Archive for the 'PayPal' Category

We Speak For Ourselves

When it comes to international aid and development, we are all biased. It doesn’t matter if you’re a donor reading pamphlets, a celebrity or YouTuber endorsing your favorite NGO, a journalist interviewing villagers, an academic outside of the ivory tower, an experienced aid professional talking about “good aid”, or even a free agent trying to be a bridge-maker.

There is nothing nefarious about this fact. We as human beings, while capable of untold capacities for empathy, will never have a complete verstehen and fully imagine the complexity of others. This is important because the arbiters of what is and is not “good aid” and what does and does not “harm the poor” must be the ones whom international aid is meant to serve.

This latest video, which among other things shows a project I did in collaboration with Save the Children, is my attempt to bring the poor one step closer to being able to speak for themselves. This is by no means the pinnacle of the kind of global voice I think the poorest of the poor should have. Rather, I see this as merely Step 4 out of a 5 Step Program.

This video also connects with a lot of things I’ve talked about on this blog – from mistrust of NGOs in Bangladesh, to raising overhead separately, to Islamic POVs on aid (which partly influences why many Bangladeshis talk about overhead), to the need for the poor to be more digitally and globally connected, to explaining the significance of the woman (near the end of the video) blessing the donors.

If you’re new to my work then I should point out this isn’t about raising as much money as possible. If you want to donate, I strongly suggest you consider donating to Save the Children instead of me. My goal has always been just to change the conversation on global poverty – that means less guilt, pushing for diversity, and letting the poor speak for themselves.

Tour de Nerdfighting

Tour de Nerdfighting (Plano, TX)

Hello from Plano, Texas! I’ve got some great news. First, I got to meet Hank & John Green. They are even more amazing in real life than they are online. If you want to see them, they are going on a Cross-America trip called the Tour de Nerdfighting. Check this map to see when and where they will be next – you can even RSVP by clicking on the city location.

Second, if you’ve ever wanted to make a donation but 1) Can’t or don’t want to use PayPal and 2) Don’t like how PayPal takes a cut of every donation – than there is a great opportunity for you to get involved in this project in a way that guarantees 100% of your donation is used. And best of all? I don’t ever have to touch a dime.

Hank and John will be accepting donations at every stop of their tour up until November 12th. On November 12th, they’ll be in Westport, Conneticut – the home town of Save the Children USA. If all goes according to plan – they’ll be handing over the donations directly to Save the Children. That money will be spent based on how you guys vote in my Challenge Poverty video. Voting is still open – so please do get involved! 🙂

I don’t have to touch your money, 100% of the funds raised go straight to helping the poor, you get to decide how it’s spent, and it all helps one of the world’s greatest international charities. How more awesome can it get?

Click the jump for some photos from the Plano event…

Continue reading ‘Tour de Nerdfighting’

The Change We Want To See

A few months back, I made a blog post saying I don’t like to flaunt my religious beliefs. Part of the reason for that is because it doesn’t matter what my beliefs are. What matters is that – no matter our differences – we unite under a common goal: to fight (and eventually end) extreme global poverty.

In fact, I had written:

In my opinion, peace on Earth will come when we stop hating what is different among us and start loving what it is we have in common. When we finally do that, I think we will find that we share the same wisdom – though we may find it in different places and from different books.

This little project may not have changed the world – but it seems to have created a little bubble of the kind of world that a lot of us would like to see. I started to realize this when I started going over those who had made donations to this project. Take a look at some of the countries people have been donating from:

What makes this even more interesting is that it seems that virtually every race, religion, and ethnicity has contributed to this project. Corresponding with a few of the donors I know for a fact that atheists/agnostics, Jews, Christians (and not just Catholics from Notre Dame), Muslims, and Hindus have all contributed to this project.

I used to think Mahatma Gandhi’s phrase “be the change you want to see” was just cliché beaten to death by countless charities, fundraisers, and organizations. But, I gotta say… I’m starting to become a believer in that saying.

(Photo Credit: Flag Icons Made by

Meet a Donor: Jamison Young

Jamison Young, originally uploaded by dominick.chen.

When I started accepting donations, John Green said it best“this isn’t charity, this is an experiment in community”. Even though I’m not an official charity, accepting donations from the public has been a great way of making a connection between those who this project has been able to help and those who have provided the funds to make that help possible.

In my previous blog post of “Meet a Donor” I introduced you guys to Hank Green (although I’m sure almost everyone reading this blog is already familiar with Hank Green and the vlogbrothers). Hank decided to match my “Xbox 360 challenge” by donating the funds equal to that of buying a new Xbox 360. I used those funds (after a rather remote and shaky journey) to help sponsor a child name Rithanu in the Chittagong-Hill-Tracts.

In this blog post of “Meet a Donor”, I’d like to introduce you guys to someone who has blown me away with his level of generosity and compassion: Jamison Young.

Jamison Young is an Australian born singer who lives in Prague. Even before he donated any money, his contributions to this project have been invaluable. Jamison licenses all his music under the Creative Commons. Not just that, but the specific license Jamison choose lets people use his music (in both for-profit and not-for-profit capacities) without having to pay Jamison a cent for the rights. It’s Jamison Young’s song “How Far” that has been the theme song for this project ever since the second video went online.

And it’s also actually been Jamison Young’s generosity with his work that inspired me to release all my videos, blog posts, and photos under the Creative Commons. I already thought Jamison was a generous guy – but his latest contribution blew me away. One of Jamison’s song actually got featured in the soundtrack of the new X-Files movie. For a guy that normally gives his work away for free, this was one of those opportunities where he actually earned some well-deserved money on his work. And you know what he did? He gave it all away.

Jamison Young at the new X-Files Movie, originally uploaded by jamtea.

So, when voting ends for my latest video, I’ll be going back to Bangladesh to execute whatever you guys have voted for. Depending on which options I end up doing, Jamison’s donation will be enough to cover either a large chunk – or the entirety – of one of the options. How far can this dreamin’ go?

Challenge Poverty (with Save the Children)

The Pond Sand Filter (Save the Children USA)

Choosing has always been the hardest part of this project. I’ve tried my best to share all the emotions I’ve had during this project like the joy of helping children in the Hill-Tracts, or the anguish and sense of powerlessness during Cyclone Sidr disaster relief, or the craziness involved in reaching some remote rural village. With this latest video, I’m sharing the toughest reality of this project: being forced to choose.

With this video, there is no wrong answer – only tough choices.

More after the jump.

Continue reading ‘Challenge Poverty (with Save the Children)’

Animal Shopping

My sparse writing during these last two weeks can easily be explained:  I have been incredibly busy.  It started with an email, which led to a second meeting.  Then, things really started moving fast.

After the second meeting, I had a list of all the grandmothers and what animals they chose to receive.  It is probably the most interesting shopping list I’ve ever had:

Animal Shopping

My co-worker Joseph and I got to the village of Buwaiswa on Wednesday afternoon, and were immediately greeted by Mama Lillian, who helps out at the orphanage.  Mama Lillian conveniently had eight piglets ready to be sold, we could have first pick if we so chose.  Done.

This gave us time to go around on foot (anything else was impossible) and visit some of the grandmothers who wanted goats.  Three of them had even done shopping on their own and found goats for us to buy.

That night we went into the trading center of Busota to see if we could find an animal salesman named Dadi.  He supposedly had a bunch of goats waiting to be sold.  After we arrived in Busota and were mobbed by kids who hadn’t seen a white person before, we eventually found his assistant.  He confirmed that Dadi had some goats ready to sell; the only problem was that he wasn’t in town.  We would need to come back tomorrow.  We exchanged phone numbers and then hitched a ride back to Buwaiswa.

The next morning, we took an early tea and then ventured up to Busota again.  Dadi was still missing.  His phone wasn’t getting any reception (no surprise), so we just had to wait.  And wait.  After repeated attempts, we finally got Dadi on the phone long enough to find out that he was technically sold out of goats at the moment, which was why he was frantically driving around trying to find more.

Back to square one.  This was going to be a long day.  Our boda-boda driver told us that he had an idea, which was as good as anything, so we pulled a u-turn and headed back past Buwaiswa.  Along the way, we found a chicken farmer and made his day.  He finished the transaction sixteen chickens lighter and 105,000 shillings richer.

The goat dealer we found didn’t have any either, but he at least knew where to get some.  We found a tree for some shade and sat down as he took our boda driver off into the bush.  Over the next hour, he came back four times with a goat on his lap, tied it to a stump, and headed off in another direction.  On the fifth trip, he hopped off, tied up the last goat, and walked over to us.

“That’s all I could find.”

I was impressed.  Five goats in an hour.  That’s twelve minutes per goat!

After this stroke of luck, things were looking good.  In war, what we did next is called “mopping up.”  For the rest of thursday and friday, we just meandered around on foot and found the last four goats.

Our shopping was over.  We called the grannies.  They needed to help bring in groceries.

A Tale of Two Meetings

With new funding and less restrictions, I’ve been running around lately trying to get my project complete before I finish next Wednesday.

Before my grant got rejected, I had a meeting with all of the grandmothers who would be receiving loans.  I explained the rules of the loan:

  • It had to be used for income-generation
  • It had to be paid back with 10% interest
  • It could not deal in animal husbandry

They were perfectly fine with the first two rules, but when I explained the third, they groaned.  They were frustrated, and understandably so.  They knew how to raise animals.  They didn’t know how to run a business.  And they were quite frank — they weren’t interested in learning.  They wanted to tend to their crops and animals.  They wanted to do what they were good at.

But we continued, and I guess the meeting was an overall success.  We settled on different activities for the grandmothers to pursue and they walked away thankful.  However, I could not shake the feeling that they were not in it.  Sure, some of it was a lack of confidence, and that could be changed with training.  But there was also the fact that they weren’t able to do what they wanted to do.

Then I had my second meeting with them.

Last week, I went out to inform them that the restriction on animals had been lifted.  I thought that I’d give them the chance to reconsider their project again, this time with the possibility of practicing animal husbandry.  There were fourteen grandmothers there, and fourteen of them changed their minds.  They all wanted to raise animals.

Not only that, but the meeting itself had an entirely different feel.  In our first meeting, I was struck by how aloof they seemed.  In this meeting, they participated in the discussion.  They made jokes.  They laughed at ours.  They stayed around after it was finished to make small-talk.

They were excited!

Their excitement rubbed off on me.  It was contagious.  We all had our own reasons, but everybody wanted this project to succeed now.  We all had something at stake.

What have I learned this trip?  The capacity and the expertise can come from outside, but the ideas must come from the people.  You cannot storm a country with ideas of your own and hope to make an impact.  Someday you will have to leave, and if the people do not feel ownership in the project, they will abandon it.