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Jolkona Foundation’s first fundraiser is now in the history books. It was a successful Hot Chocolate and Dessert Fundraiser Social where we had the opportunity to talk about our work and highlight the recent work we did for the victims of the Cyclone in Bangladesh. We mainly used Facebook to spread the word about this fundraiser. We tried to reach out to our family and friends in the Los Angeles area.

We had a turn out of about 20 people and we were able to raise little over $1000 during the event!!! We are very encouraged by the turn out of mostly college students and young professionals and by the fact that we were able to raise $1000 from such a small crowd. We hope to take the Jolkona message on the road more often in the future with plans to hit up Seattle, the Bay Area, Boston, New York, and Washington D.C. in the near future.

Here are some photos from the fundraiser: http://flickr.com/photos/21733789@N06/sets/72157603549562662/

We at Jolkona Foundation want to wish all of you very happy holidays and a new year to come! We hope that you and your families have a wonderful and prosperous 2008!

We recently received some very exciting news – Jolkona Foundation has oficially been approved as a 501(c)3 organization. This means that going forward all of the donations that we receive from you will be eligible for tax-exemptions. Even more importantly – every donation we have received so far is also eligible for tax-exemptions now. 🙂 The 501(c)3 status will also allow us to be eligible for matching programs at various corporations.

We were expecting this approval to come around April or May of 2008. Of course it is very exciting that we have received the approval within 4 months of our application (usually it takes 8 – 10 months), but, it also means that our plans have to be adjusted too. For example, we were expecting to launch our website after getting the approval, but, now we are scrambling to get it launched as quickly as possible.

Again, we are very excited with the news and are looking forward to the challenges of the next few weeks.

We were able to raise about $3,000 in approximately 10 days. Here is a breakdown of Jolkona Foundation’s relief efforts:

  • We distributed 561 blankets to help the survivors cope with the winter.
  • We provided 460 loaves of bread and 300 packets of cheera and ghur.
  • We gave out thousands of water purifying tablets, as well as other medications.
  • More than 300 families (i.e. more than 1300 individuals) directly received some relief supplies.
  • We built 8 tubewells (also known as bore holes and waterwells) and hence, providing whole villages access to clean drinking water. These tubewells will have direct long term effects on the villages.

We had initially set a target of raising $2,000. We are ecstatic to raise $3,000, but we are even more excited to see the impact that a mere $3,000 had on hundreds of families.

As we mentioned in the previous post, here are some pictures from our relief efforts – http://flickr.com/photos/21733789@N06/sets/72157603419527946/

We are really looking forward to bring more high-impact projects to our users and seeing the continued impact that our donors have around the world!

This past weekend I had the opportunity to go to Bangladesh to help with Jolkona Foundation’s relief efforts in Bangladesh. You might remember that we had a goal to raise $2000 to help with our relief efforts. We are extremely proud to say that we were able to actually collect over $2500 with the help of all of our supporters!!! I will post more details soon about the exact amounts we collected and what sort of impact we were able to make with that.

I wanted to write a brief post about my overall experience – probably the most inspirational day of my life. After driving for 8 hours from Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh we finally reached a remote village near the coast of Bangladesh which had been devastated by the cyclone. It had been 3 weeks since the cyclone struck and even after 3 weeks of incessant cleanup work, one could still see plenty of fallen trees everywhere. These trees that were completely uprooted, are proof of the cyclone’s power of destruction. Once we got to the village itself we spoke with the locals and heard stories that completely astonished us. I remember talking to one guy who had about 10 to15 people in his family. I found out that he did not leave his home after the warnings and instead huddled in a corner of the house accepting death should it come. He mentioned that the closest cyclone shelter was over 1 Km away and that even if they were to survive and leave their home, they would have nothing since their whole life’s earnings was in that home. Aside from the many stories like that, 80% of the village’s rice fields have been wiped out, children are without any clothes and shoes (in winter) because the winds took everything, from the roofs on people’s homes to all of their belongings and on and on… No matter how much TV you watch, you never know the true damage until you visit the area yourself. After this visit, I am convinced that is true for any natural disaster!

We were able to give out a lot with all of the money that was donated, but it still was not enough at all. Every one of the 33 families in that village got something from us which they were all extremely grateful for. We even provided some relief materials to the surrounding areas as much as we could. As individuals picked up their relief goods, they were shocked and grateful for what they received. One of the most touching things that happened to me was the extreme generosity these people had despite having almost nothing. When we arrived to the village, amidst their chaos, one of the families had prepared lunch for us to thank us for our efforts. They had cooked up some really good chicken – a meal that was probably better than anything they had in 3 weeks. I am still in shock about the giving nature of people who have so little, but am excited to be able to provide the opportunity through Jolkona Foundation to allow those of us that do have money to give, to be able to do so in a meaningful way.

In an upcoming post, we will give details of all the items that we distributed and its impact. This was the 1st project for Jolkona Foundation and something we are very proud of. However, that excitement was overshadowed by how much more these people needed and how our efforts seemed so little compared to the destruction in that country.

Before I close out the blog, I really have to thank all the generosity shown by individuals who stepped up and donated to our drive. Your generosity really had profound impact on these people.

I have put up some of the photos from our visit on FlickR and you can get to them from this URL – http://flickr.com/photos/21733789@N06/sets/72157603419527946/

Although Jolkona Foundation is still patiently awaiting its 501(c)3 approval, we at Jolkona are not sitting around. Aside from our cyclone efforts, we are fundraising, building the website, and most importantly forging partnerships. We are excited and lucky to say that one of our partnerships is with an incredible non-profit called Machik that is doing AMAZING work in the rural villages of Tibet. This weekend I was fortunate enough to meet with the directors and supporters of Machik in Washington DC, at their first annual Donor/Partner Weekend retreat.

One of the many things Machik has done is to create the best primary school in a small Tibetan village called Chungba. Over the years, their school has outperformed the other schools in the area, and recently the local government decided that Machik’s primary school should be the model for all schools in the area. It was so inspiring to celebrate this huge milestone with Machik and its supporters and it really goes to show how ordinary people can truly accomplish extraordinary things with the help of just a few people who believe in making a difference.

What I really took back from this experience is that making an impact even in a small way can lead to huge changes for society, which Machik exemplifies through its one initial primary school that impacted only one village but that will now be scaled up to impact the entire region! This is exactly why we decided to start Jolkona Foundation, because we believe that making small meaningful changes that improve individual productivity, can eventually lead to HUGE changes in the world as they get scaled up. So without going into too much detail about my trip, we are VERY excited to be able to create something that will allow our users to do exactly that, make small impacts around the world that we hope will scale up in a way that will really change this world! We hope that you all believe that too and that you will help support us in our endeavors!

You can visit the Machik website to learn more about what they are doing. I definitely encourage you to do so, if you have time!

As you can see, we were able to help out a lot of people with only $300. We are so encouraged by that result, that we would like to make another trip with supplies on Dec. 6th.

Our target is to raise at least $2000 by Dec. 4th for this next trip!

Please tell your friends, families, colleagues, strangers, anyone to help out the cyclone victims, even if that is with a small amount!

You can give in two ways:

1. By sending a check to:
Jolkona Foundation
P.O. Box 2153
Kirkland, WA 98083
Please indicate on the check that this is for Bangladesh cyclone victims.

2. By clicking here to send money through PayPal
PayPal will deduct up to 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction� that we receive.

As Adnan mentioned, we just delivered some relief goods to the cyclone victims in Bangladesh. With a mere $300 collected in 2 days, we were able to:

  • Give out 50 blankets
  • Distribute 200 packaged meals
  • Distribute 60 bottles of water
  • Distribute 160 loafs of bread to children under the age of 14
  • Provide 5000 water purifying tablets which can purify 7,500 litres of water

You impacted the lives of more than 75 families affected by the cyclones!

We tried to identify the most effective ways to distribute these items. For example, we gave some of the purifying tablets to tea shops in local piers for boats and ferries. These shops are the usual gathering places for hundreds of people waiting for boats and supplies. We gave the tablets to these shops to make sure the public had clean water in their tea – a common drink in this part of the world.

We also tried to focus on making sure that these items were distributed to areas which have not yet received any attention from the larger relief efforts. Bigger relief organizations are focusing on areas labeled as medium- and high- remote areas. We went to Rongdhonu (means “rainbow” in Bangla) village which is labeled as low- remote area. All 22 families in Rongdhonu completely lost their homes in the cyclone, even though they have not received any help yet.

We (in fact, YOU) were able to provide some help to every family in that village.

I am pleased to say that at this very moment, our friends in Bangladesh is taking $300 worth of relief items to some of the cyclone hit areas in Bangladesh. It is a very emotional time for us, because this marks our first project. Naturally, we are very nervous at this point.

We are also very excited that some of our friends have come forward with the initial donations to make this trip possible. We hope to report back in couple of days about the results from this trip. We hope the results will spur more of you to support our efforts during this time of disaster.

As you may know, last Thursday Bangladesh was hit by a category 4 cyclone. It caused extensive damage across the southwestern part of the country. Here is a short rundown of the damage:

1. More than 3,000 people have already died. The death toll is expected to rise since thousands are still missing.
2. More than 3 million people have been displaced. Most of their homes have been destroyed.
3. The Sundarban forest, home to the endangered Royal Bengal Tiger and a World Heritage site, was badly hit.
4. Many parts of the region are still submerged under water making rescue efforts difficult and raising fears of outbreak of disease.
5. There is a huge shortage of food, medicine, and clean drinking water.

Few of you have asked us if Jolkona is going to do something in this situation. Jolkona Foundation is getting involved in two ways:

Immediate Donations
As a first step, we are asking for immediate monetary donations. $10, $50, $200… any amount that you can spare in this holiday season will go a long way to provide much needed medicine, food and drinking water. Consider these examples:

· $100 can provide food to 70 people for 1 day
· $0.14 can provide 10 water-purifying tablets. Each tablet can purify 2.5 liters of water
· $0.50 can pay for 5 liters of Orsaline (a common Oral Rehydration Salt in Bangladesh)

We have agreements with experienced resources on the ground ready to receive these donations, buy the appropriate items, and distribute the items to the victims. You can give in two ways:

1. By sending a check to:
Jolkona Foundation
P.O. Box 2153
Kirkland, WA 98083
Please indicate on the check that this is for Bangladesh cyclone victims.

2. By clicking here to send money through PayPal
PayPal will deduct up to 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction that we receive.

We will continuously provide updates on our efforts through this blog.

Long term rehabilitation
Once the initial problems have been addressed, the survivors face the daunting task of getting their life back to normalcy. Jolkona Foundation will help out in that area too. Staying true to our vision, we will identify high impact projects where you can contribute and see the proof of your donations at work. We will provide more details about the long term options in few weeks time. The focus right now is very much on getting people the immediate help.

Please consider helping out in this time of need – any amount you can give will go a long way. We would also be grateful if you can forward this message to your family, friends, colleagues, anyone!

At this moment, we are building up our website which is an integral part of our vision and awaiting the approval of our 501(c)3 status. Until we obtain that status, donations that we receive are not going to be tax-deductible.

As a non-profit starting from scratch, Jolkona foundation faces a lot of challenges. Some of these challenges include:

  • Raising money for Jolkona Foundation’s operational expenses.
  • Finding projects that we would like to partner with.
  • Finding the right people to build out our website – an integral part of Jolkona’s vision
  • And more…

We are blessed to have a board comprised of highly qualified individuals. They have really helped guide us through the thorny process of forming a non-profit organization. In addition, we continue to receive generous monetary contributions from our friends.

However, for Jolkona to reach its potential, it is becoming obvious that we need more help from individuals who are willing to volunteer their time in a meaninful way. As a result, we are looking for volunteers to fill positions working in the following areas:

  • Website development
  • Coordination with partner projects
  • Coordination with fundraising
  • Coordination of Jolkona’s communication strategies, including our blog, newsletter, etc.

If you are interested in learning more about how to help us in any of the above areas, please send us an email to blog@jolkona.org. Also, if you would like to help us in other ways that weren’t mention, we would love to hear from you too!

JOIN OUR TEAM!!!

The success of a non-profit organization hinges on many factors. One factor is having an experienced Board of Directors that can provide the organization with solid leadership. Jolkona Foundation is blessed with such a board of extraordinary personalities.

Eleza, one of the co-founders serves as the treasurer/secretary of Jolkona Foundation. She is also enrolled as a MPH student (with focus on nutrition) in University of Washington. Before enrolling in the MPH program, Eleza had worked in the non-profit sector. She has strong experience in the day-to-day running of non-profit organization in the United States – something that was invaluable during the process of getting Jolkona incorporated and applying for 501c(3) status. She truly is the operational nerve center of our foundation.

Mushtaque has extensive experience in the field of public health. In addition to serving on our board, he serves as the Deputy Director of BRAC – the largest NGO in the world. BRAC is also one of few non-profit organizations that are self-sustainable today. He serves as the dean of James P. Grant School of Public Health, BRAC University – one of the eminent public health schools in the world. He also serves as a visiting professor at Columbia University. Mushtaque has received numerous awards, including the prestigious “Social Innovator of the Year”.

Noah has been providing Jolkona Foundation with invaluable guidance in our early days. Noah serves as the Executive Director of Calcutta Kids, a non-profit organization he founded while he was an undergraduate student in Marlboro College, Vermont. Calcutta Kids is an organization committed to the empowerment of the poorest children and expecting mothers in the underserved slums in and around Kolkata, India. Calcutta Kids does an amazing job at keeping down their costs – something that we hope to learn from here in Jolkona Foundation.

Anna has an amazing life story to tell. Her inspiring story starts with a young girl growing up in war-torn Lebanon, moving to the United States at the tender age of 17 with a handful of change, to serving as an Executive Director of one of the leading non-profit organizations in Los Angeles, California. She has accomplished all that at a very young age. Anna serves as the Executive Director of Academy of Business Leadership, an organization that has brought innovative approaches to the education of inner city children. She also serves in various women leadership organizations including Women’s Foundation of California, Merrill Lynch Inaugural Women’s Advisory Council, and Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government Women’s Leadership Board. Needless to say, she also serves as an integral member of Jolkona’s board.

While I serve as the President of Jolkona Foundation, the individuals mentioned above are the ones who really move this foundation forward. It is my pleasure to be able to work with such a dedicated and dynamic group.

The goal of Jolkona Foundation is to use technology to give socially minded individuals like yourself an easy way to make a difference around the world, where your dollar will go a long way and “every drop will truly count!”

Here is what we have accomplished thus far:

  1. We are proud to announce that we have recruited a board of directors consisting of very accomplished and diverse leaders.
  2. We have started to recruit for our Advisory Board.
  3. We have started recruiting volunteers to help us with tasks like marketing, fundraising, etc.
  4. We have submitted the 501c(3) paperwork and are now just waiting for the approval, which usually takes 6-12 months.
  5. We have raised over $2,500 so far and have spent about $1,500 on filing fees and services so far.
  6. We have started a blog on our website to keep folks updated about our work. You can read the blog at http://blog.jolkona.org . You can subscribe to the blog here.

We believe that change starts with ordinary people doing
extraordinary things to make a difference!

Here’s how YOU can help:

  • In order for us to build this website and our partnerships we will incur some start-up expenses so we are humbly asking for ANY donations you can give to help us get started… and remember that no amount is too small! You can donate securely through paypal on the website at www.jolkona.org or mail checks to Jolkona Foundation, PO Box 2153, Kirkland, WA 98083. (You can also pay by credit card but they will deduct 2% for their fees so we do ask for you to either use your bank account securely through paypal or just mail in a check.)
  • We are still looking to hire some developers once our website design is finished so if you know anyone who is interested that you can recommend that would be great!
  • We are looking for volunteers to help us broaden the reach of Jolkona Foundation and help us get our message to as many people as possible. If you would like to volunteer your time and/or skills, please let us know. We are confident that we can find something that will be rewarding and challenging for you.
  • We want to build a diverse partnership base that people would enjoy supporting. If there are any particular causes that you would like our foundation partner with, please contact us.

We appreciate your patience in reading through this long email. We REALLY hope you can help us out with any contribution…small or large! Also, please note that any contributions will reveive a retroactive tax deduction once we are approved for our 501(c)3 status.

Please please please forward this information to friends, family, co-workers… anyone and encourage them to help out too!

As I mentioned in my previous entries, we are awaiting our 501c(3) approval. Unfortunately, this process can take 6-12 months and it has been only a month since we submitted our application. I wish this process would go faster, but I also don’t understand all the details of the process. Once we receive the approval, you will be able to apply your contributions towards tax deductions, up to 1 year retroactively.

We are trying our best to keep track of all of your donations. You can help us out by making sure you give us detail info whenever you make donations through our PayPal system. Speaking of our PayPal system please avoid using Credit Cards since we have to pay a fee for every payment.

Let’s start with a quick review. Jolkona Foundation’s goal is to use small scale impacts to fight the socio-economic conditions impeding the individual productivity. The foundation will use technology to connect a donor with each impact. You might be wondering “Ummm, Adnan, what does that mean?”

Let me use an example to explain. We believe that for a society (a village, a town, a home, etc. take your pick) to survive every member has to be productive to the best of their ability. Productivity is different for different people. We believe for a 6 year old, it might mean to get education instead of working the streets. For a 30 year old man, it might mean spending time on his farm instead of fighting a civil war. For everyone being physically healthy is a requirement for them to be productive. Due to various reasons, many people around the world are physically handicapped and hence, they can’t be very productive. However, there are few organizations that are already doing incredible work in providing rather cheap ways of getting artificial limbs. By cheap I mean around $130 for an artificial leg. Of course, the caveat is that even this price is exorbitant for people in certain societies. Jolkona Foundationa’s goal is to help connect the person who thinks $130 is relatively cheap to the person who needs that $130 for the artificial limb. We will use proof of impact as the magic link. In this specific example, the proof of impact could be before-and-after pictures of the recipient. We realize that we can’t always do pictures as proof due to privacy and security reasons. We will work with the partners to figure out the best way to show impact without adding overhead.

Jolkona Foundation’s website will be the central place to do all our work. User will be able to pick out the projects they want to support and donate directly through the website. The foundation itself will not have any physical offices for now. We are also not having any salaried executives or staff at this time. We will try to keep our overhead cost down to minimum. When a donor donates to a project 100% of the money will go directly to the project. In fact, our goal is to make our budget available online for EVERYONE to see.

So, how will we cover our operation costs like hosting the website, paying for developers, etc. if 100% of donations go to the projects? The answer is Kona Fund. Kona Fund is a special fund we have set up within the Jolkona Foundation which will be used solely for supporting operations cost. Donations received in the Kona Fund will be used to offset our operations cost.

That was the theoretical version of what we are trying to do here in Jolkona Foundation. It is much easier said than done. While we have made progress so far, there is still a lot left to be done. We are looking for as much help as we can get. In the near future, we will outline ways that you can help us out!

 

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