P2P: Helping those with disabilities in Second Life

 It’s widely recognised that for many with disabilities, Second Life offers a major source of engagement, support and enjoyment which might otherwise be beyond their reach. As a result, there are a number of charities, organisations and support groups active within Second Life providing a wide range of services and support networks for those with disabilities and / or disabling illnesses.

One such group, of which I’m embarrassed to say I only quite recently became aware, is the  Pixel to Pixel (P2P) Foundation. Founded in 2009 by Jadyn Firehawk (also known within P2P as Pixel Falconer), it offers a unique service to Second Life users who in the physical world are supporting themselves purely through disability benefits.

“Second Life is a lifeline to many people with disabilities,” Jadyn says in discussing P2P’s function. “Some may live in social isolation, so SL keeps them connected with friends. Others may suffer a physical impairment, and SL gives them the virtual experience of full mobility and freedom.

“But there are costs associated with being involved in Second Life, and for those who are reliant solely on disability assistance programme benefits can struggle to meet those costs. So, the P2P Foundation gives direct financial assistance in the form of weekly Linden dollar stipends to people on disability, to help them enjoy their time in-world.”

Pixel to Pixel foundation HQ offering information, fund-raising kits and more
Pixel to Pixel Foundation HQ offering information, fund-raising kits and more

This stipend, L$500 (approx US $2.00) per week, may not sound much, but for someone who is living purely on benefits, it can mean a lot. As one participant states, “two dollars for me means a loaf of bread for a week.” So the stipend can lift the burden of choice, allowing the recipient to put it to use in Second Life – help cover their rent, upload textures, buy goods or clothing in-world, or spend it however they like, without necessarily having to draw on their physical world finances. As well as the stipend programme, P2P will occasionally award discretionary grants to recipient, so that they can start a business or pursue a major creative project in Second Life.

Because P2P operates purely in-world, beneficiaries can reside in any country around the globe, and their disability assistance can be either from their government or from a private disability insurance company. However, in order to be eligible for the P2P programme, applicants and recipients must be able to demonstrate, if asked, that they are on disability benefits. This is done by sending a copy of their disability benefits award letter (or similar document) to Jadyn via regular, physical world mail, with their personal identifying information blacked out and replaced with their avatar name.

The 3LI P2P donation Kiosk is available as a part of the P2P fund-raising kit available from the P2P HQ
The 3 LI P2P donation Kiosk is available as a part of the P2P fund-raising kit available from the P2P HQ

The money used to pay out the stipends comes directly from donations and fund-raising activities. These currently enable the Foundation to support 20 people in Second Life through payouts amounting to L$10,000 a week.  However, as Jadyn notes, there are a further 20 people on the Foundation’s waiting list – and it can take in excess of two years for someone to secure a place in the programme.

“People who are on disability and in Second Life tend to stay, because SL becomes such an important part of their daily lives, meaning that new slots do not often open up,” Jadyn tells me.

Currently, P2P can generally only take on new recipients as a result of others leaving the programme, such as by becoming self-sufficient through their own entrepreneurial activities in SL – hence the discretionary grants programme P2P operates, which can help facilitate this.

One way to increase the number of people the Foundation can support is through greater guaranteed inflow of donations. Anyone can help with this, simply by making a donation of any amount directly to Pixel Falconer, the Foundation’s donations account, or through one of the Foundation’s donation kiosks located throughout Second Life (see the list at the end this article for the current locations).

Businesses, venues and groups can also help with fund-raising by visiting the Foundation’s HQ to obtain a fund-raising kit, and then setting-up kiosks, posters, etc., in their store / on their land. The kiosks not only help with generating funds to run the programme, but also help raise awareness of P2P’s work. Jadyn would also be delighted to hear from any business, venue or group interested in organising and hosting a P2P fund-raiser.

The P2P Foundation gallery features the work of disabled artists, all of which is available to buy, the proceeds of sales going to the Foundation's work
The P2P Foundation gallery features the work of disabled artists, all of which is available to buy. The proceeds of sales going to the artists to help support them directly, although some may opt to share the proceeds with the Foundation

Two of the most effective means of assisting the Foundation is to either become a weekly / monthly donor, or by sponsoring P2P participant.

If you would like to become a weekly / monthly donor, you can do so by making your payments  directly to Pixel Falconer. Or you can also grab a donation kiosk and use it as a visual reminder to donate, rather than relying purely on memory to make payments to Pixel Falconer it might  also encourage your friends to support P2P!).

Should you wish to sponsor a P2P participant, either as an individual or through your business, please contact Jadyn Firehawk directly in-world.

With the exception of a L$500 weekly payment to her assistant. Ivy Lane, Jadyn ensures all money raised goes directly to Foundation recipients. Jadyn volunteers her time to the Foundation, and no funds are lost in office space costs, fund-raising tools creation, or other expenses. These are met entirely through the generosity of benefactors or as in-kind contributions. For example, the land used for the P2P Foundation for the location of their headquarters and art gallery is provided free of charge through the support of Sandi Glas,  Veronicaa Ninetails and the Clairehaven community.

“Transparency is important when it comes to activities like this in Second Life,” Jadyn says. “So the Foundation operates on an open books policy on our fund-raising and pay outs, to ensure  there can be no doubt about the work we’re doing.”

The P2P Foundation store offers a series of NASA / ESA images of Earth and space for sale, proceeds from which go directly to the Foundation's work
The P2P Foundation store offers a series of NASA / ESA images of Earth and space for sale, proceeds from which go directly to the Foundation’s work

And how do the recipients of P2P’s work feel about the Foundation and the generosity of those donating to it?

A.S., who suffers from a rare form of muscular dystrophy which leaves them unable to work and reliant on social security disability payments says, “The P2P Foundation with its weekly stipend has enabled me to enjoy Second Life as I would not be able to without the help.

“The stipend has helped me tremendously. It helps me to pay the rental for a small home, and has enabled me to buy clothes and other needs that I would not otherwise be able to afford. I want to give my sincere gratitude to the Pixel To Pixel Foundation and those who have donated to P2P over the years. Your help has made my Second Life be an ‘enabled’ normal Second Life.”

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4 thoughts on “P2P: Helping those with disabilities in Second Life

  1. That’s a good initiative and, as you have to send a document as proof, it shouldn’t be easily abused (I comment always as Pixel, but I’m not Jadyn Firehawk, in case someone wonders). Some of the friends I made in SL have RL disabilities and other real life problems, and I can see how SL helps everyday. However that’s a double edged sword: while SL offers positive things, on other hand it also attracts people with troublesome mental disorders, most notably sociopaths and psychopaths. SL isn’t a safe place: there are friendly and helpful people, but you can also easily meet someone who pretends to be a mentor or is manipulative, may seem charming and disarming at first, but when you give your trust to that person, you will end up emotionally abused, without any empathy and remorse, then they will just seek for another victim. Or you meet people who just try to hurt you for illogical reasons or overreacting. And so on. Who has some form of autism or social anxiety is prone to be hurt even deeper, as she/he has more difficulties in dealing with those people. It’s sad when somebody joins SL to find engagement, support, enjoyment and relief, and ends up with a trauma instead. So while I’m glad that SL has benefits and there are good initiatives (and that’s a good publicity for SL), I’m worried that who joins naively could face bad experiences. You article is ok, you got 5 stars from me, it’s not it’s purpose (and I know telling about this stuff won’t help SL image, although hurt people can just bash SL more, someone will be hurt anyway, but I’m thinking of my friends and people I know and what I saw and I don’t want that bad things happen to other people) so I felt like to give a word of warning. You can enjoy SL in a safer way if you are aware of the nasty guys. Luckily there are also good and generous people, that really care for others and don’t just pretend.

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