WASHINGTON, DC — Matthew Howard is feeling good.
The 35-year-old DC native just secured $50,000 in core funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation for his NGO, “What My Shirt Says.”
Howard’s NGO targets speakers of non-English languages both in the US and abroad who buy clothes that they don’t understand.
“I first got the idea when I was doing the Peace Corps in Kenya,” Howard told The Daily Orb. “I was at a cafe and the couple that owned the place came by our table. The man didn’t speak English very well and introduced us to his wife while wearing a t-shirt that said I love my husband. I asked him if he also had a husband and his wife divorced him on the spot. That was when a lightbulb came on.”
Howard said it was in this moment that he realized his simple skill of speaking and understanding English could save the world.
Though What My Shirt Says was only-recently founded, its website already showcases a wide range of testimonials from a variety of countries.
Eduardo Torres, a 42-year-old taqueria worker in Mexico City says he’s grateful. His testimonial tells the story of being slapped in the face on a regular basis by American tourists every time he wore a shirt that said “Drunk wifes matter,” to work. “There was also the added bonus of learning the proper spelling for wives!” he concluded.
Mohamed Salem, a 43-year-old Iraqi man living in West Palm Beach, Florida similarly tells of What My Shirt Says’ efforts with his University of Alabama sweatshirt.
“I had bought the sweatshirt at Kohl’s because I liked the colors and it was on sale. But every time I wore it on my morning beach runs, people would yell “ROLL TIDE!” at me. A lot of my friends call me Mo and I kept thinking they were saying “MO LIED!” so I would always take off running in the opposite direction. Now I can stick to my routes.”
Jakov Markovic, a 40-year-old school teacher in Sarajevo also shares his experience, explaining that What My Shirt Says saved his job. The educator writes that that he had no idea what “fuck bitches make money,” meant and is glad he doesnt wear it when teaching his third graders anymore.
Speaking with The Daily Orb over the phone, Senior Grants Officer with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Tim Webb shared his excitement about the project.
“Mr. Howard’s organization is an excellent example of the type of initiatives we like to see coming out of the younger generation right now. These middle-aged men looking for bargains, that aren’t causing any harm to anyone and living peaceful lives need to be reached and rehabilitated with the power of the English language.”
Howard is taking the next few days off to travel the world and celebrate with this team. His first stop will be Casablanca, Morocco where he plans to get a tattoo on his chest in Arabic that roughly translates to “suck balls.”
“No one will know what it says, and the Arabic will look really cool,” he said smiling.