A few years ago, a friend of mine emailed me about a game called FreeRice. He said I could increase my English vocabulary while donating rice to feed the starving. It sounded fantastic. But since this is also the friend who regularly emails me about the banana spiders under the toilet and the carjackers under my car, I knew I had to research it first.
How in the world could something like that work? I could donate without having money myself? I could just play a game and better the world? A learning game to be sure, but I’m geeky. I like that.
Strangely, it turned out to be true. Advertising and corporate sponsorship is what provides the money and the rice. Freerice, as it is now, has expanded a lot since 2007. These days, not only can you answer English vocabulary questions, but you can see pictures of famous paintings and guess the artist—who knew that Camille Pissaro was a man? (I didn’t.) You can click on photos of world flags and guess the country. (Just wait until the next Olympics!) There are categories for literature, pre-algebra, chemical symbols and more. You can learn French, German, Italian, or Spanish.
And each time you answer a question correctly, 10 grains of rice are donated to countries in need, beginning with Bangledesh and moving through Cambodia, Bhutan, Uganda, Nepal, and others. According to Wikipedia, it takes 19,200 grains of rice to feed one adult for one day.
By the end of the site’s first day back in 2007, 830 grains of rice had been donated. By the end of ten months, that number had risen to 42 billion grains. Put another way, enough rice was donated in 2008 to feed over 6,000 people daily for one year. By 2010, Freerice players were changing the world. Over 4.32 million people were being fed for a day by their contributions. Hopefully that number will continue to rise.
According to Snopes.com, which validates the Freerice website as TRUE, one person around the world dies from hunger every 3.5 seconds. And although Snopes didn’t say this, it’s probably a child.
It’s no coincidence that Freerice won Time Magazine’s 50 Best Websites of 2011 award, and a Digital Communications Award 2011 for Best Corporate Game, along with many other honors. People in Spanish, French, Italian, and Chinese speaking countries can now play in their own languages.
So if you’re taking a break today from reading this blog, Internet shopping, or Facebooking, why not check out www.freerice.com, a 2011 Best Corporate Game. Have fun!
Freerice was created by John Breen and is now run by the United Nations World Food Program in conjunction with the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.