Action speaks louder with words

The latest sensation in online donation is the website that donates ten grains of rice to combat world hunger for every vocabulary question you answer correctly. Affiliated with the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), which distributes the food, is an interesting example of the ‘free click' charity websites in that it is actually a bit of fun to use.

The vocabulary questions are a gimmick, but seem to have caught the attention of many, maybe because they can be challenging (an example of a question is ‘gracile means: rudimentary: ordinary: unwise: slender?'), and also because it gets harder as you go on, depending on the level you have been pegged at from your first few answers.
The website began on 7 October this year, clocking up 830 grains of rice on its first day, less than one bowl. It has grown exponentially every day since. The UN announced on 10 November that users of the website had earned enough points for one billion grains of rice, which is enough to feed 50,000 people for one day. It has now reached 3.26 billion grains.

Rest assured, the WFP is not sitting on a pile of rice, doling it out 10 grains at a time. The food is ‘promised', to be paid for later by the sponsors. Advertisers on freerice, usually multinational companies, pay for the rice, in exchange for the exposure. It seems to be a win-win situation, but problems are already arising. Seeing the opportunity to feed the world from the pockets of advertisers, people have created ‘ricebots', computer programs which answer the questions 24 hours a day, racking up large amounts of rice. While there is not yet any restrictions on the website about using these bots, companies will not hang around if they feel they are being swindled out of their advertising budgets.  
Freerice features 10,000 questions, written by programmer John Breen from the US, who got the idea from watching his son study for the SAT's. Breen is also responsible for, a similar site that was an innovation in 1999.


Freerice is easily the most entertaining and non-restrictive of the charity websites Village has found. Others like allow you to do your bit by clicking on a worthy cause, but usually only once a day. That website is a clearinghouse for a large number of websites that all allow you to fund their campaigns by laying your eyes on their sponsors and even more if you actually click through to their websites and buy something. In a few minutes on this site nine plates of food were donated to a Polish Hunger site that asked us to ‘klinkij', one plate was given ‘por los chicos' in Argentina, one fifth of a tree was planted in Niagara, Ontario, three letters of support to stop violence against women were generated, television airtime for the International Fund for Animal Welfare's campaign to save baby seals was funded and a book for a literacy program was acquired.

It is nice to feel you are making a difference, especially through the funds generated from the advertising through which we are continually subjected to anyway. Some have the clever suggestion that you make their site your homepage. Without this it is unlikely that jaded Internet users will return every day to slowly contribute one click. What they really need is some kind of game.