Tag Archive for 'Notre Dame'

The Final Year?

I plan to make a new video in the next few days – which will be more of a vlog. In it I’ll be mentioning that, unless I can find a way to make my project financially sustainable, by this time next year I will (most likely) have to end this project.

With the exception of Vestergaard-Frandsen‘s help getting me to Kenya for a couple of weeks, all the expenses of this project (airfare, living expenses, equipment, etc) have been paid by my life savings and by borrowing from my family. I ran my life savings dry halfway through last year and, to keep going, I’ve been borrowing from family to do this project. My dad has been the biggest source of financial support but it looks like he’s planning to retire in about a year’s time.

It was two years ago – almost to the day – that I filed my withdrawal papers at Notre Dame. Back then, I never thought this project would for go on for so long. Now, I don’t want it to end. There are so many exciting ideas rolling around in my head. I’d need more than a year just to do even half the stuff I’m dreaming of. But honestly? Not many people have parents as supportive as mine. Even if I can only do this for another twelve months, I should still consider myself a lucky guy.

Over the next twelve months, I’m going to go ahead full-steam and I’m still accepting donations (which continue to be for the poor – not for my living expenses, equipment, or airfare). But, on top of it all, I’m going to be keeping my eyes out for ways to keep this project going into next year. So far, YouTube partnership money has been ridiculously small – not even enough to cover a single month’s expenses. But, I’m hoping if there is a will there will be a way. I mean, Matt Harding was able to get the support of a gum company to help him dance around the world – twice! Surely, there is a way for me to keep this journey of fighting global poverty going :)

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 IconDrawer.com)

…Same Here

Just because you are in another country doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate Independence Day.

That was our motto on Friday, and we stuck to it.  Some of the FSD interns got together in the afternoon and watched the classic American movie The Shawshank Redemption.  We almost watched The Patriot, which would have been more fitting, but it’s just such a mediocre movie.

After that, we hopped on a taxi out of town and headed to the village of Bugembe, just north of Jinja.  There are four Notre Dame grads who are on a 16 month service project teaching at a local primary school.  Since they have already been here for 10 months, they went absolutely nuts preparing for this party — even to the point of driving to Kenya to pick up real American food.

The end result was an all-you-can-eat buffet of salad, hamburgers, hot dogs, and french fries.  The 20 Americans that had assembled (15 from Notre Dame) started the celebration by saying the Pledge of Allegiance and singing the National Anthem to the huge American flag painted on the inside wall of the living room.  Then, we went outside and lit off some of their homemade fireworks.  We finished the night the way any American college student would – yelling along to Bruce Springsteen’s Greatest Hits.

If the neighbors didn’t always think Americans were insane, they do now.

Better Late Than Never

Happy (belated) 4th of July everyone! Okay, I’m a bit late – but in my defense I’ve been a bit preoccupied since I’ve been trapped indoors due to flooding. At least that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

As I took this photo I just realized something. My brother is a junior in college now… and this flag is older than him. In fact, the Notre Dame bath towel you see drying in the background is just as old (my mother bought it for me as a kid).

And don’t think I forgot something else very important. That photo after the jump.

Continue reading ‘Better Late Than Never’

My First Post!

Musiibye mutyanno bassebo ne bannyabo!

I must say, Shawn did some digging when he was introducing me, but he didn’t get all the dirt.  My work in Uganda is going to be considerably different than what Shawn is doing in Bangladesh.  Hopefully, you know Shawn’s story (if not, read from the master himself!), so I’ll just share mine.

This summer, instead of getting the normal finance internship in New York or Chicago, I’ve got one with an NGO in Uganda.  I have a lot of help from many different people.  Notre Dame, St. Peter Church in Deland, FL, The Rotary Club of Deland, and several other well-wishers are all helping me to make this trip.  The internship itself is through the Foundation for Sustainable Development (FSD), a multinational NGO operating out of San Francisco with offices on four continents.  FSD placed me with a local NGO in Jinja, Uganda, where I will be acting both as a consultant and a student, exchanging ideas and developing a microfinance project that is self-reliant by the time I leave in eight weeks.

Now that I’ve got the intro out of the way, let’s get on to what you want to read!  I got here in Uganda on last Saturday, May 24, and I’ve been busy ever since.  I am not the only intern working with FSD in Jinja, there are nine others.  Week One of the FSD experience is culture orientation, so I haven’t really gotten dirty yet in terms of aid work.  But, I am slowly getting used to Ugandan culture.

I have been learning Luganda, the primary trade language here, which is why I greeted you all with “Good day, gentlemen and ladies” at the beginning of this post.  Three hours  a day of in-depth language training for five days will get you farther than you think.  It is like your typical language class on speed.  Check out the vocab cards on the wall:

Language Lessons

[More of Matt’s post including more of his first photos since arriving in Uganda after the jump – Shawn]

Continue reading ‘My First Post!’

Working to Help the Poor in Rural Bangladesh

Before you can help – you have to listen. That’s exactly what I did in my latest episode on YouTube. This video is essentially part two of my video on The Young Hardworking Poor of Rural Bangladesh.

Some photos and details after the jump.

Continue reading ‘Working to Help the Poor in Rural Bangladesh’

Religion, Politics, and Fighting Poverty

I don’t like to flaunt my religious beliefs.

With a first name “Shawn”, a family heritage in a predominately Muslim country, and the second in my family to go to a place called “Notre Dame” – I am sure I have left a few people wondering what exactly it is that I believe in.

If you read some of the comments I leave on YouTube – I’m sure it gets even more confusing. When I am responding to someone who makes it clear they are Muslim – I often cite the Qu’ran. When I am responding to someone who references Jesus Christ – I respond by quoting the Bible. When I believe someone is agnostic or atheist – I stick to facts, figures, and keep faith out of the picture.

The reason for this is simple – though our beliefs differ, our goals should be the same: We. Must. End. Poverty.

It also speaks to my belief on how we can achieve peace on Earth. 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.