Napan at work with Peace Prize winners

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Some people use the Internet to download tunes, others use it to show the world videos of their dogs skateboarding. But one Napa woman is using the ‘net as a way to connect Web surfers with Nobel Peace Prize Laureates.

From Bishop Desmond Tutu to former President Jimmy Carter and the Dalai Lama, all are members of, the social-networking site owned and operated by Napa resident Mary Wald.
Wald started TheCommunity in 1999, as an networking site for nonprofit agencies. That soon changed when Nobel Peace Prize winner Jose Ramos-Horta put a call out for school supplies to aid children in his native East Timor. Using the Web site, Wald and her partners held a drive that managed to raise six tons of books, pencils papers and notepads for the children.

“I was in my little two-bedroom house on Main Street and UPS would bring boxes and boxes (of supplies),” she said.
Wald forged a relationship with Ramos-Horta, the president of East Timor, and began to network with other peace prize laureates, she said.

“I’ve have this amazing experience of getting to know them as people,” she said.

Through connections she’s made through Ramos-Horta, Wald said she managed to secure interviews with notable Peace Prize winners such as Tutu, the Anglican Archbishop from South Africa who helped bring an end to apartheid; and Carter, who has dedicated his post-presidential career to global justice and poverty issues.

“They are regular people who change the world,” she said. “It’s a life-changing experience (to know them). So what I’ve been trying to do is give people that same experience of getting to know them.”

Wald also forged relationships with local businesses that have offered support, such as Ubuntu Restaurant and Yoga Studio and Hall Wines.

“What she’s doing is very exciting and when I learned that she was looking for some support from the community, we were just really delighted to help,” said Kathryn Hall of Hall Wines.

Sandy Lawrence, owner of Ubuntu, said getting to know Wald and becoming a sponsor of TheCommunity gave her the opportunity to travel last year to an annual summit of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates held in Rome and meet with laureates and actors such as George Clooney and Don Cheadle, who both received awards for their humanitarian work in Sudan.

“I had a chance to talk to both (Clooney and Cheadle),” Lawrence said. “They were ... very caring (and) concerned about the problems they are working on.”

Lawrence said she first met Wald while riding a bus to the airport. The two sat next to each other and struck up a friendship that blossomed.

“She’s very committed to archiving something,” Lawrence said.

“Every year there are people awarded the peace prize and nothing is done with that, there is no follow up. There is no continuous dialog with these people.”

When the events of Sept. 11, 2001, horrified the nation, Wald teamed up with Ramos-Horta and gathered the comments of 25 Nobel Peace Price laureates, which they displayed on TheCommunity Web site, Wald said.

“It was amazing, I was getting faxes from Mikhail Gorbachev and Yasser Arafat,” she said. “The site went all over the world. It was selected the no. 2 site in USA Today’s Top 10 sites of 2001.”

After the Web site gained momentum, Wald and Ramos-Horta decided to do a TV series that would feature the laureates and spread the message of human rights and peaceful change. The shows feature Bono, lead singer of U2, Mikhail Gorbachev, actor Michael Douglas, musician Paul Simon and the Dalai Lama.

Wald said the shows will air sometime in 2009. Meanwhile, she said she plans to expand the services of The community and host special online chat sessions with the laureates. Site members can create a page at, post blogs and photos and use them to meet others with similar interests.

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