So, much has happened since we last communicated with you.
We are now in the 12th week of prototype production with UAT Game Studios. You can follow our progress here. Through this time, we have been working to earn the support of key project partners and post funding talent. We have also developed a supportive relationship with a major publisher in our space, produced our venture due diligence, and are investigating a spectrum of emerging funding options.
As wonderful and exciting as all this is, however, it is not why I write you. Today, I am writing to introduce you to a mighty warrior for peace, Eastern Congo's "Mutu wa Watu" and our new Cultural Ambassador, Prince Bienfait.
On Friday, I was unexpectedly introduced to a Congolese man named Prince Bienfait Paluku. He comes from the very conflict we are targeting. Bienfait has been in America for a short time and is a Uber driver in Phoenix.
My dear friend's friend, Skye, met him earlier in the day running errands. Learning of our project just two days prior, Skye told me about Bienfait as soon as she returned. She then connected us over the phone.
As I excitedly explained to Bienfait our vision and reason for wanting to meet him, he became emotional. So did I. I told him that I loved him and that he was my brother. I told him that there is a team of people who feel the same way I do - who understand his devastation - and that soon, so will many more.
Overwhelmed, he thanked me several times. All I wanted to do was hug this man. He is the first person from Eastern Congo I've been able to speak to about our World Game for Peace. As you can imagine, my call with Bienfait was deeply moving. He and I are meeting tomorrow in North Phoenix.
I can't wait."
Today I met Prince Bienfait, a brilliant and courageous Congolese man who escaped our world's deadliest war. Over coffee, he shared memories of when mineral conflict first entered his Nandi village and the deluge of horror that followed. Most of which is to evil to share.
What I can share is that as a teenager, Bienfait was forced to flee from his village in Kiwanja, DRC after Laurent Nkunda soldiers kidnapped his sister, father, aunt, and uncle. Nearly ten years forward, they have not been seen since.
Before arriving to our country, Bienfait and his surviving family lived in a Ugandan refugee camp. It was here that Bienfait decided the only way to save himself, his family, and his country, was peace, not revenge, and the only pathway to peace was reconciliation, not war.
You see, in addition to the personal transgressions Bienfait carried, the refugee camp was comprised of tribes who, for generations, have been taught to fight and kill each other. After a time, Bienfait decided that the only pathway to forgiveness was to eliminate the fear that kept them apart and start communicating, honestly.
To begin bridging their divide, Bienfait organized what he called the “Get Together.” The focus was refugee education and humanity. At first, only a few attended his weekly meeting. Shortly thereafter, the Get Together exploded into hundreds and the spirit of brotherhood/sisterhood that once anchored their great nation returned to them. Improbable and lifelong bonds ensued.
Shortly after arriving to America, Bienfait and his community turned the Get Together into a Ugandan NGO called the “Congolese International Student Organization.” Today, CISO is sending refugee children to the best Ugandan school in the area and creating hope and future for a new world.
After our coffee, we went to the University of Advancing Technology (UAT) where Bienfait met Marie, Tyler Ann, Leighan, Karina, and Lauren. Marie and Bienfait spoke in French. Thereafter, Bienfait was given a tour of the University and spent time learning more about our game for peace. Bienfait accepted our invitation to co-lead our game design and social impact strategies.
Bienfait spoke in Swahili and interpreted for his mother and me. After asking him hard questions, Mama Paluku, born the year Patrice Lumumba was assassinated, stated she felt “It could work!” and that she supported our vision for peace. Mama also told Bienfait that his uncle had just arrived from DR Congo and he should also share our vision for Congo with him too.
As we said goodbye in the family room, Bienfait and I hugged and called each other "brother," filled with hope and new found friendship. In that moment and to my surprise, Bienfait's baby sister got up from the couch, walked over, and hugged me. She said no words but her action was as loud as a thunder clap.
I melted into to the floor.
Over the past few months, Ben Reichert and I have been talking about what it means to be a peaceful warrior, the importance of this journey, and its need in our world. Today, I met the greatest of these warriors.
Prince Bienfait is my hero.”
Later today, Prince Bienfait and I will get to influence game design (CREATE!) together with Tyler Ann, Nolan, and the rest of the UAT Dev. team! Our peace partner, Marie, will also be joining us to ensure there are no translation hiccups. Today feels like a historic one.”
After the UAT Dev. team met Bienfait, Tyler Ann, Karina, and Leigh presented our prototype design and supporting narrative to him. Bienfait was visibly moved.
Then, Bienfait took to impacting game design. Witnessing him engaged, empowered, and leading our UAT Dev. team through creative authenticity is something I will never forget.
A little while back Bienfait’s brother, Faido, urged him to branch out from his African church to discover a western one. Faido felt this was the best way for Bienfait to meet people who may be able to help him pursue his passion for peace, here in America. Bienfait took his brothers advice and discovered a fellowship he liked.
After developing several relationships at this new church, Bienfait began sharing his vision and hope for his people. Leaders of this new church agreed to pray for God to empower Bienfait’s passion and purpose. Shortly thereafter, they informed Bienfait that when they prayed, they saw visions of God leading a man into his life that would help him. Less than a week later, we were introduced. Today, Bienfait and I share the strong belief that our Phoenix arch is the product of a power far greater than us.
Bienfait is now a member of our senior leadership team and Cultural Ambassador or "Mutu wa Watu" at Socent Studios. Bienfait brings to bear truth, vision, brilliance, and an improbable network of Congolese relationships woven behind the front lines of warring tribes. Supported by authentic cultural insight and access to the ancient wisdom of elders spanning the great Kingdom, Prince Bienfait is the voice and vision of his people and the light and hope of our World Game for Peace."