One of the things I am truly astounded by as I look back on my project is the tremendous generosity and encouragement I received. My jurors, Dr. Hollingsworth and Dr. Greissman, were truly grateful for my interest in the Peace House project and believed in me wholeheartedly as a student and leader. This continues to be such a gift to me, especially as I began searching for resources for other academic goals such as study abroad.
The Central Kentucky Council for Peace and Justice was a major connection within the community, and they also took up my cause very eagerly. Gail Koehler, the editor of the monthly Peaceways newletter, reassured me when I felt uncertain about my ability to carry the project through in a meaningful way. When I delivered the Breathitt lecture in January, the Central Kentucky Council for Peace and Justice spread the word about my topic to members of the community, and I quickly received a request to be a guest speaker at Lexington’s Muslim-Christian dialogue. When I talked to the organizer of the dialogue, I was surprised at how enthusiastic he was about my interest in the Middle East. I remember smiling broadly as he declared, “you will be fluent in Arabic someday!” No one could have more quickly detected and affirmed my deep desire to learn this language and immerse myself in the culture of this region. He immediately connected me to UK students who had similar interests or who came to Lexington from various regions of the Middle East.z
Finally, the Second Life community was tremendously generous to me. Shortly after creating my avatar, whose name is Leyla Longfall, I met a designer who offered to help me build. This person, Chris (Or SymphonicZen Sonic) had a job and a regular life, and yet he spent literally hours helping me, a total stranger, scale the learning curve of Second Life and realize the design of my project. He taught me the basic building techniques and introduced me to other avatars whose specialty is building. Two weeks after we began laying out the garden, I found myself working alongside people from England and various parts of the United States. They didn’t know me, but they donated their skills and their time to my project anyway.
The UK Second Life staff at the Library (especially Beth Kraemer), was also extremely helpful. They evaluated and approved my project, and gave it a prime space in the UKisland, right at the center of the SIM in a bowl that mirrors the real life bowl outside the William T. Young Library.
Just beginning this project created a wave of momentum in my favor, connected me to the community, and helped me gain support for other projects I had not even anticipated would be impacted by my Jury Project. This was the most powerful part of the Jury Project experience for me.
Creating the Perennial Peace Garden raised many issues that will be present in the creation of the real life Peace House. For example, we wanted to make the space welcoming to a wide variety of people. For this reason, we had to be very careful of the types of symbols we built into the garden. For example, at one point, one of the flowerbeds had butterflies in it. Dr. Hollingsworth pointed out that butterflies are a Christian symbol. At another point, we had to consider the type of seating that could be available to avatars in the space, with sensitivity being given to the positions of the body (i.e. the avatars should be able not only to sit cross-legged, but also with knees together, etc). Explaining to Chris why these things were important for the space was good practice for me.