Archive for the 'YouTube' Category

Seven Years of Awesome

Seven years ago I packed my bags and flew to my parents’ homeland of Bangladesh. I was just some guy with a camera and a laptop with a lofty goal of “making a difference”. A lot of people do a whole lot of nothing that way – sometimes doing more harm than good. I’m very lucky that things didn’t turn out that way. This is thanks, in no small part, to the YouTube Community and The Project for Awesome.

Over the past seven years, collaborating with both secular charities (like Save the Children), faith based groups (like the Holy Cross Congregation), and local NGOs, I’ve been able to do more than I could ever have dreamed of. This includes responding to multiple natural disasters and providing emergency disaster relief, reconstruction a school damaged by a cyclone, providing a community with clean water, helping a Buddhist orphanage and school, and building a Catholic school (with some help from a Rabbi).

I’ve also been lucky enough to win The Project for Awesome once in 2012. With that money I’ve helped to build a school in a small community that had to wall itself off from because of religious differences. I hoped to overcome those differences by being a Muslim that crossed the wall to build this Christian community a Catholic school. Along the way, I also helped create a slum school with a local NGO. That slum school will need funding again in 2015. That’s part of the reason I want to win the Project for Awesome again this year.

If you’d like, you have about a dozen hours left to vote here. No login or account required. Just click the vote button :)

Last Update Before P4A

The Project for Awesome (aka P4A) is an annual charity event done on YouTube. It’s organized by Hank and John Green. This was the video – quickly done with me and Jory – before that event. It was unscripted and basically showing another side to this school construction.

Just a reminder that The Uncultured Project has been nominated for a Webby Award. Please help it become the People’s Choice by voting for it here.

Burning Man in Bangladesh?

If you didn’t hear the news, The Uncultured Project has been nominated for a Webby Award! Please vote for it as The People’s Choice by voting here.

Money Doesn’t Build A School

This isn’t the story of how donations built a school. Donations don’t build school. Watch the video to see what I mean.


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.

My Tweets About VidCon

I’m very fortunate that most of the folks reading what I spew on Twitter know me well enough to put things in context. But recently, I got called out on a couple of tweets by an anonymous YouTube fan. I know it’s just one person, but I figured it’s worth a quick blog post.

At home, I’ve been having a lot of debates and discussions with family about what constitutes being successful. As anyone from a South Asian or Asian family like mine already knows, success in my culture is defined by how big your paycheck is.

True for South Asian families as well.

So while I can list a whole bunch of good things I’ve done and the recognition I’ve received for it, there will always be relatives that will not see me as a success. I’ve kind of learned to live with that reality. And, others in my culture encounter the same thing (see here, here, here, and here for a story from Masarat – creator of the largest TEDx event in the world).

Though there are times when I feel my relatives are right and this week is one of them.

Last year, I was invited to speak at VidCon. I had about ten days notice but was able to come up with a presentation that I am grateful was very well received. Since then I’ve been developing a story about how momentum from last year’s VidCon led to even bigger things in Bangladesh.

Unfortunately, I will not be there to tell that story at VidCon.

Sneak peak of the story I had hoped to tell in person at VidCon.

There is no YouTube drama, politics, or anything like that. Stuff happens and sponsorship to get me to VidCon didn’t come together. Sadly, in light of this, my conversations with my family have kind of looped back to the debate on how you define success.

Basically, even if some in my family concede you can be successful doing something on YouTube, they will point out charity work isn’t one of them. Making music, making jokes, microwaving things, and making explosions is success in this space according to them (a metric measured, among other things, through sponsorship to events like VidCon).

I am very proud of the many friends in the YouTube community that are musician, comedians, microwave specialists, and graphic effects pros. And I love how they’ve taken these talents and turned them into a success (both personally and financially). I also don’t think their success means others working in other areas can’t also be equally successful by the same metrics.

But, especially given the conversations I’m having and have had with family and relatives, I can’t help but feel a bit down. My tweets were just me sharing what’s going on in my life and weren’t intended to be a swipe against anyone. I’m glad all but one of you realized that :)


So, I recently stumbled on this article (h/t)…

Click to Read

Article from The Guardian

I agree with a lot that is said here. In fact, I’ve said similar stuff myself (and got grief for it). I’ve also seen amazing stuff that’s really changing the conversation away from “poverty porn”. But, it also got me thinking, what do Bangladeshis think of my work?

Here’s what I found in a five minute search:

For someone who normally has a lot to say about this topic – I find myself speechless.