Santa’s not putting anything underneath the tree this year unfortunately. In fact, this past year, there have been no birthday presents, nothing for the holidays, and definitely no surprises. Between my parents helping me replace my busted external harddrive, helping provide the airline points so I could meet Hank and John in Texas, and helping me return to Bangladesh in the new year – they have been supporting me as much as they can.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t things on my wish-list. In this blog post, I’ll list some of the things that would make a huge difference in this project. However this isn’t a ploy at Christmas-time cyberbegging because the most of the things on this list require a Christmas miracle (or two).
Click the jump for the list…
1) Help with Room & Board in Bangladesh
When I first started this project, I thought I had a network of supportive aunts, uncles, and a grandmother who I could rely upon to help with room and board. What turned out is that the wealthiest aunts and uncles looked down on me for doing this project and made it clear they want nothing to do with helping me. Unfortunately, with the exception of my grandmother (and Rick Davis who helped me when I was terribly ill), most of the well-to-do people I have encountered in Bangladesh are, at most, willing to pat me on the back. None, however, have been willing to lend a hand with room and board.
2) Help with Ground Transportation in Bangladesh
Shortly after returning home from Bangladesh, my parents were livid to learn that I – at times – had to rely on auto-rickshaws (aka CNGs) for transportation. This is more than my parents being worry-warts. During the time I was in Bangladesh, I had heard of three separate close-to-home incidents of muggings and/or kidnappings due to family and friends using CNGs and rickshaws. One was severely beaten, had his laptop stolen, and was left for dead by the side of a pond. The other was kidnapped and held for ransom. Getting a ride by car – especially when carrying a camera or laptop around – is often a necessity in Bangladesh.
3) More Relationships with Established Charities
Just because I want to change how charities and big organizations interact with people, doesn’t mean I want to bypass them. I want to plug my project into reputable and established charities and organizations. It’s been tough though. There are a lot of questionable organizations – some which have aggressively tried to solicit funds from me and others which clearly have misplaced priorities. Even though I have an excellent relationship with Save the Children USA, my relationship with the non-US branches (e.g. UK and Canada) is still very much in it’s infancy and/or non-existent.
4) More Relationships with Socially Responsible Companies
A little bit from a socially responsible company can go a long way in this project. First, Vestergaard-Frandsen (which initially donated things like PermaNets and ZeroFly sheeting for me to give away) had recently paid for me to go to Kenya with them. I was able to do a lot of amazing stuff – I still have tons of footage to put online. When I ran out of money to pay for hosting, I was lucky to have Media Temple step in. They now match every dollar I spend to help cover the cost of hosting. Unfortunately, these companies are the exception to the rule. I’ve hit a lot of brick walls trying to solicit support from (what I feel are) socially responsible companies like Apple (for hardware/software), Amazon (for help purchasing gear needed for this project), and Singapore Airlines (for help with airfare or airfare discounts).
5) Help Staying Connected and Equipped
This project has really taught me how to do as much as possible with very little. For example, all the photos I’ve taken during this project are taken with my camcorder’s built-in still photo function. While that means I have less equipment to carry, I haven’t been able to take photos at the spur of the moment. And, although I’ve always wanted to stay more connected in the field with Twitter and blog posts, I haven’t been able to stay as connected because using Twitter or posting to WordPress has meant I had to pull out and boot up my MacBook. In the field, where both electricity and security are rare – I often leave my laptop in its bag. Ideally, it would be nice to have a smartphone or an iPhone or something to stay connected. But unfortunately, unlocked iPhones are hard to find and even harder to find the $$$ to buy.
Pie-in-the-Sky Wish: Better Family Support
It’s a crying shame that many of the hurdles/wishes that I’ve listed here could have been easily addressed by the aunts, uncles, and cousins in Bangladesh who are well-to-do and well-connected. Unfortunately, not only do they not help, but they have often ridiculed me and my efforts with this project. I wish that those in my family that can’t find a way to open their hearts and help me out would at least purse their lips when it comes to criticizing my work. However, this wish seems like it would require several Christmas miracles to happen.
Anyways, at half past midnight on the 25th – hope everyone has a Merry Christmas. May all your wish lists be less ambitious – and thus easier to fulfill – than mine 😀