FAIRFAX, Virginia — TikTok is a social media platform that allows its expansive user base to create and enjoy short-form videos. The “For You Page” allows tailored content to reach users with video-specific interests, meaning it is easy to build interest-based communities on the app. This also means content creators can more easily achieve the “TikTok fame” phenomenon. This is exactly what happened for content creator Aaron Murphy – @murphslife, the founder of the Murph’s Life Foundation.
Aaron Murphy’s Story
In his early 30s Aaron Murphy struggled with severe anxiety that led him to reliance on drinking and smoking. He was told that medication was the only way to calm his anxiety and curb his addictions but following a contemplative period, Murphy decided he wanted to be self-reliant and save himself. He always had a goal of learning Spanish before the age of 34, so on his self-discovery journey Murphy set off to backpack in South America. During his time in South America Murphy befriended several Venezuelan immigrants and through them not only began learning Spanish, but also learned more about the political and economic state of several South American countries.
At the onset of the pandemic, Murphy found himself in lockdown in northwestern South America with the financial resources he had budgeted for his journey running low. Despite his personal financial insecurity at the time, Murphy was so deeply struck by the impoverished conditions of those around him that he gave the last of his resources to a family that was desperately in need of food and recorded the act on TikTok.
Users of the app were so touched by Murphy’s act of kindness that they began donating money to Murphy, not only so he could provide for himself for the time he had to remain in South America, but also so he could continue relieving families in need. As a result, Murphy continued his journey in South America throughout the pandemic, documenting the process of aiding South America’s poor.
Murphy’s videos accomplish two things. Firstly, his viewers not only get to see the conditions in which the poverty-stricken people are living, but they also get to share a first-hand account of people’s stories. This fosters empathy and awareness of the conditions in which the less fortunate ones live.
Secondly, Murphy facilitates change by using these videos to raise funding, which he then uses to help families in whatever way they need. Whether it be making children’s dreams of going to the beach for the first time come true, giving an elderly grandmother a real bed, or building a homeless family brand-new home Murphy uses whatever he raises to give back to impoverished South Americans. He states that his ultimate goal is to enable families to become self-sufficient, not just to relieve them of extreme poverty for a short period of time.
From his early days on TikTok, Murphy’s account has grown tremendously. As of October 2022, he has a total of 5.7 million followers and more than 130 million likes and has raised millions of dollars for charity. He also has a well-established foundation, ”Murph’s Life,” where people can donate money for Murphy’s cases.
Additionally, Murph’s Life maintains a blog focusing on Murphy’s adventures in order to raise awareness for poverty in South America. South America, specifically, has some of the highest poverty rates in the world with countries such as Bolivia, Guyana and Venezuela all having a more than 30% of constituents living below the poverty line.
While poverty in South America has been a prevalent issue with countries such as Venezuela, Brazil and Ecuador being among the most impoverished in the world, over the years economies have seen positive trends. These trends are a result of hardworking South Americans as well as individuals such as Aaron Murphy, backed by inspiring communities such as those on TikTok, committed to combating global poverty.
– Aarika Sharma