I got parcels.  I can't say how many parcels I got because for some reasons, it's not right.  So I would just say that one day, I got some parcels, and ever since then, I have been making sure that I pay the rent.

Why am I telling you this?  Well, I can give you a few reasons.  I can tell you that I was lucky in finding Virtual Ability, which is a group for people with disabilities.  They have been there for me ever since I have been a member.  I can also tell you about writing for the SL Newser.  I was so happy when Bixyl Shuftan hired me.  I can definitely tell you that my desire to write never stops growing, even though I have a disability. I mean, when it comes to writing, who cares about the writer's disabilities?  We care about what the writer is writing about.

Second Life had helped me out a great deal since the day I signed up.  I have no regret in joining Second Life, and I hope to continue on as a member of Second Life.  In a way, thanks to Second Life, I'm now a writer, and I got lucky to have a partner, Six String (roleplayismylife).  I love Six String very much.

Thank you, Second Life, in giving me many chances.  I will never forget that.


Friday, January 18, 2019

Wisdomseeker and Whole Brain Health

By Bixyl Shuftan

When it comes to keeping one's mind healthy, the people to go to are Whole Brain Health at Inspiration Island. I recently interviewed the head of the group,  Wisdomseeker (Lissena Resident). We met in a skybox with a few pannels and chairs over the sim. "We hold our staff meetings here," Wisdomseeker explained.

"World Brain Health really began in 2013.," she told me, "I came into Second Life fascinated by the imaginative aspect of it, but not really sure what I would do here. Then I met Gentle heron of Virtual Ability Island. She encouraged me to do a presentation on brain health for her spring 2013 conference. I did that, and also set up what is called a brain Health Fair in real-life. In real-life, it takes place in a gym and allows seniors to try out many of the activities that promote brain health. I brought it into Second Life. That is my background and training, holistic evidence-based approach to brain health and well being. So everything here comes from that beginning."

I asked about the sim's name, Inspiration Island. Wisdomseeker pointed out, "The name comes from our logo." She pointed it out in the nearby wall: Inspire, Interact, Innovate - Change. "These are the things we focus on--educating through fun and thought provoking activities." I asked about the activities. She answered, "The idea is that people can learn what they can do to have greater well being, and we give them ways to actually try out those things. We work from five pillars of well being, activities that encourage self care--good diet, sleep, exercise and stress reduction, encourage social interaction that iis positive, encourage cognitive challenge, encourage creative self expression of all kinds, and help people develop a sense of purpose. Those five based on the research. So if you look around, you can find parcels that focus on them."

"We have for example a Multiple Intelligences Experience parcel to explore your greatest kinds of abilities--have you seen it?" I answered that I had noticed it from a distance. Wisdomseeker continued, "We hold our jazz concerts Wednesdays on the music stage there. Music is one kind of intelligence. My husband is a musician (smile). We have a number of music programs. (The) 50s sock hop for instance hosted by Curei on her Floating Gallery here. The map on the welcome board--which is all over the sim--is a good way to see what we offer. A great 'Relationships in SL and Beyond' program led by Pet Karu, who is a professional counselor. We have about 30 people who create programs and activities here, island members. Darth Vondran teaches chess here as a brain game. ... We take a group photo every year. It keeps getting bigger."

"I am on the board of Nonprofit Commons here in SL, and this region is part of Rockcliffe University Estate. I have a staff that is made up of gems. Thuja Hynes is Associate Director here. Francisco Koolhoven is Media Director. His is a scripter, made the Welcome Board behind us. And Katsii Tennen is our Music Organizaer. So the four of us work closely and others participate through their programs, like Osangar and her amazing brain! I never in a million years thought I would be doing this, it just sort of grew (smile)."

Wisdomseeker went on, "We are the virtual arm of a real-life nonprofit called 'Ageless Mind Project.' ... You see, I strongly believe that virtual lives enrich our other lives. AMP has the goal of educating the public about lifestyle choices that improve brain health and well being. In real life my husband and I give workshops, often using music as brain food as the theme. Music can contribute a lot to well being, a lot of research on this. One thing we are doing now is setting up a series of challenges/quests on the sim, a structured way for people to explore. So many tell us we have so much here, they don't know where to start. We will give people badges for completing challenges. Our staff is working on that now."

Wisdomseeker mentioned one could find their calendar of events at . She went on to say they try to have events every day, "we keep adding new ones--we also try to collaborate with other groups. For instance we are hosting a tea ceremony presented by another group, a special event next week. ... One thing, everyone who comes here and likes it, tells me. We are a friendly bunch.  People feel safe here. They like the feel of the place."

I asked her, "One question coming to mind, would someone in their 40s approach brain health a little differently than someone in their 20s? What if the person was in their 60s?" Wisdomseeker answered, "One way to look at it is this:  everything you do from the time you are born to protect your brain is important - at any age what we teach here is valuable - no matter how early or late you start - having this knowledge and practicing it is the key. The underlying concepts are universal. I say this as someone who turned 80 this year. I got into this because we took care of close family members who developed dementia. Once I realized there are things people can do to have a better chance - look at the football players, for instance, I wanted people to know about it. Now if they would just requie helmets on scooters."

Another question of mine to Wisdomseeker was, "Would you say on the whole, brain health is being taken more seriously?" She answered, "Very much so now. I keep up with the research so I can see how much more there is. Especially now that we know more about the brain itself, about neuroplasticity and neurogenesis, how what you do can change your brain for the better, grow new neurons, improve memory, lots of good stuff. It's worth learning about and developing good habits around it. Second Life is important in one great way. I believe it has the power to reduce loneliness. Loneliness is connected to depression and is generally bad for brain and well being. That's why having positive relationships here is so important too, something we focus on."

I asked if they were planning anything this year that stands out. Wisdomseeker answered, "Our major focus is on giving visitors a clearer pathway to well being through our sim - so when they come here they will know more easily where to explore, according to their needs and interests. Many of our members also are planning new activities here. We are very open to having new people join us both as visitors and members, and to suggest additions and improvements."

Wisdomseeker and I parted ways. But I would return later to look around the island. And there was a lot to see, both on the ground and higher up. There are a number of places one can go to read information. But there are also games areas, such as the 3D Maze at (224/51/22) and those at Games Park at (203/55/701). One can get a list of locations here.

Addition: Whole Brain Health made this video in 2016 of the activities on Inspiration Island.

Bixyl Shuftan

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Sebastien Bouevier and Survivors of Suicide

By Deaflegacy

"Survivors of Suicide" is the largest group in Second Life for people dealing with depression or people who know someone who is. It is headed by Sebastien Bouevier. Recently, he and I met at their new location that was opened a week ago.  I asked him if we could stop by the beach.  We did. The beach area was well done, resembling one in real life. “That's what I was trying to achieve,” said Sebastien, “I wanted somewhere tranquil and serene for people to come and relax.”

We went to a lookout and sat down. I asked Sebastien if his group was particularly important this time of year.  “Yes," he replied, "the holidays is typically the busiest time of year for us at SOS, as a lot of people don't have much in terms of family and friends in real-life, as well as it being a stressful time of year for literally everyone.”

According to Sebastien, he didn't join SOS until just over six years ago. It had already been running for almost four years by then.  Krissy Sinclair, the original founder, started it after being a member of a similar group in real life, and realizing that there was a need for it here on Second Life.

I asked Sebastien how many members are there in the SOS. He said, “As of today we have close to 900 members.” said Sebastien, “Yes, we got over 100 new members during the Christmas Fair.” Their Christmas Fair was a month-long event to celebrate their tenth anniversary as well as gain awareness and raise money for the group.

My next question was, “Would you agree that SOS is attracting more and more members in the time of need because they are there to help people in need?”  Sebastien's response was, “Yes, I do agree with that. Survivors of Suicide is here for everyone and we are open 24/7. We have a team of mentors who are able to talk with people one on one, and when there aren't any mentors available, our group chat is active and very friendly. It is a sort of community of people all helping and supporting each other.”

The next question is if the SOS would continue on much longer. “Oh yes," said Sebastien, "we are the longest running group of this kind in Second Life. We have seen many other groups come and go, but none have stood the test of time. Judging by the immense support from the SL community at large during our event, we will continue to stay open, and continue to grow.”

I asked if anyone can come in the chat at any time to seek help. “Yes," replied Sebastien, "anyone is welcome to join the group chat at any time to ask for help. A group invite will be sent to everyone who lands at the SOS parcel.”

My next question for Sebastien was when the best time to ask for help would be. “Hmmm, it really depends," said Sebastien, "we have members and mentors from the US west coast, and even Hawaii, to Australia and New Zealand.”  “Lets put it this way, I've never been online and not have had at least a dozen of members online at the same time.”

The next question was, “Is there such a thing as exchanging emails with other members or/and mentors so they can continue to receive the help they need when they are not on Second Life?”  Sebastien's response was, “No, but that segues nicely into something I wanted to share with you and your readers," said Sebastien, "We have started embracing social media. We are now on FaceBook, Flickr, and we have our own Discord server. Are you familiar with Discord? ...  It is called Survivors of Suicide. We have a discord button in the entrance hall of the main SOS building long with a button for our website, FaceBook page, and Flickr.”

“I'm excited that we are now able to reach out to our members even when they aren't in Second Life,” Sebastien said, “It was really nice to see all the people that came to visit us during the event, we have over 3000 people come through, and I spoke with over one hundred of them, and everyone had stories of either themselves or people they knew who has gone through very difficult times.  We are going strong into the future, with a new club house, more meetings and activities than before, and that we are here to stay.”

As the interview came to a close, Sebastien said, “My main goal for 2019 is to grow the membership of SOS, I realized just how many people who needs us, or could benefit from us, but don't know we exist. So that is the main objective, and any publicity we can get is fantastic!”

The interview came to a close and I have a good feeling about the future of Survivors of Suicide.  As Sebastien said, they are here to stay. As a member of SOS, I look forward to many days with the group.  SOS is an excellent group, and they are helping people out in need.