Scientific Research & Self-Development Activism
When it comes to anti-poverty campaigns, the most successful ones are usually the most star-studded (with the likes of Bono, Angelina Jolie, or Matt Damon). But, on YouTube, one soft-spoken non-celeb has created a one-man amateur anti-poverty campaign that dwarfs them all.
“The Uncultured Project” is the tongue-in-cheek name for the informal YouTube-based campaign started by Shawn Ahmed - a 27 year old Canadian and former Notre Dame University graduate student and scholarship recipient. Inspired by a speech by Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, author of the book The End of Poverty, Shawn decided to leave grad school, liquidate his life savings, and go to Bangladesh (and most recently Kenya) to help the poorest of the poor.
With no formal plan, training, experience, or real budget, Shawn has been helping combat malaria through bed net distributions, providing disaster relief after Cyclone Sidr and monsoon flooded, and has helped rural families and children through scholarships, school supplies, and even materials for home reconstruction. He chronicles his journey through video blogs on YouTube which, to date, have been seen an unprecedented one million times.
Part of his appeal on YouTube comes from Shawn’s unique approach. Instead of making the typical impersonal guilt-inducing videos designed to get people to donate, Shawn’s amateur videos tend to be positive, upbeat, and personal. Shawn calls his approach “Changing the Conversation about Global Poverty”. It’s an approach that has given even the most well funded and star-studded anti-poverty campaign a run for their money.
For example, the ONE Campaign, the multi-million dollar anti-poverty campaign backed by celebs such as Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, and Bono, have produced over a hundred videos in the past two years which have been seen 2.2 million times. In half the time, and with a quarter of the videos, Shawn’s “Uncultured Project” has been seen more than half as many times as the ONE Campaign. And, in terms of YouTube subscribers (individuals who have signed up to notified right away when a new video is released), The Uncultured Project is the most popular anti-poverty campaign on YouTube – surpassing even Bono and Matt Damon by more than a thousand subscribers.
The YouTube Community, in addition to providing moral support and advice through the ups and downs of this project, have rallied together to donate tens of thousands of dollars to this project. Money of which Shawn does not use to pay for his living, travel, or equipment expenses, but rather directly spends to support local families, charities, as well as multinational organizations such as Save the Children USA. To date, hundreds of donations have come in from 20 different countries from around the world - from Israel to Iceland and from France to the Faroes Island.
Although currently not a sustainable project, when asked how long Shawn will keep doing this, he replied: "for as long as I am able”.
This is a report from the I Power Crew, a group of activists and founders of the I Power community. We discovered Shawn's YouTube channel on YouTube and were astounded by how this legendary project had not yet been picked up by big mainstream media, so we decided to do a press release and Digg item for it.
For media inquiries, e-mail Shawn at email@example.com.