Uncultured Journey

Here are some pictures, taken in Bangladesh, by Shawn Ahmad.

This is his story:

My name is Shawn Ahmed – a Canadian from Toronto (and, before that, a small town in Nova Scotia). Prior to starting this project, I was on scholarship at the University of Notre Dame. While there, I was inspired by a speech made by Dr. Jeffrey Sachs (author of “The End of Poverty”). That speech inspired me to withdraw from grad school, liquidate my savings, and start this project.

I’ve been honored by The International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences, The Government of Nova Scotia, and The World Economic Forum. My work has been covered by The Globe & Mail, CBC, CNN,Global Voices, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, and Mashable. I’ve been called everything from a “hack” who is an “idiot” to an “incredible social good champion” who is “shaping the future of social good”.

The Uncultured Project is not an organization, charity, or anything formal. It’s my unplanned, unexpected, and “uncultured” journey to make the world a better place – one meaningful difference at a time. I do this by trying to be a bridge-maker. I believe we can use the web and technology we already have to directly connect with those in need and help in a way that’s tangible for everyone.

Most (but not all) of my work focuses on Bangladesh – which is where my parents are from. They are survivors of the 1971 War of Liberation (which created what is now known as Bangladesh). Their negative experiences from that war is why they left Bangladesh and why I was born and raised in Canada instead. Many in my family who left Bangladesh never want to go back – but that’s part of the reason which draws me to Bangladesh.

This isn’t a Do-It-Yourself project: whenever possible I team up with great organizations. One organization in particular that stands out above the rest is Save the Children USA. Together we’ve provided lasting clean water to an entire villagerebuilt a high school destroyed by Cyclone Sidr,provided emergency relief in multiple disasters, and helped over 10,000 children through a long-term health worker program.

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 realpotential 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 Bangladeshagainst charities & NGOs – one of which being charities and NGOs “eat the cash”.

I can be reached at project@uncultured.com although I do get a lot of email and am not always able to respond. If it’s something that’s not too long you can always try and reach me on Twitter. 

“Best Buy has expanded into the Third World market! And they sell toiletries instead of electronics now.”

Train Spotting (at Banani Rail Crossing)

at Naval Head Quarter, Bangladesh


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