The Uncultured Project

Occasionally Next Starfish will feature a Spotlight post, highlighting a particular project or group that is working to improve the world, and that could do with your support – either by getting involved, by making a financial donation, or simply by promoting the project and the work they do, to your friends and network.

The Uncultured Project is really one man’s ‘uncultured’, ‘unplanned’ and ‘unexpected’ mission to simply make the world a better place. Shawn Ahmed was a student at the University of Notre Dame, and was inspired by a speech made by social justice activist and author Dr Jeffrey Sachs. In response Shawn withdrew from University, liquidated all his savings and began his work to help some of the poorest people in the world.

Shawn calls himself a bridge-builder, linking the poorest people in the world with those of us in the rich world, through the internet. His YouTube channel has now amassed over 2.8million views, and this year he won the online Davos Debates competition and got the opportunity to attend the Davos World Economic Forum.

In using technology to connect the rich world to the poor, his message is simple:

“The best people who can speak about poverty are the poor themselves.”

Take a few minutes to look at Shawn’s website and various online media channels, and if you think you might want to get more involved Shawn explains how:

“I know I can’t single-handedly end global poverty. My goal is to help raise awareness by sharing my story with others. It’s my hope that, through sharing these stories and showing the specific impact I am having, people will start to imagine the complexity behind the issue of global poverty. Despite all it’s complexity, I still believe we can be the generation that ends extreme global poverty.

I also hope that my project can change the conversation on global poverty. When I started this project, the conversation charities were having about global poverty was all about guilt. The only way people saw global poverty was through black & white pictures of emaciated crying children – with an ominous voice (or celebrity spokesperson) saying that if we don’t donate a cup of coffee worth of money a day they will die.

As I have been trying to prove with this project – there is a better way to engage people on the issue of global poverty. I don’t claim to have all the answers but I do believe that what we call “social media” can be used for more than just a mere fundraising and marketing platform. I believe the real potential is that we can finally hear what the poor have to say and help them exactly as they wish to be helped – and portrayed.

This project isn’t about raising as much money as possible. If you like what you see, you can donate. But spreading the word is just as (if not more) important. If you do want to donate, you can pick between donating directly to help the poor or donating to help to sustain this project. Donations to these funds are not used to give myself a salary. Instead, I am trying to sustain myself through support from friends and some family and other income generating activities. Doing things this way (and as just a guy) is inspired by my desire to find new ways to respond to criticisms in Bangladesh against charities & NGOs – one of which being that charities and NGOs “eat the cash”.

The Uncultured Project.

Photo by Catiemagee, via Flickr

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