Reflection, Education, Advocacy
What exactly is OSI? Why not just call it COOPHA?
Orenda Society International is the umbrella organization that hosts COOPHA (Cooperativa de Hombres en Andres). Metaphorically speaking OSI is the mother, while COOPHA, RCN Academy, Lahore (Pakistan) Street Outreach, and UUDR are her children. The juxtaposition was accidental: OSI came first. In the beginning Ursula and I were unsure what direction to follow - I was living in Providence, which provided opportunities that Santo Domingo could not. But we did agree that whatever we would do, in any locale, must include Education, Reflection, and Community Service. In the early years what held us together was caring for my alcoholic father, which encouraged us to bring AA to the region. That proved to be a successful intervention - my dad never drank after that. After his death in 2000, the family inherited the estate (which was rented to a local family), but in 2017 the family agreed to let me use use the property for community service.
How does helping at-risk men help at-risk women?
Over 90% of domestic crimes against women are perpetrated by men - but the problem runs deeper than just male-to-female violence. We understood that prevalent culture was also to blame due to long standing issues relating to male dominance (machismo), an undereducated population, media inaction/passivity in light of prevalent inequality, and impoverished hopeless heads-of-households. COOPHA is to be an incubator for socio-cultural innovation - an eclectic milieu which perfectly matches our original OSI values. By helping men overcome their social deficits, the cooperative indirectly helps women and sow's seeds for future socio-cultural renewal. Our proposed cooperative will reach out to member's families too; there are dedicated women eager to help.
Your sci-fi approach seems so radical - how can you be sure it will work?
Despite huge education deficits the region is not ignorant: science touches everyone, and is of special interest to the younger members of the community. Astronomy and Geology are regularly discussed, as the region has good skies (no light pollution), caves, and troves of fossilized coral encrustations. It does not take long to start conversations about stars & constellations (UFO's are also hot discussion topics). Building on these themes we intend on introducing a role-play pedagogy that allows students to identify constellations and prominent stars; discussions on the possibility of extraterrestrial life has been fluid and well received despite some controversies. For the young, creating an astronomy-centered approach to education will be an easy-sell; for the older men, the emphasis is their working environment: natural history and agriculture. For that reason we built into the program culturally challenging Rites-of-Passage involving astronomy and geography - we are careful to balance the expectations of both generations.
What is the difference between RCN and RCT?
Role-play Characterization Network is the constructivist model we will use; the model evolved from a sci-fi game I created when my children were small. The game became 'official' soon after, getting serious attention from the state of Rhode Island, namely the Rhode Island Training School, where it was used in youth corrections, and from the Rhode Island Department of Education, where it was seriously considered as a charter school. The model also reached a semi-finalist position within the Rhode Island Foundation Innovation Fellowship (a $300,000 grant which we did not win). RCN is a role-play network of students & teachers who use real astronomical data-sets as a 'game board' where exoplanets and their sky locations are created; to get 'there' students learn through a milieu of meaningful primers. Math, algebra, geometry, and physics are common elements, but the focal points are the social sciences; students 'retro-examine' Earth's civilization as they build socio-utopian models: identifying the key issues that hinder or liberate our civilization - the projections that could transform socio-political and socio-cultural institutions of Earth.
Role-play Characterization Therapy uses sociodrama after 'honing-in' on the personal issues identified by RCN participation - for example - issues of war may trigger an emotional response in some students or staff: RCT helps to digest painful memories as aspects of culture, history, and psychology: RCT is a social group function led by a group of peers and a counselor.
Why is it important to provide higher education to poor rural farmers from the third world?
While vocational studies target industry, the humanities have a more subjective face, and is of greater importance. We understand that most RCN Academy graduates will not go on to colleges or universities (though some will). As North Americans we often forget the real purpose of education, namely to understand the world through factual knowledge, but all too often the 'key' is valued more than the building it allows us to enter. As Therapeutic Education RCN is not an elitist vehicle for social-class advancement; it has been created for discovering meaning and life-purpose: understanding the universe reduces stress, and stress-reduction mitigates violence.
There is a lot of psychology in COOPHA - how professionally qualified are the staff?
Generally speaking COOPHA works within the Best Practices of the psychology profession - namely western-world approaches to mental health as illustrated in the DSM-IV. As COOPHA founders and staff we will never deviate from those practices, and will always refer members to local clinicians as needed. COOPHA and RCT are not clinical models. They are Peer-to-Peer group approaches. I have paraprofessional crisis intervention certification from the University of Rhode Island (1993), and am about to earn my MA in psychology. Ursula is a paraprofessional with limited education but with extensive experience working for Children's International (www.children.org) as a case manager. Childrens International is an international child sponsoring organization used by Mother Teresa of Calcutta when she was alive. We will never diagnose our members, or create clinical plans-of-action without the supervision of mental health professionals. For that reason we will reach out to the government, hospitals, clinics, and universities in ongoing advocacy, which includes building strategic partnerships, and recruiting interns from the US and from the DR.
What exactly are the Rites-of-Passage?
COOPHA engenders several unique traditions such as the Completion Stone, and the Talking Stick (a wood staff representing aboriginal authority, given to the COOPHA Cacique); the starting point for all men are our rites-of-passage.The first one is a 24 hour stay in our Cavern Module. The module is a walk-in museum-quality diorama replete with realistic textures and cave features (stalactites & stalagmites). Its purpose is to transform. Caves are symbols of the past, and locals respect and fear them. Much folklore revolves around them, including the spirits of the original inhabitants: the Taino peoples, hideouts for runaway slaves, and the habitat of deadly snakes (though there are no venomous snakes on the island). Tarantulas and large (but harmless) cave spiders do frequent them, as well as bats. I have studied caves for decades and as a sculptor my themes often include them. For safety and convenience we will have our own cave system, part of which overlaps our Community Cafe (used for our culinary program).
After an orientation a COOPHA candidate enters the 'cave' through a long access tunnel built under the community cafe, whose ocular opening brings sunlight directly into its entrance: it is the prominent feature of the cafe. The design highlights the importance of this initiating solo rite; the candidate is to face his own anxiety, spending 24 hours in a chamber where he can sleep. Hidden kick-out panels ensures his safety. The novice is under a gag-order, and outside elders listen and judge his behavior! He will be instructed to think meaningfully about the island's history, and about his desire to join COOPHA. He will have to tell his story to the fraternity during a weekly Campfire.
The RCN Academy has a second similar rite-of-passage - also 24 hours! A semi-vertical tunnel in the cave chamber leads to three (3) simulator modules: a Planetarium, an Earth orbiting Space Station, and a Spacecraft (a two-person shuttle). Prior experience in the cave means the candidates are now vested COOPHA members - the rite is not solitary quest - it is a team effort. To enter the simulators the team must go through the cave once more, which now represents the human journey through geologic time. Much care will be taken to insure that the planetarium and the spacecrafts are optimal sensory/tactile experiences. Window-mirrors in 45 degree inclinations show either real night stars, or blue skies. The planetarium stars are 3D representations of real stars found in the Orion constellation, visible each night from the roof, (found in our Starry Night software program). To earn acceptance into the RCN Academy candidates must work as a team, carefully adhering to a semi-technical mission plan: sleeping on Suspended Animation compartments in the space station. They will be observed from a classroom below them; vested students watch their every move through several live-feed cameras. Their peers will determine if they 'made-the-grade'.
OSI, COOPHA, RCN Academy, UUDR
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Surrogacy about?
The term is part of our RCN back-story game history, when the program was called AUOC (A Universe of Children). Surrogates are sentient beings of Artificial Intelligence. Our Universal Consciousness Index posits that in the distant future, biological life will be transformed into artificial forms (it is a view shared by many scientists). Therefore, for the sake of game-continuity and back-story faithfulness, we call all our USA educators Surrogates: all of them are considered the Surrogacy.
Surrogates become US-based pen-pals to our COOPHA students. For privacy and safety no student is ever given the e-mail addresses of their US educators. The back-and-forth game exchanges are heavily edited by a Moderator (a specially trained RCN/RCT administrator) in order to ensure secure linkages, role-play action, conformity to science (rather than fantasy, for example), and supportive of each student's educational objectives (students and surrogates use avatar characterizations that use fluid narratives).
To begin the process of becoming a Surrogate, email me: email@example.com
Who funds all of this?
As a cooperative all members, including myself, chip in - mostly providing labor for our modules, simulators, and armatures. The design elements are mine, and with my experience and the help of many men (a great number of them are skilled laborers) we can drastically reduce the costs of building this dream project. We have applied for several small grants - we'll see! Remember that the COOPHA property is ours in perpetuity, all that is needed is the labor (our plans are solid).
What is Proactive-play?
Some surrogates want more game action, they do not want to wait for COOPHA students to 'stumble-upon' their registered star-systems (read our Game Rules), but want to actively search for planets & their civilizations on their own. This advanced-game-mode requires a PC Atlas, and more frequent email exchanges. We recommend buying Starry Night Planetarium Software from Simulation Curriculum - a Canada-based company that has helped us in the past - it's about $200 clams. Proactive players have a different agreement-of-understanding than Passive-players or Active-players (see index for these definitions). Under our advanced franchising terms (which requires Teacher Certification) proactive-playing-surrogates navigate the RCN game at-will adding Advanced Content to the RCN Academy. Proactive-players must still engage our students under the initial agreement-of-understanding, but they wave the built-in privacy and safe-contact requirements of the original agreement.
Proactive players are totally committed to our pedagogic model, and act as Agents to promote our model worldwide.
Is it true that if I sign-on as Surrogate I will receive a free planet or moon in the mail?
Yes. Email us a snail-mail address and it's yours!
How will your Token Economy benefit your cooperative?
Our token-system will resolve several serious issues. First, it allows us to compensate members for the work they perform within the cooperative, but since COOPHA is not a business, it is a cooperating team of men, tokens (we use US coins, which have no actual currency value) will work like miniature 'stock exchanges', as their value is flexible and can be manipulated! Department heads post the daily or weekly value of a 'token' on a display board; values may be barter-values which reduce member's Work Quota Hours (read definition in our index) or be converted into actual currency for the purpose of purchasing COOPHA produce or objects created in our steel yard. Secondly, tokens are Game Objects - the numbers on the pennies, nickels, and dimes AND the features on them have additional symbolisms & values which enhances game outcomes through simple math. And conversely, increased Game Acquisitions (worlds & civilizations acquired) allow students to accrue more tokens! Thirdly, a token economy allows students to understand the relationship between money, services, and purchasing-power within a closed system, free of outside influence - therefore - our token economy allows for more learning.