Tag Archive for 'Global Poverty'

Controversial Thought of the Night

A couple of weeks before Christmas, I had the honor of lecturing about my work to students at Kansas State University. It was only a few days ago, that I discovered someone by the name of Kristine wrote this about my visit to the school newspaper:

Can anyone say an Islamic terrorist gaining dupes???? I am sure that he as an agenda, like most Islamist. But we are not hearing about that. Sort of like how Hitler was the biggest contributor to the ASPCA of Germany, but that never comes out till after the dupes have adopted his programs. Islam is devil worship, an authoritarian system of governance, and evil. Those are the facts. Now if you want to go around being a Stockholm syndrome victim, as in “they must hate me because of me, so I must be like them”, wake up. The JIhadist and Islamist want you to either submit, or join. Sort of like being in gang. Either you a Crip, or you an enemy.

I met a lot of amazing and kind people at Kansas State University. And I know everyone reading this will say this comment is just one person – but it hurt. It’s painful to think that someone can be genuinely alarmed just because I’m brown and have the last name “Ahmed”. And they probably aren’t alone in that thinking.

I have to admit, shortly after reading this comment, I kind of decided to curl into bed and sleep a bit for a good chunk of the day. So, clearly I don’t have as thick a skin as I hoped. And maybe, what I’m about to say next, is not something I’d be saying if I wasn’t hurt.

But, it seems to me, the more prominent, more distinguished, and more successful anti-poverty “speakers”, “advocates”, and “champions” (coming from my generation and my age group) are those who racially, religiously, and ethnically resemble the “Western donor” than those who racially, ethnically, and/or religiously resemble the recipients.

I have no doubt that if I went on stage not as brown-skinned “Shawn Ahmed” but as a paler-skinned “Shawn Adams” there wouldn’t be comments like the above sent to the school newspaper. And who knows? Maybe the idea of helping those in need in distant countries would have been more palatable to people like Kristine when it’s coming from people who are more like her and less like me.

Does Steve Jobs Care about Global Poverty?

Less than 24 hours ago, Apple surpassed Microsoft to become the world’s biggest tech company. As someone who used to spell Microsoft with a dollar sign, I can’t believe what I’m about to say: this is a bad thing for the world.

The only thing I love more than Apple is what I use my Mac gear for: fighting poverty in developing countries. In this regard, unlike Microsoft & Bill Gates, Apple & Steve Jobs don’t seem to care much about poverty and global development.

One runs the biggest tech company in the world, the other is a global leader in fighting poverty.

Before starting this project, I really wasn’t aware of just how much Microsoft was doing in the fight against global poverty. I’m not even referring to Bill Gates and how he has used his own personal wealth to create The Gates Foundation.

As a company, Microsoft is hugely invested in fighting poverty. They partner with charities that keep aid workers connected during disasters, they invest in global health initiatives that save lives, they match employee donations, and much more.

And, as I learned after the earthquake in Haiti, Microsoft even has a disaster response team to provide assistance after natural disasters – with technology, equipment, & even funding. This is mind-boggingly unprecedented from a for-profit.

NetHope (a charity Micorsoft has partnered with) provides connectivity for relief workers in Haiti.

In fact, in the three years I’ve been doing this project, it seems like virtually every aid & development contact I’ve made in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas seems to have (or knows of) someone who can help them from Microsoft.

The same cannot be said for Apple. In fact, to this day despite all the contacts I’ve made, I have yet to find a single person who knows anything Apple has funded or supported in the fight against global poverty.

In fact, when I started this project back in 2007, I placed a formal written request to see if Apple would help me through either lending or donating Apple software or gear. Their response? They don’t do that kind of stuff.

Click to read full letter.

I was also very lucky to meet some high-ranking Apple employees & engineers during my trip to San Francisco late last year. Unfortunately they too confirmed to me that, with one exception not related to poverty, Apple simply doesn’t have any programs which focus on charitable giving.

Until that changes, Apple will never truly surpass Microsoft.

Food for Thought

This year the banks and financial institutions receiving bailout money decided to hand out over $18 billion dollars in US Taxpayer Money in bonuses. Here’s some food for thought:

$18 Billion Dollars is twice the amount allotted for the mass transit stimulus package. That money would be used to shore up America’s roads and bridges – and help make sure that tragedies like the bridge that collapsed in Minnesota never happens again.

$18 billion dollars is also 12 times the amount needed to provide every man, woman, and child in Africa a long-lasting insecticide treated mosquito net that would protect them from malaria for 5 years or more.

Whether or not you think this is a convenient time to be worried about fighting global poverty, let’s never again say there isn’t enough money.

The Importance of YouTube


Last Thursday was a good day for the YouTube Community. One YouTube’s biggest personalities (Michael Buckley of the What the Buck Show) was on the frontpage of the NY Times. The article was about something a lot of people within the YouTube community already knew – how it’s possible to make money (sometimes a lot of it) through YouTube.

I posted this scan of the frontpage of that issue because I wanted to show you what the main story on the frontpage was. You might not think that a story about the plight and suffering in the people in the third world (the frontpage story) has anything to do with YouTube. But for me – and what I’ve devoted myself to these past two years of my life – they couldn’t be any more related.

We live in incredibly trying financial times. Forget the boardroom table, all of us are feeling this hardship at the dinner table. And money which could have been used to provide mosquito nets to every man, woman, and child in a malaria hot zone, or education to every child in the developing world, or clean water to every human being on the planet – is instead being spent on bailouts for Wall Street.

As it gets harder for us to p4a4by3convince politicians the importance of those beyond our borders – we’ll need new ways to continue the fight against global poverty. And YouTube is absolutely critical to that. This year’s Project for Awesome is a great example of that. We can keep the conversation going about global poverty well into a future where the mainstream media debates whether the day’s main story should be about a new bailout or Britney’s new single.

And, as my parents and I look into the family financial situation to see how many months (not years) this project can continue, this NY Times article is a poignant reminder of the fact that it is theoretically possible to make this project sustainable. All that we’ve been able to do together – all the lives this project has been able to touch – cost about 1/10th of what Michael Buckley earns through YouTube’s partnership program.

I’m not saying I will ever (or even deserve to be) as popular as Buck. Whether or not I can continue to sustain what I’m doing, I just hope that one of the greatest technologies of modern history can be used to fight one of the biggest plights that humanity faces.

Changing the Conversation: The 1010 Project

[UPDATE: The Project 1010 guys took the video down but I’m told the a new version will be up soon. I’ll fix the video link in this post when that happens.]

I recently stumbled upon this charity in Kenya called The 1010 Project. I just had to share this with you. Why? Just look at the video:

You aren’t left feeling pity or like you’ve been taken on a guilt-trip. This is how you change the conversation about global poverty.

I also want to get in touch with these guys because I want to know how they were able to get permission to use Sigur Ros’s music. A while back I tried to get permission but I never heard back from those guys…

The Day After Blog Action Day

One of the reasons I decided to be a part of Blog Action Day is because what happens on October 15th doesn’t matter. What matters is what happens on October 16th, 17th, 18th, etc, etc… until the day finally comes that extreme global poverty is a thing of the past.

Because, let’s face it, finding a blogger that doesn’t care about ending poverty is like trying to find a beauty queen that doesn’t care about world peace. Rhetoric is easy – action is harder. And I don’t mean making a donation – there was a lot of that going on yesterday. What I mean is making this a priority in our lives.

This (past) Canadian election and this upcoming US election are two great ways for people to do that. The fact is, if our politicians were as generous and concerned about ending global poverty as the people following this little project of mine – global poverty would already be something in the history books.

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)’