I've never been much of a "gamer" -- you know, those video game types who get a kick out of spending countless hours racking up points or battling pretend enemies. The virtual world never interested me.
I've tended to prefer investing my time and energy in things I have considered more substantial or long-lasting. But these days, you could say I have found a new respect for video games -- especially since I started working at World Vision.
How? Well, just last year, while reporting on World Vision's work from Tanzania, I struggled at times to communicate with children in local villages. I couldn't speak an ounce of recognizable Swahili, and they only laughed when I spoke English with my Oklahoma accent. But I quickly learned I had a trick up my sleeve -- or, rather, in my pocket! It was my cell phone.
Before my first trip to Africa, I had spent a few weeks diligently investigating and downloading helpful apps. I had apps for the local weather, apps for news, apps for maps, and apps for many other purposes that I thought could make my trip run more smoothly.
World Vision's Mindy Mizell shows children in Tanzania the games on her cell phone.
Little did I know that the video games I had mindlessly downloaded for killing time on my flights would actually prove more helpful than any of the others.
I was just looking for any way to get the children laughing. Since they kept pointing at my phone, I thought, why not give it a whirl and see if they like the games on it? And boy, did they ever! I didn't think I would ever get my phone back again. I had never heard the children giggle or laugh as loudly as they did that afternoon as we circled around my phone, taking turns crashing virtual birds into objects for points.
It made me realize just how much we all have in common as humans who are created to love laughing. But it also taught me not to underestimate the value of a few good video games.
Then, just this week, World Vision's media relations team was drafting a press release announcing our partnership with a gaming company. Of course, at first, I was slightly uncertain why our Christian organization was joining forces to promote a Facebook game called "Grumpy Goats."
The children exhibit fascination and excitement over Mindy's phone.
Yet, once again I learned not to underestimate the value of the gaming world. I realized that this unique game was about more than getting Facebook users to use goats to score points. It was also about real goats making a real difference in the world.
For the first time, World Vision is partnering with the gaming industry to educate new generations of gamers and Facebook users on how they can help communities affected by poverty halfway around the world. When a "Grumpy Goat" player logs on, they are also offered ways to donate a real goat or another animal to help feed families in need. World Vision's online Gift Catalog has more than 100 unique gift ideas for gamers to pick from that do more than battle a virtual enemy -- they fight real hunger and poverty.
That means the children whom I played with last year could very likely get more than an afternoon of smiles from video games. They may also get a real, live goat that could feed their families for a year.
Last year, the children I met had actually received chickens from World Vision's Gift Catalog. The chickens not only provided much-needed eggs but helped pay for school. During my next trip to Africa, I guarantee I will introduce Grumpy Goats to the children I meet.
But next time, before I leave, maybe I need to learn enough Swahili to tell them the game is also helping feed them, too!
Intrigued? Try out the Grumpy Goats game today!
Want to make a difference right now? Give the gift of a goat through World Vision's Gift Catalog. Goats help provide a steady source of nutrition and income, creating a means by which to establish independence, hope, and freedom from poverty!