International relief and development charity, World Vision, has joined the successful online virtual world, Second Life, to bring to life its Alternative Gift Catalogue  through an interactive 3D developing community village.
Millions of people now spend more and more of their free time online and in virtual environments as a means of relaxation and escapism, with Second Life expected to have more than 2 million 'inhabitants' by the end of the year.
"But the problems of the real world remain, including global poverty," explains Fiona Cole, Public Relations Manager at World Vision. "By having a presence within the increasingly popular virtual arena, World Vision can engage with its audience and raise awareness and money for its relief and development activities, but in a creative way that meets the audiences need and captures imagination."
Inhabitants visiting World Vision's Alternative Gift Catalogue  village, brought to life by Copper Industries in London, can experience a virtual developing community environment, whilst seeing and interacting with some of the alternative gifts which this year support 53 of World Vision's community projects around the world.
A school building that hosts classroom desk, chair, book and pen gifts, while you can sit on a tractor for hire for a bridge construction project over Malawi's River Thondwe. Take a lay down on a hospital bed needed to equip a new maternity ward in north east Uganda, milk a cow destined for Kenya, pat a sheep needed by a community in Senegal, or even sit in a toilet latrine, required to improve hygiene facilities in a school in Armenia.
Clicking on these items, or the sign boards next to the gifts in the village, will display more information and take the inhabitant through to World Vision's Alternative Gift Catalogue website, www.greatgifts.org , where you can then view or purchase from a choice of over 90 gifts.
A second life user who left a message for World Vision said about the village, "I'm really heartened by seeing this, because it seems to me somebody has finally figured out a way to combine the 3D emotional quality of Second Life for display and communication with an effective donation strategy."
To experience World Vision's Alternative Gift Catalogue village, log on to www.secondlife.com  and register your details, and then use the search facility to locate World Vision's village. Alternatively, click on the following link to be taken directly to the village, Gift Catalogue Village.
To go straight to World Vision's Alternative Gift Catalogue