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Expedition to World’s Edge: West Africa 2013

For the past 3 years, Jolkona volunteers have traveled to different parts of the world visiting our amazing partners and getting a deep understanding of how their work is having a lasting impact in the local communities. I am sure I speak for our volunteers when I say that these trips have been life-changing. Whether it is learning about a teacher who has taught in a Rio favela for 27 straight years, or learning about a family supporting an entire village in Kenya, or understanding the difficulty Myanmar refugees face in Thailand, these first hand experiences have really helped us appreciate the impact our partners are having on the ground, amongst some difficult circumstances.

First public trip: West Africa

Over the last 3 years, we have learned about how to design a successful trip that engages the participants through deep interactions with our partners on the ground. This year we are opening up our trip to the public for the first time. We are heading to West Africa in early April. We will be visiting 4 countries – Ghana, Togo, Benin, and Burkina Faso – and the trip will take exactly 2 weeks. We will be visiting 4 partner organizations and learning about everything from large scale urban waste processing to education in remote villages to microfinance and small business investments. I will be joined by these 5 folks on the trip:

Sue Jin Kim

I am currently living in San Francisco, working as an interaction designer for Amazon(Lab 126). I lived in Masan (my hometown in South Korea), Seoul, New York, Chicago and Seattle previously. I spent five years in Seattle working for Xbox, living in Capitol hill, drinking a lot of coffee, eating pho and listening music.

I have background in design research, design strategy and interaction design. I love travel- the latest trip I took was to Colombia last December by myself. That hat was an amazing time. I love new experiences, learning about new cultures and meeting people. It constantly challenges my perception about how things should be.

This trip will be an amazing opportunity for me as I’m deeply interested in topics like women and education; however, I haven’t participated deeply in these areas, other than going to women’s conferences.

Lena Alfi

Right now, I am spending few months traveling the world before starting my graduate school in the fall. Previously, I worked as a Development Coordinator at an international health and humanitarian aid non-profit, Project Concern International (PCI). I mostly work on the business development side (proposal writing) for a women’s economic empowerment program in 16 countries.

I was born and raised in Los Angeles, and my parents are from Egypt and Syria. I speak Arabic and little bit of Spanish and I enjoy hiking and yoga.

This trip sounds like a great opportunity to learn about the innovative ways people have generated resources for themselves, and to immerse into a new culture and part of the world I’ve never been to. As I’m starting graduate school in the fall in International Development, I would love to bring a new and fresh perspective about West Africa.

Monica Mendoza

Never underestimate the power of social media. I was introduced to Jolkona via Twitter when they mentioned a project in the country of my birth, Bolivia. I am now volunteering with Jolkona to apply my marketing experience to the work Jolkona is doing. Professionally, I love the audience engagement aspect of marketing and I am excited to help Jolkona seek out individuals who want to make a difference. I have wanted to visit Africa for quite some time and I am excited for the opportunity to see first hand how the mix of contributions and passion is having a positive impact.

Punit Java

I am passionate about finding new ways to connect people with technology to enrich their lives. I have several years of experience building mobile and embedded products with Microsoft, Amazon and through my own private ventures. I have a Bachelors degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Waterloo. I have been volunteering with Jolkona to help with technology strategy including building the web and mobile experiences.

This trip is a great opportunity for me to observe social innovation and technology in developing nations, and hopefully figure out a way to make an impact.

Nancy Xu

I’ve been working with Jolkona for 3 years on various creative endeavors like the Hulu commercial, event posters, and at the moment the website redesign. I’ve loved volunteering, social and community work since I was 11, but it was really the first Jolkona trip 3 years ago that changed my life. I’m looking forward to another life changing journey to see the amazing innovations, this time in West Africa.

A big part of these trips is the discussions and reflections that go on outside of the partner visits. I am thrilled about the background and experiences the individuals in this group bring to this trip. It will be exciting to see how each of us personalize the experiences over the two weeks and what these experiences mean for each of us. We will be blogging from the trip continuously and so check back often with the Jolkona blog to see our latest updates

Join a future expedition

We are going to be opening up our future trips to the public as well. We are planning expeditions to Central America, East Africa, and Southeast Asia in the next 12 – 18 months. Spots are limited and if you wanted to stay informed about upcoming expeditions, please send email to expedition@jolkona.org

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  1. Megha Jain / March 28, 2013

    I am really excited for all of you and would be waiting eagerly for the posts from West Africa. Exploring a different continent, new countries, new cultures and understanding their socio-economic issues in the hope of finding sustainable solutions. All in all this makes me believe that we are living in an era that is actively engaging and encouraging us in making Mother Earth a better place to live. Bon Voyage!

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