Most of us only dream about being able to leave our lives behind to make the world a better place.
Shawn Ahmad, a 29 year old Canadian graduate student on scholarship at Notre Dame University, turned that dream into a reality by quitting grad school and moving to Bangladesh to help fight poverty after being inspired by a speech by Dr. Jeffrey Sachs.
By starting The Uncultured Project, Shawn is an ordinary guy doing an extraordinary amount of work with the help of the YouTube community by raising awareness about causes he finds important and raising donations to build schools, empower community members and more.
His goal? “To change the conversation about global poverty.”
The Uncultured Project is not a charity though, Shawn is quick to note. He has an unusual approach by accepting donations from individuals and inviting his viewers and supporters to help him implement the money to where it is needed. Donations can be sent for operating and equipment expenses or project expenses, but nothing is tax-deductible since this is a personal effort.
I think this is all fascinating– the fact that most people are hesitant to donate to causes from legitimate, established 501-c3 organizations, but the YouTube community and abroad has opened their hearts to help Shawn out with complete faith and trust in him. I think his transparency, savvy use of social media, genuine personality and perhaps a bit of luck have helped make this project a success. He also has backing from some big names like popular author/vlogger John Green and good media attention too.
Of course, the journey has been incredibly tough for Shawn as you would imagine and I am very much in awe of his perseverance and positive attitude in the face of cynicism, criticism and health risks that are found living in a developing country.
However, this initiative to me is an affirmation that the young generation does have the tools to tackle world problems in an innovative, collaborative manner. We are embracing technology and networking–what our elders think are mindless distractions and flaws– and using it for good. Social change can happen when we revolutionize the idea of charity by making it more approachable and human with deep, profound connections.
Talk to the people you are trying to help. Get their input and thoughts about what they need. Don’t just funnel in money and expect it to be used properly and effectively. The quality of aid depends on the recipients just as much as the donors. Shawn is definitely on the right track in my opinion even if others may think what he’s doing is unsustainable and impractical.
Check out this video to learn more about The Uncultured Project and why it is so special. I invite you to donate if you can to his projects or at least support him on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube so you can continue following Shawn’s incredible journey.