A SERIES of opposites and contradictions has led ex-Armidale man Paul Moffatt to a unique way for people to laze around and give to charity at the same time.
You’ve heard of philanthropy and you’ve heard of smartphone game-playing, but have you heard of Philanthroplay?
Mr Moffatt has set up a company with that name to create and sell game apps to raise money for needy organisations.
The idea started coming to him while he was volunteering in Mexico after finishing a degree in international relations at the University of New England.
Mr Moffatt had signed up with Global Vision International (GVI), which organises and runs conservation and community development programs worldwide, staffing them with volunteers.
He worked in three spots: a special-needs school, a vet practice and a childcare centre for low-income families.
Here was a young man from a relatively rich university city, volunteering in a disadvantaged community in Playa del Carmen in the state of Quintana Roo.
He was located less than 100km from Cancun, where – like many renowned tourist destinations – money and hedonism are abundant, but the special-needs school, so full of “heart and dedication”, was having to turn children away because of a lack of funds.
In his pocket he had a smartphone, the ultimate connectivity tool, but these charities were sometimes so isolated from the resources they needed.
It was the latter paradox that he put to good use in deciding to found Philanthroplay.
He designed his first game app, called Pinata Mirage, outsourced its creation for $10,000, and it is now available to buy in the Apple App Store.
It costs only $1.29, but with 300 million iPhones in the world with access to the App Store, the potential is big.
“Being a startup, it’s still a long way to go to recoup all the money, but it’s been a very positive start,” Mr Moffatt said.
“The sales need to keep coming through, but it’s looking good.
“The game is mostly inspired by those old Magic Eye books.
“It occurred to me that there’s not really much in terms of stereogram-based games – that’s what the illusion’s called.”
Through the GVI Charitable Trust, 50 per cent of the profits will go to the school, Centro de Atencion Integral, which provides education and therapy for children with disabilities.
“The special-needs school, I found particularly moving,” Mr Moffatt said.
“They are really in need of funding. While I was there, there were six students: two with autism, two with cerebral palsy and two with Down syndrome.
“The numbers vary a lot, though – their capacity is basically drawn from how much staff they have.”
Having too few volunteers meant it would be unsafe to take too many children. “They can let in so many people – and then there’s just not room for anyone else.”
Mr Moffatt said the school also had to meet basic expenses like electricity and school supplies, and not all the families could afford to pay fees.
He said he would love to eventually be able to support more schools.
“Into the future, a few schools over a few years throughout the country – that would be great. In the event of a runaway hit on an upcoming game, I’d be happy to go throughout plenty of countries.”
Mr Moffatt said the year he spent volunteering with GVI had been life-changing.
“It was a really inspiring thing for me, and I probably wouldn’t have ended up doing this if it wasn’t for that year.”
If volunteering in another country is too much for you right now, there’s a simpler solution. Grab your iPhone (it’s probably right there in your hand or your pocket), go to the App Store and get Pinata Mirage.
“If you’ve got five minutes spare and an extra $1.20 to give to charity, it’s an excellent way to spend an hour or two,” Mr Moffatt said.