I have been a web developer since 1991. This was pre-Dreamweaver. We were writing code on Notepad on a pc. You could do tables, images, and text, and that was about it.
I still do it today. Fortunately I’ve graduated from tables, images and text.
But it was on a birthday, a little more than ten years ago, when I thought, I really don’t want to go to my grave having done a bunch of web sites for other companies, many of which will no longer even exist by the time I die. I wanted to use what I had learned to leave something worthwhile behind me.
I paid way too much for a domain name (this was in the day when domains names went up to the millions of dollars) and TheCommunity.com was born.
In 1999 a partner came in, a successful high tech executive. About the time the tech bubble burst, he went on to greener pastures, far from the world of the web. But I was hooked.
Some months later I met José Ramos-Horta. He was the first Nobel Peace Prize winner I had laid eyes on. We became fast friends, and later that year, in 2000, I traveled with a friend of mine from CARE to East Timor. It was the start of an adventure. More than I knew. I started by raising some funds and support for East Timor, which at the time was just emerging from horrific conflict. It grew into much more.
Along the way I have also kept my web site business going. It has come in handy at times to pay the bills or cover an airfare which we were growing.
It makes for an interesting life, which I’ve heard but can’t document is actually a Chinese curse. If it’s true I know why. And I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Today 27 of the living Nobel Peace Prize winners have been involved in projects on TheCommunity.com. So have Bono, Michael Douglas, Paul Simon, Ashley Judd, Peter Gabriel, Paul McCartney, Don Cheadle, and a bunch of others.
Not everything has gone the way I originally planned. But we have made a difference. We have forwarded vital messages from the Nobel laureates, about terrorism, about peace building, about human rights. We were the exclusive online home for their messages after 9/11, which got the site on the Number Two spot of USA Today’s top ten sites for that year. By mobilizing the Nobel laureates we made a difference in a key UN resolution on the human rights council. We’ve lent support to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan communities. We’ve delivered mosquito nets to East Timor. Again by mobilizing Nobel laureates, we helped the San Bushmen in Botswana win back the rights to remain on their ancestral land when the government was trying to force them off.
In the process, I have ridden Jeeps around India with Paul Simon. I have sat in the back of a dance hall, on a wooden bench under an eerie blue light, and talked to Paul McCartney for 45 minutes about his music and peace. I have been to mountain villages and pristine beaches with the President of East Timor. I have sat and had conversations with the Dalai Lama about how to deal with China, with Desmond Tutu about how to keep going when you feel like it’s useless, with Jimmy Carter on why he keeps sticking his neck out on Palestine when he could so easily be resting on his laurels. I have been hugged by George Clooney. Twice. Okay that last one didn’t improve the world. It’s just bragging.
There’s nowhere where I really get the chance to take people behind the scenes on the work I do. So I thought it might be interesting to do a blog. Not just to talk about myself. But because someone else may read it and see that there’s not so much about me that’s out of the ordinary. And they may think, hey you don’t have to be superwoman or superman to help make changes. “Maybe I could do that.”
I guess we’ll see.