SYDNEY, Australia Dec. 23, 2009 Cisco today helped reunite a family after more than 50 years of separation, using its Cisco TelePresenceTM system. The Cisco 'Christmas Connections' Contest invited people residing in Australia and New Zealand to submit their stories for a chance to connect with family and friends from around the world over Cisco TelePresence. The winning Australian entry was from three elderly sisters and their families from Sydney and Brisbane in Australia, and Virginia in the United States, who had seen each other only once in more than half a century.
With the help of Cisco, the family today enjoyed a 'virtual' Christmas dinner with more than 20 family members from three generations, including never before seen children and grandchildren.
The contest winners were Claire (83), Athlone (80) and Sonia (73), three sisters who last lived together as a family in Brisbane, with two other sisters, Leone and Zoe (both deceased). After WWII, Claire emigrated to the US where she lives today near Herndon, VA. The other sisters remained in Australia and have been together once since 1953. Danelle Dobinson, Athlone's eldest child, wrote in the contest entry submission that "in light of their ages, it's unlikely that my mother and aunts will have the opportunity to visit in person in the future, so it would mean everything for them to be able to see each other and as many of the children and grandchildren as possible once more."
Despite the oddity of eating Christmas "dinner" at breakfast time for the Sydney and Brisbane based relatives, while their American relatives ate dinner in snowy Virginia, the unusual situation did not detract from the warmth and intimacy which developed through the virtual connection. Sonia, the youngest sister from Sydney said before the event that "it will be lovely just to be able to see Claire, and catch up with as many of the family as we can at this special time".
Cisco TelePresence allowed more than 20 family members to reunite without the need for financially and physically draining long-distance travel. The technology combines high-definition audio quality, interactive technologies and a specially designed environment to approximate the feeling of being in the same room despite the participants being in separate locations.
Cisco awarded two first-place prizes of Christmas dinners over Cisco TelePresence, one for Australia and another for a New Zealand family connecting with relatives in England. Cisco also gave out 10 second-place prizes of a Cisco TelePresence meeting and 20 Flip MinoTM cameras for third-place prizes, to the people with the entries that best illustrated the importance of connections with family and friends at Christmas.
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