All it took was one child to talk about his destroyed school in front of a camera: through the following months, thanks to Shawn Ahmed of the Uncultured Project and Nerdfighters, the world rallied through YouTube and raised enough money to rebuild the school.
This video tells the story: Cyclon Sidr hit Bangladesh back in 2007: Shawn recorded the damage, shocked at so many children's lives who were lost and then focused on a boy, Pidahouse, a survivor who took him around the town showing him the damage done to the school. After the video aired, the Nerdfighters, a community around the VlogBrothers YouTube channel helped the Uncultured Project raise money to help the boy. First raising enough to repair the roof and then, as more money came in, to rebuild, repaint the school and even get new desks. What makes it even more impressive is that those donations aren't even tax-exempt since as Shawn writes in his site:
This isn’t a charity or NGO – this is just an experiment in charitable community.
Because it’s not anything formal, donations are not tax-deductible.
Last year Shawn kept busy, and we have been following his humanitarian adventure. From the relief efforts back in 2007 and 2008, to the clean water campaign. Although he has many videos on his site, he doesn't post with much frequency, and it may be a good thing, even if it hurts his YouTube ratings:
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.
Shawn Ahmed's blog posts are touching, insightful and broad: they touch upon many different topics related to poverty: from Doing good, feeling good and Voluntourism, to the ethics of nudity in poverty photography, while also making a case for charities to seek beyond the celebrity spokesperson and instead invest in the average person and their online audiences. Follow and subscribe to his YouTube channel for a dose of optimism and a glimpse on how one person can change people's lives, a little bit at a time.