Online Communities can HEAL the Wounds of War

Written by on September 21st, 2008

Iraqi FamilyThe American image around the world has just about reached the lowest point we can get. The war in Iraq and now the incredible mismanagement of Wall Street, banks and ethic issues created by businesses like Enron has tarnished our reputation, respectability and trust.

In the midst of the mind numbing deficit numbers (now 11+ trillion debt) that we are being forced to absorb I was thrilled to run across a story on the Daily Camera, a newspaper in Boulder, Colorado. Apparently 10 years ago, residents of DUSHANBE, Tajikistan, a sister city of Boulder, gave the city the Dushanbe Teahouse as a gift from their city. (I’m assuming their town is known for tea!) After a decade of discussion and fundraising the city of Boulder reciprocated with funding ($1,000,000) to develop a Cyber café in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.

The Café will feature food from both countries, books and information. If they do it right, it will become a powerful International relations tool. Kudo’s to the City of Boulder , it’s Mayor Shaun McGrath and it’s people for showing us how to use the Internet to bring people of different countries and cultures together!

Online Communities to bring Iraqi and American Families together

Reading their story, reminded me about an idea I floated to Congressman Dennis Kuncinich, from Ohio on April 8th 2003 soon after we started the war in Iraq. It was a concept I called, Adopt a War Effected Person or Family.   

Wars are started by our leaders, fought by our youth and supplied by businesses who make huge profits during the war. Unless someone you know is killed or wounded, for the most part today’s modern wars do not affect the average citizen.

The goal of this program was to bring common citizens from the two countries at war to help each other, give them a chance to understand how the war is affecting each other and in the process give them collective leverage to encourage their countries to find a rapid solution to end the war.

Here is an excerpt of what I wrote:

“The program involves using the Internet to enable families in the US to adopt families in Iraq and Afghanistan. They will be given the opportunity to send letters, food, supplies and money to their adopted families. It gives the American families an opportunity to help bring peace, a reconstruction of the image Iraq’s have of the US and do more to rebuild the country.

In this program, US families will be able to sign up online and adopt an Iraq family. This program will encourage – people to people – diplomacy and will enable American citizens to report locally of the events and activities within their adopted family members communities. These engaged citizens will help drive our foreign policy and prevent a situations we are in today in Iraq and Afghanistan.”‘

Central to the program was the introduction of an online community where individuals could be matched.

Plumbers, bakers, dentist, lawyers, car mechanics, construction workers, police officers and others in Iraq could be partnered with their counterparts in America. The idea was to encourage Americans to sponsor a family and send via a special program with Fedex or the U.S Postal Systems, basic tools and necessities like toothpaste and or food to their adopted persons and family.

At the time we approached the United States Council of Mayors to gain their participation. Their job would be to motivate and communicate to their community members the benefits of participating in the “Adopt a War Effected Person or Family”. We assumed we’d need help from the Peace Corp aided by the United Nations, to coordinate the efforts of educating the Iraqi citizens how to use the computers and Internet based software.

So far, we’ve not been able to get much interest in the concept. One thing I’m learning with age is few ideas are bad, they just need time, modification and the right people to make them happen.

If you are interested in helping move this project forward, let me know. This would be a POWERFUL way Americans can, with little effort, reach out and help Iraqi & Afghan workers, family members whose lives have been obliterated by war, lack of basic services and give them a chance to see what America is all about.

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