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.
Donors Have Responsibilities Too
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.
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 ...
Tag Archive for 'UnculturedProject'
VidCon. In a word? WOW. As one friend put it, “it’s like the internet exploded into real life”. It was surreal, amazing, & awesome to meet people that I’ve only been able to see through my computer screen.
Even though there wasn’t nearly enough time, I’m in awe at how seamlessly online friends turned into “real life” friends. In most cases it’s like you’ve known someone for ages and are just hanging out.
It was also a real honor to be able to speak in front of 1,700+ people at VidCon. I can’t thank Hank & John Green enough for this opportunity.
In all honesty, if they were picking speakers solely based on number of YouTube subscribers & views, than I would never have been picked. But, that’s part of the reason I’m so grateful I had this chance.
I believe that YouTube is an unprecedented force for good in this world. Forget the haters – we as a community can do amazing things. But, I believe the power of this community remains largely untapped.
With the exception of YouTube featuring stuff, the conversation about global poverty is but a small teeny tiny fraction of the conversation going on YouTube. That’s something I’d like to change.
I’m trying my best – but I can’t do it alone. It’s hard because I can’t do what normal YouTubers do to climb the charts and become a success.
For example, I can be informal & casual but – given the subject matter – I can’t be too silly. Although I want to, I also can’t make videos on a regular & frequent schedule. I’m forced to balance doing a good job on-the-ground with spending time making videos.
In some cases, the projects I do take years to complete. They require planning, networking, budgets, on-the-ground trust building, and also need to account for natural disasters & political unrest which push back schedules.
The video I showed at VidCon is a perfect example. It took 1,000 days to bring this story to an audience. It’s hard to do something like that on a weekly basis. It’s for that reason I need the YouTube community to help me share & spread videos like this one:
So speaking at VidCon was very important because, not only is what I do funded by the YouTube community, the future success of this project is entirely dependent on how much support this work gets on YouTube.
This trip to VidCon wouldn’t have been possible without the support of Hank Green (VidCon event organizer and vlogbrother) who sponsored my flight to VidCon and Patrick Clinger at ProBoards who sponsored my room, board, and stay in Los Angeles.
When I was a student, I would often find scholars who were thinking the same thing I was – but were able to express themselves far more eloquently than I ever could. I’ve recently found someone just like that when it comes to my thoughts on charities. That person is Beth Kanter.
I don’t believe the reason extreme poverty exists is because of a lack of charities. In my lifetime, the number of charities fighting global poverty has grown astronomically. Yet, we haven’t seen a proportional decrease in global poverty.
The reason I haven’t formalized, disadvantages aside, is because global poverty won’t be solved with yet another charity. Instead, I believe we need to change the conversation and change how we work to solve this problem.
Before starting this project, I never realized how competitive and insular many charities can become. Some charities won’t even talk to their sister branches in other countries! And many charities expect outsiders like me just to stick to signing petitions and checks.
Whether or not it’s through my project, I want charities to be more about communities – not corporate structure. I want them to collaborate – not compete. I want individuals like me to be able to “plug in” and help.
That’s exactly what Beth Kanter is talking about. Except she does it from a position of a well-respected expert and scholar. Here’s what she has to say about how charities should be conducting themselves in the 21st century:
What I like about Beth is that she completely understands the frustrations I have to deal with. I’m what she calls a “free agent”: someone who does what a charity does, but as an individual. Both Beth & I think free agents should team up with charities – but many charities resist this:
Thanks to Beth and the Red Cross’s Wendy Harman, I’ve been making a lot of progress in teaming up with the Red Cross. In fact, I’ve made more progress in a few weeks with the Red Cross than I have with my year-long talks with Save the Children.
Prior to meeting Beth, I would have raised my arms in frustration at this resistance many charities throw up when it comes to teaming up with free agents. But, Beth has made me realize that I need to imagine organizations complexly. People inside may want change, but the organization itself might be a “fortress”.
And really, in many respects, people like Beth aren’t just talking about what charities should be doing. What Beth is really talking about is what charities must do if they want to exist in the 21st century. It will be interesting to see which ones evolve… and which ones become obsolete.
In January of 2007, I withdrew from grad school at the University of Notre Dame and began an unemployed, unplanned, and “uncultured” journey to help the poor.
Almost exactly three years later, that journey has brought me to within grasp of being able to talk to world leaders about global poverty at one of the planet’s most important conferences. I can get there – but only with your help.
Out of 75 applications from around the world (and many more that didn’t make the deadline), I was selected as one of five potential candidates to go to Davos. The winner, is determined by you – because it’s your vote that determines the winner.
I won’t lie. I’m up against some brilliant people. I wish we could all go – because I’d love to meet them all and brainstorm. At the same time, I know that it’s not like global poverty can be solved with a one week trip to Switzerland.
But this could be big. It’s the biggest thing to ever happen in my life and it could be the biggest thing for the future of this project. So, if you’d like to help, here’s how you can do so:
Things you will need [REVISED as of Jan 11th, 2010]:
- A YouTube or Google account. Signing up for either is free. UPDATE: You don’t need to signup for anything to vote.
- An internet connection good enough to use YouTube.
- The ability to get online every 24 hours until January 15th.
- If Possible: Friends & family who might be interested in voting as well.
Here’s how you can vote:
1. Go to http://YouTube.com/Davos
2. On the top half of the page, you will see something about the Davos Debates. It will have three tabs. Click on “vote”.
3. You will see five videos from the five candidates. Select my video called “A Message to Davos” – the thumbnail is my picture.
4. Once the video starts playing, click the green thumbs-up button. Wait a few seconds. Your vote has been placed.
5. You can vote again everyday.
It may seem that, with so many followers on Twitter and so many subscribers, this is all but guaranteed. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Without getting too academic, it boils down to public vs. private networks. My support network is very public. And, like every network, not everyone following me or subscribed will be reading my tweets, watching the videos, or reading this blog.
It’s very possible (and very likely) that many of these candidates have a group of friends, family, and colleagues who will be diligently voting. This could be close.
Every. Vote. Counts.
(Photo Seen in Featured Content is from Flickr)
Exactly one month ago to the day, a medical doctor working for Save the Children was brutally murdered by the Taliban in Pakistan. He was in a car with his sister & nephew. They stopped at a security checkpoint and were taken by surprise by a suicide bomber. Incidentally, both the perpetrators & victims of this terrorist attack were Muslim.
I tell this story for two reasons. First, fanatical extremists like the Taliban are a threat to everyone – Muslim & non-Muslim alike. Secondly, this sacrifice is one of the many countless reasons I want to support organizations like Save the Children. Few civilians have shed more blood, sweat, and tears than those working for Save the Children.
What strikes me about Save the Children is that they often shy away from putting the spotlight on their own personnel. This is in contrast with many newer charities, where the cause and founder are often one and the same and the PR brings attention to both. Despite my close relationship with Save the Children USA – I actually don’t know who founded it or who its current president is.
Instead of putting the spotlight on their employees & founders, Save the Children likes to put the spotlight on those who support their work. And, most recently, that’s what they did by putting the spotlight on me. It’s quite an honor to go to the website of one of the world’s most honored, respected, and storied charities and find your face on their homepage.
But, instead of telling you what this exposure means to me, I thought I’d share the many names of the many people I know that make Save the Children the great organization that it is: Nick Downie, Kelly Stevenson, Cindy LaBlanc, Ettore Rossetti, Erica Khetran, Lynne Lebarron, Hannah Kinnersley, Muhammad Zia, Josephine Koppel, and – most of all – one of Save the Children’s own that had recently paid the ultimate cost in serving others: Dr. Mohammed Ullah.
Few people (especially outside the armed services) knowingly choose to work in places where there is risk of death from natural disasters, disease, and violence. Few people see a hurricane, epidemic, or explosion and decide to rush towards the problem. And even fewer people decide to do all this in relative personal obscurity.
It’s for that reason that – even though this blog post sounds like I’m really really really sucking up – I’m not. Because they deserve all this praise and every ounce of support we can give.
Here are some of my videos featuring or mentioning Save the Children. I’m proud that I’ve been able to increase the exposure of Save the Children online. My YouTube videos mentioning them have been seen nearly twice as many times as every video on every official Save the Children YouTube channel – combined.
If you’ve been following me on Twitter, you know these past few days have been rather stressful. Here’s why:
First, now that a site has been selected for the Pond Sand Filter (which is what you guys voted for by leaving comments and video responses on the video I made called “Challenge Poverty”), the task is now to get this done on-time and on-budget. Save the Children is trying their best of course – but Murphy’s Law is always in-effect for this kind of work
The other big thing I’m stressing about is that it appears that YouTube is now blocked in Bangladesh. This isn’t the first time that Google services have been inaccessible from Bangladesh. I’m not going to jump the gun and say it’s government censorship. But, thus far, I’ve confirmed that YouTube is inaccessible in two different cities in Bangladesh through numerous internet service providers includingL the ISP I use while in Dhaka, GrameenPhone which I use while in the field, and even the internet service that Save the Children uses for its offices here in Bangladesh.
This could be a glitch or a temporary block. But, if indeed the government is restricting access to YouTube, this definitely puts a kink in this project. There are still tons of (legal) ways to make sure I can get new videos onto the UnculturedProject YouTube channel, but this makes everything harder. And YouTube is more than just a place to upload or watch videos – it’s about access to a community. And it’s that community that has been a huge source of support for this work.
Finally, I’ve been stressed a lot lately because, even if everything goes according to plan – there is no such thing as “perfect”. When it comes to providing safe and clean drinking water to rural villages, verything has its pros and cons. A deep tube well has the risk of arsenic, iron, and (depending on where you are in the country) of salt water. A pond sand filter, on the other hand, only works as well as the community that is maintaining it. If they don’t maintain it – it will just gather dust. And even if they do maintain it, they are only designed to last 3 or so years at normal use.
Hopefully I’ll catch a break somewhere: be it restoring access to YouTube or getting this Pond Sand Filter done on-time and/or within-budget.