Recently, a donor raised concerns about the quality of the construction work being done on a new school I'm helping locals build. His concerns were all raised by a single instagram.
From this single photo, the donor concluded that the rods were not joined properly. Therefore, this building is being built improperly. Therefore, this school won't last. Etc etc etc.,.
I'd like to address this and I'd like to start by sharing a classification system I've developed as an educational tool to explain to others how various charities build schools.
The Latest Chapter
A Muslim’s Thoughts on 9/11
As a Muslim, I feel personally ashamed at what happened on September 11th, 2001. I know I shouldn’t be – I wasn’t (nor any Muslim I could possibly personally know) involved in that heinous act.
But Islam emphasizes unity. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Canadian Muslim, Arab Muslim, or a Bangladeshi Muslim. It makes me think: the 9/11 hijackers probably prayed in the direction of Mecca and fasted for Ramadan just like me.
Yet, the first thing that most Muslims around the world did was point out that the perpetrators of 9/11 don’t represent them or Islam. As if distancing ourselves ...
Have To Be Poor To Help The Poor?
If you follow me on Twitter, you already know I'm back in Bangladesh. When I'm Dhaka, I live with my maternal uncle and aunt. Lately, I've been noticing a trend.
Just a few days ago, when I came back home carrying a bunch of groceries, my uncle chastised me saying "you better not have used any donations to pay for those groceries!". In his mind, using donations - however small - for my own food, clothing, or anything that benefits me would be tantamount to stealing.
[caption id="attachment_3748" align="aligncenter" width="499" caption="Toilet paper, antibiotics, soap, and pajamas - not taking a salary from ...
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
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.
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.
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 amazingstuff 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.