After reading about a homeless avatar begging in Second Life (Thanks, Hamlet Au , SL Insider, and my friend Tony) I decided to pop into SL to check it out. I tracked down the resident named "MensajeroDeLaPaz Jubilee" and got a TP to his location, appropriately enough, right in front of one of the NBC-sponsored Rockefeller Center sims. I found a bedraggled looking avatar sleeping in a cardboard box with a crude sign asking for donations.
I dropped ten lindens into his pocket and had a quick conversation with him in Spanish. This is a rough translation….
MensajeroDeLaPaz Jubilee: Thanks for your donation.
Me: No problem. It’s really nothing. So how have the donations been?
MensajeroDeLaPaz Jubilee: The money isn’t important. What is important is that people learn about Mensajeros.
MensajeroDeLaPaz Jubilee: We also put up a You Tube video that is doing quite well. Have you seen it?
Me: Looking at it right now. It’s really great.
MensajeroDeLaPaz Jubilee: We’re getting lots of attention on the web and blogs.
Me: Why are you sleeping?
MensajeroDeLaPaz Jubilee: I have found that this is best position to get peoples attention.
Me: I’m suprised that the NBC people have not kicked you out.
MensajeroDeLaPaz Jubilee: Yeah, the police have not been here yet.
Me: This is not like the experience of the real homeless in Manhattan.
MensajeroDeLaPaz Jubilee: Yes, we would have been moved along immediately.
Me: Do you know of other NGOs who are active in Second Life?
MensajeroDeLaPaz Jubilee: No, we are neophytes here.
Me: Let’s chat soon about how to connect your work with others doing similar projects like Techsoup and Better World Island.
Mensajero had to go AFK for a bit. So I offered him friendship — something I would never do to a homeless looking person in the real world. He accepted. My friend, the bum.
So this appears to be sponsored by the Spanish NGO Mensajeros de la Paz, which is leveraging various new media to draw attention to their work. A Spain-based non-profit, their main goal is to create shelters and foster homes for poor children and elderly people. They have sponsored 296 foster homes housing 2,300 children!
I like that they aren’t really looking to SL as a fundraising tool, which it really hasn’t proven itself as viable for. I don’t know how the residents would react to a bunch of homeless people wandering around various sims begging for linden dollars. I can imagine griefers taking pot shots at them or setting them ablaze. But at least this sad looking character sleeping in his cardboard box is more compelling and engaging than a big ugly billboard.
Of course the reality is probably quite different. His avatar could be operated by a well-fed, well-dressed NGO administrator in a nice office in downtown Madrid. Which doesn’t diminish the importance of the cause. But more than normal, it does cause me to think more about who’s behind the avatar.