I'm Charlie McDonnell and over the last six years, by some miracle, I've managed to turn making YouTube videos into my job. Newspapers have a habit of calling me "The most famous person you've never heard of," which apart from being nonsensical and a bit of a back-handed compliment, does have a nugget of truth in it. In my cosy YouTube bubble, people think I'm famous. Outside of it I'm a quiet, boringly normal dude who got to turn his hobby into his career.
A month or so after I started filming myself talking into a webcam and posting it for all to see (with never more than 100 people actually seeing it), I made a video called 'How to get featured on Youtube' which, coincidentally, was featured on the UK YouTube homepage. As a result, my audience jumped to about 4,000 people in two days, and so I figured I'd keep going. Now I'm just about to hit 2 million subscribers and I've no plans to stop anytime soon.
YouTube has basically been dream machine for me. I get to make whatever I want to make, the money I've made has allowed me to move to London; and I'm just about to release my first short narrative film, as filmmaking has been a life-long ambition of mine. But it's also how I've met all of my closest friends - which includes people from across the globe that I've never met in person, my best friends and housemates that I see every day, and everyone in-between.
It's my life. I love to entertain people, to make the smile. But my hope has always been that I can use some of my online audience to help make the world a better place too.
Last week I travelled to Tanzania with Save the Children to launch their #ifyoutube social media campaign, which is part of the Enough Food for Everyone IF campaign, a coalition of over 160 charities working to make 2013 the beginning of the end for global hunger. The challenge Save the Children have laid down is that 2013 could be the beginning of the end for world hunger if the youtube community uses its voice to speak out and demand that world leaders take action.
I was shown around by 15 year old Frank, who is Save the Children's youth ambassador for Tanzania. And after spending a week with him, I'm now proud to say that he's my friend too.
Frank is a survivor of severe malnutrition. He became malnourished between the ages of 2 and 4 after his family was unable to afford food, but thanks to some help from a local charity he survived. Now, he's determined to be a journalist when he's older so that he can raise awareness of issues like hunger. He's also campaigning with Save the Children on behalf of the IF campaign, and central to the campaign is the question that as there's already enough food for everyone in the world, then why doesn't everyone have enough food?
That's a fact that really hit home when Frank was showing me his family village in the rural Korogwe district. They explained that the food they have is reliant on the crops they can grow to eat; if the rains fail or if the crops are hit by pests then they simply can't afford to buy enough food for the family at the market. They normally have two meals a day but when crops fail it can just be one. Frank's younger cousins told me that some days they set off to school without having anything to eat, when I asked them why they just shrugged and said 'life'. It was hard to see how for them hunger is just a fact of life, as it is for many children across Tanzania - over 40% of children there are chronically malnourished.
After showing Frank some of my youtube videos, he's now full of plans to set up his own channel, provided that he can get access to a webcam and some editing equipment. As it is he's got his own radio show which broadcasts on a community channel across Tanzania so he's got a potential audience of millions too. Frank and I recorded a special edition of the show while I was in Tanzania talking about the Enough Food for Everyone IF campaign with the other teenage presenters who are taking part in Save the Children's young reporter scheme. He uses his programme to talk about issues affecting children in Tanzania, like child rights and hunger.
My two latest videos are all about my trip, the issue of hunger, my new friend 'Mr Frank,' and about and how youtubers can support the IF campaign. Meeting Frank and seeing the determination that he has at just 15 to use journalism to make a difference not just to his life but to children across Tanzania was a real inspiration. And at this point, all I can hope for is that his story is an inspiration to you too, and that it encourages you to join in with this campaign!
To watch my latest video from Tanzania, click here
To sign up to the #ifyoutube campaign: www.savethechildren.org.uk/ifyoutube