On January 24, the Peace Boat US Interns participated in a Virtual Reality (VR) activity with the Games for Change non-profit organization that works to develop a community of practice using immersive media to address real-world challenges, create empathy, and drive social change. The initiative seeks to encourage dialogue; foster collaboration between content creators, industry, and cause-based organizations; advance equity and inclusion; and inspire creative use of emerging technologies for social impact.

Peace Boat US interns joined a program with Games for Change to view a Virtual Reality documentary titled “On the Morning You Wake (To the End of the World). The organization created a 3D virtual reality that shows the anxiety and obscurity the citizens of Hawai’i experienced in 2018, when a false missile alert was sent in the early morning, and remained unresolved for 38 minutes. This documentary also exists in a 2D format for accessibility purposes, and is translated into or has subtitles for seven different languages. The facilitators of this event also stressed the sensitivity of the topic, and gave the interns participating many safe ways to ask for breaks, or pause if needed anytime. Before the VR experience there was a small informational survey, and afterwards there was an “aftercare” survey to talk about the emotions the interns felt during the experience.

The virtual reality had 3 chapters: Take Cover, The Doomsday Machine, and Kuleana. The first chapter, Take Cover, illustrated the emotions of the people of Hawai’i when they first got the alert, in the form of a text message. It highlighted stories from people on the islands, some of whom were as young as seven, who experienced the fear of the ballistic missile threat firsthand. It showed people getting ready for work, or going to school, or doing any number of everyday activities, and the immense chaos that ensued following the alert. Some people spoke of seeing parents putting their children down sewer drains to protect them from a potential explosion, and the fear felt by those turned away from shelters because there was just no more room. Others were phoning family members who were not on the islands, and spending what they believed to be their last few minutes with their loved ones. There were also people from Hawai’i living elsewhere, with family and friends who still lived on the islands, that faced an indescribable uncertainty for those 38 minutes, when they had no way of helping those they loved.

The Doomsday Machine chapter featured a woman who survived the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs when she was twelve years old. She described her first instance of seeing those who were at the edge of the blast radius, the way the radiation had affected their bodies, and how it stuck with her. She also spoke of the flashbacks that she got from the text message, how she had moved to Hawai’i thinking she would not experience that threat again, and how hopeless it made her feel.

The Kuleana chapter had an emphasis on responsibility and interconnection. If there were to be a nuclear war, there would be no world left. Modern technologies would push the instant fatalities from one nuclear weapon past one million. Regardless of who fired first, there would be a chain reaction of responses that would lead to the destruction of humanity on a global scale. If individuals did not die instantly from the blasts, the radiation would poison waterways, the food humans depend on for survival, and lead to radiation-based illnesses for those who happened to survive. The workshop ended on a call to action, reassuring those watching that there is a chance for change, that the possibility of a nuclear-free world is attainable.

The experience, while intense, leaves those who experience it with the feeling of responsibility and the need to take action. The interns were able to see the people of Hawai’i and hear their stories without physically being there. They were also able to see and feel the effect that the missile threat had on Hawai’i, and what would have happened to the world if it had not been a false alarm. During the survey afterwards, there was information provided on disarmament, the abolishment of nuclear weapons, and the resources that people can use to push for a nuclear-free future. Please join our youth delegates in working towards a sustainable world for all, free of nuclear weapons for our future generations.

To learn more about Peace Boat’s work for disarmament education, visit: