I didn't fit the profile of a subway busker: a skinny Asian boy with a terrible voice. But there I was, at the Union Square subway platform, standing behind an open guitar case with a few coins I had dropped in myself -- and scared. Yet, slowly, I began to sing, encouraged by the purpose of the Jubilee Project.
It all began when I turned 22 on Jan. 12, 2010. I woke up to several text messages, e-mails and Facebook messages wishing me a happy birthday. These messages continued to flow in until that afternoon, when news of the Haiti earthquake was everywhere.
Images of the aftermath followed: mothers who had lost children, entire schools and buildings in rubble, a nation in chaos.
Initially, I was in shock. But it quickly evolved into a desire to help -- a small donation here and there. Yet it felt inadequate. Meanwhile, more birthday messages flowed in, but with a markedly somber tone. So, that night, I went to bed with two starkly different feelings: a sense of inadequacy, and a sense of gratitude for such a wide network of friends and acquaintances.
Over the next week, the needs in Haiti clarified and so did my ideas. I wondered: What if I could leverage my social network and technology for good?
Here's the pitch: There are hundreds of viral videos, like the one of the little girl crying over Justin Bieber or a Taiwanese boy singing Whitney Houston. And if these videos could get millions of hits, why not videos with a purpose?
And why stop there? If these videos could inspire other similar videos for a good cause, it would spur a cycle of viral "goodness."
Thus began the Jubilee Project.
My first video was called "My Hundred for Haiti." In it, I busk in a New York subway station trying to raise a hundred dollars for Haiti. I figured this was a good idea because (a) I'm a terrible singer so this might make for an entertaining video and (b) I could actually raise money during the filming of the video. Unfortunately, I came $30 short of my goal. But, when I put the video online, something remarkable happened: Viewers around the world made personal donations, and some people even created similar videos in different cities. I was so encouraged by the support that I decided to dedicate one penny for each view of the initial video. When all was said and done, we raised over $700 and had over 1,400 views.
The purpose of the Jubilee Project is simple: To make videos for a good cause -- anything from raising awareness, to fundraising money, to capturing random acts of kindness. The hope is that each video inspires others to make their own video, which causes this goodwill to go viral. After all, goodness is contagious.
Since that initial video, I have partnered with a Philadelphia dessert truck to give free desserts to strangers, run a 5k for Haiti relief and spent one day without shoes. This is just the beginning, and hopefully others will join soon. But even if it's just me and my Flip camera, I'll be content. Because, at the very least, I'll have spread a little bit of jubilee. And, really, that's all I'm looking for.
For videos or more information visit www.jubileeproject.org, also, throughout the month of May, the Jubilee Project is participating in the Pepsi Refresh Project. Please support the project at www.refresheverything.com/jubileeproject.
Some videos from the Jubilee Project:
"My Hundred for Haiti"
"The Jubilee Project Intro Video"
"One Day Without Shoes"