My children have turned me onto one of most fabulous concepts I've seen in a long while. It is so fabulous, that I felt the need to share it with you, here, on the nature blog. I usually don't do this sort of thing. I like to make the natural world the focus of FascinationEarth. Not humans. But not this time.
I was watching my daughter, last night, as she enjoyed her typical online experience, playing simple flash games that strengthen her math and vocabulary skills, and expressing her creativity using web based paint programs. I didn't understand all her talk about donating beads, so I took a closer look.
It was a non-profit, global outreach program, called OneHen, that provides kids with fun little online games that rack up beads, instead of points. At the end of playtime, the child then empties their cache of beads, by "donating" them. The donated beads then become small amounts of money that are donated by website partners, to the micro finance institution, Opportunity International. This organization provides small loans and affordable insurance to impoverished families around the world, so that they can start small businesses, or keep their farms running, to provide a better way of life for themselves, and support a small economic community.
As I raved about what a wonderful idea this was, my teenage son compared this concept to FreeRice. This is another non-profit group, that offers kids online educational games that teach new languages, vocabulary and math skills, geography, chemistry and art. For each correct answer given, you earn ten grains of rice, that collect in the virtual bowl on the side of the screen. Also, with every correct answer, a new ad banner pops up, from a company that is going to back your virtual grains of rice, with real world grains, that are going to be donated to famine relief efforts around the world. In fact, since the earthquake that devastated Haiti last year, FreeRice has been consistently sending food. In fact, again, every grain of rice earned through the website throughout January 2011, will go exclusively to Haiti!
So, I began to wonder, why don't these organizations just send money and food, without us having to earn virtual beads and rice. Well, because it's the advertisers who pay the money, in return for a little free advertising. But I began to see a deeper reasoning. It's a way for young kids (or anyone really) to feel like they are the ones making the difference. And they are, really.
So, when your little one asks what they can do to help save the world, you can just direct them to one of these websites. It will definitely build their self esteem, knowing that they are making a positive impact, and perhaps introduce them to a lifelong interest in philanthropy.