Minecraft’s on a Mission to Turn Virtual Buildings Into Lifesaving Clinics In Liberia

Minecrafters are putting their building skills to work to help create a medical facility for moms and their babies in the African nation.
Aug 15, 2014·
Patricia Dao is a regular contributor to TakePart. She is a Los Angeles–based serial tech entrepreneur and managing director of the nonprofit Girls in Tech–LA.

As a soon-to-be mom, I live in a vortex of doctor visits, blood tests, ultrasounds, and pediatrician interviews. Although these medical visits sound daunting, my ability to zip away to a checkup is a luxury many take for granted. In many parts of the world women are plagued with the stress of wondering how and where they can deliver their babies safely.

In the West African country of Liberia, which is being ravaged by Ebola, one in 13 babies born won’t live to see their first birthday because of lack of medical resources and clinics. Women are forced to give birth at home without medical attention or even on the side of the road while trying to reach a clinic. With this immediate need for aid, the nonprofit Save the Children has set out to raise 500,000 pounds in the U.K. (about $835,000) to build six clinics in Liberia. It is helping to drive donations by leaping into the land of virtual gaming through the role-playing game Minecraft.

The popular game is typically known for building virtual worlds and fighting off spiders, skeletons, and zombies—far from the notion of raising money for clinics in Liberia. With the foresight of Save the Children, The Good Agency, and video game personalities Dan Maher and Chris Doney, the group has created a way to harness the imagination of the active, fanatic Minecraft community to design virtual clinics within the game and drive donations toward building at least one fully equipped medical clinic in Liberia.

“It’s not every day that the dedicated and inventive Minecraft community can use their talents for real-life construction, but that’s exactly what Clinic Craft is all about,” says Maher. “Designing a health clinic when you’re used to planning a brick-for-brick re-creation of Hogwarts or devising tactics to fend off the next Creeper attack will be a real change of pace for Minecrafters, but I think they’ll relish the chance to tackle an exciting new challenge that will ultimately benefit those in need in the real world.”

To kick off the campaign, Maher and Doney have launched the website ClinicCraft.com. Working side by side out of the Save the Children office, they’ve created a virtual medical clinic within the game and have filmed their building adventures through video episodes.

Self-proclaimed “Chris the Expert” teaches “Dan the Noobie” how to explore the landscape of the game and starts players off with the foundational blocks for their clinic. Through each video, alongside witty banter, they navigate the viewer through the clinic’s build progress, including maternity waiting rooms, beds, and fully equipped restrooms. These videos aim to motivate Minecrafters to make their own and also demonstrate how fun and easy it can be. For those gamers who are looking for a jump-start, a brick-by-brick blueprint of a Liberian clinic is also available for download through the Save the Children website.

Gamers are asked to submit screen shots of their clinics and share them with fellow Minecrafters, encouraging viral growth and awareness of the campaign. Several buildings have already been submitted, ranging from Jetsons-like sky clinics to modern, chic waiting-room lobbies. All submissions sent by Sept. 26 will be entered to win Minecraft-themed prizes.

Although designing clinics in a virtual land sounds as fun and addictive as Farmville once was, the real goal is helping Save the Children and the pregnant women in Liberia. Gamers and their families are encouraged to donate to the fund by either texting “CLINIC” to 70008, donating directly to the Save the Children website, or creating their own fund-raising page to get friends and family to sponsor players.

“Clinic Craft brings an innovative, virtual dimension to the world of fund-raising and could help connect with a whole new group of people,” Save the Children’s special project manager, Scott Clarkson, said in a statement. “I’m so excited about what this idea could achieve—it has been a truly thrilling project to be a part of.”