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This post was written by Tysen Gannon, the Director of Corporate Partnerships here at Jolkona Foundation.

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Pacific Northwest Global Donors Conference. One of the central themes that emerged was importance of and benefits associated with giving to projects that empower women. This resonates greatly with the work Jolkona Foundation is doing with our partner organizations around the world, and coincides with women’s history month and Jolkona Foundation’s highlighting women-focused projects.

In her opening address to the international development focused conference, Kavita Ramdas, President and CEO of the Global Fund for Women, delivered a direct and inspired call-to-action for philanthropists. Ms. Ramdas highlighted the sweeping changes many grassroots women’s organizations have been able to achieve by connecting with grantmakers willing to take risks in funding small projects and organizations. It is often these grassroots groups organizing around simple needs and injustices that offer the clearest and most efficient path to making a measurable difference. Small projects–such as the Global Fund for Women’s contribution to the EcoWomen group in China which fund education and safer handling of pesticides–have achieved remarkable results for women, their health, and, by extension, their families and entire communities.

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This post was written by Nancy Xu, a member of the Jolkona team. A few months ago, she traveled to Costa Rica and with Astha Gupta, another Jolkona volunteer. They visited a school that benefits from the water conservation program and this is what they learned.

It’s middle of the winter back home, but it sure is hot and humid here in San Jose, Costa Rica. Astha, Maryam and I are on our walk back from the market, and we see Aitor Llodio from Aliarse, already waiting promptly with a cab. We give each other a warm greeting and are on our way. Today, Aitor is taking us to visit a school that has benefited from the water conservation program. Since the school is located in a low-income community, Aitor asked us to pack minimally to avoid drawing attention to ourselves. We chat along as storefronts become less and less dense, as we pass by mountains that are ex-volcano craters, and through coffee farms where groups of young men are catching a break on the sidewalk.

Aitor has been intensely involved in the water conservation initiatives for the last couple of years. The concept of water conservation is not quite on the radar of its citizens, as reflected by the nation’s increasing consumption for water. Since the government is not steering the ship to make any improvements in this area, a number of grassroots efforts like Aliarse’s began in hope of making positive change. They have multiple approaches to address this issue. Today, Aitor is going to show us the education and the infrastructure improvement programs.

The School

We arrive at the school and it seems to be lunch break. The children walk past in their school uniforms, and stare with curious eyes. A few schoolboys are playing a game of foosball by the principal’s office. Some parents are sitting on the curb outside of the school, waiting. Since this school supports a lot of low income families, most of the parents are unemployed. The ones that are registered as employed tend to be street vendors selling scarves and bootlegged movies to tourists.

The principle gives us a tour around the school, and we are all amazed to learn that the school contains many age groups of children. To fit such a variety (and volume) of students into the school, each age group gets 3 hours of the day. This essentially turns the school into a “shift” system.

The Water Conservation Education Program

Now, onto the water conservation education program. This program is architected quite brilliantly. Each school year, Aliarse selects a few schools in the San Jose area to target. From each school, they choose 25 kids between the ages of 10 and 12. Since it is not possible to give an informative course to the entire school, they developed a system where children with the most influence were chosen, and it is up to them to spread the idea to the rest of the school. The 25 children will consist mostly of the smartest kids in school, but a few will be the trouble-makers. It is important to throw the trouble-makers into the mix because if the program can turn their attitude around, the sphere of influence grows further. And the selection of only 25 children gives the program prestige, and helps create excitement.

Classes are over at noon for the elementary school section

Classes are over at noon for the elementary school section

The program consists of 4 modules and runs once a week for 3 months. The first part is an interactive classroom session. The children are taught the value of water, and how our delicate ecosystem and its life forms are dependent upon it. The second part is a class field trip (and kids love this one!) where they visit a local water purifying plant. The plant manager takes them around the facility and explains each of the steps needed to treat the water before it comes out of the tap. The 3rd part of the module is very hands on. The children are taught plumbing basics, and are empowered to help the school report or solve problems such as leaky and rusty pipes. The last module is about ways to reduce unnecessary water usage. The reduction of black water is also one of importance, only 4% of the nation’s black water is treated today.

Overall, this education program has proven to be extremely effective and reduces 20% (and sometimes up to 50%!) of the target school’s water usage after program completion.

Fundamental Infrastructure Improvement

Self-timed tap installed in school to optimize consumption of water

Self-timed tap installed in school to optimize consumption of water

Aitor is also working on another initiative that has even greater impact to water conservation, but comes with a higher investment. This involves a complete upgrade of the school’s water distribution system to make it inherently non-wasteful. For example, the boys’ urinal is an entire wall where a curtain of water pours down constantly from top to drain. This is inherently wasteful. The upgrade consists of tearing down this setup, and to add standard urinals in its place. In their vision of future upgrades, they would like to install waterless urinals instead. Another installation is a self-timed tap. This is common in our public bathroom in North America, but not yet widespread in schoolyards of Costa Rica. Old leaky pipes are also torn out and replaced with the new. These infrastructure improvements achieve 70% reduction of water usage immediately after installation. This is huge.

The government does not have the ability to fund these activities today, which is why Aitor’s organization steps in again. This is a much larger under taking. For this particular school, it has taken 3 months, a crew of 5, and approx. $8K USD to complete, and every school is different.

Luckily, they have one big sponsor backing them up – Coca Cola. Coca Cola consumes 2L of water for each can of Coca Cola. As resources become scarce, trend setting companies are operating in a more socially conscious way. Coca Cola for example, strives to be water neutral. They invest in water conservation efforts across Costa Rica to balance their consumption of water. This is all great, but the funding is still limited and Aitorâ’s organization can only hit 3 to 4 schools each year.

As we drive off after our enlightening visit, Aitor points to the fields behind us.

“That’s where the drug lords from Columbia reside. We do not go there. We lose a lot of kids to that zone. They do not come back.”

Hmm, foreshadowing for the next problem to tackle in Costa Rica perhaps?

“The Red Cross went in there once after a stress call, and the gangsters shot at the rescue van. They do not go there anymore.”

…so we may not be ready to tackle this one just yet. For now, we are loving the water conservation program here in Costa Rica, the Aliarse group and the Amigos of Costa Rica, and really glad that Jolkona gets to be a part of these amazing initiatives.

About the author: Nancy Xu is a multimedia storyteller for Jolkona. She works on video games and gaming gadgets by day, and aspires to make postive social change by night. Nancy is also actively involved with the independent film community in Seattle. She screens and introduces films for local film festivals, and makes documentaries and feature films in the summer. Feel free to check out her personal website, here.

This post was written by Danielle Rind, a member of the Jolkona team.

I was first introduced to Half the Sky by my mother after she attended an event featuring Nicholas Kristof. When I received Kristof’s book I had very recently become involved with the Jolkona Foundation, a non-profit that provides a platform for individuals to donate money to causes and organizations around the world. I quickly learned about Jolkona’s partnering non-profits and the help that these organizations provide. But this was only the beginning of what I was soon to learn regarding the endless needs and human rights violations that exist around world. Kristof’s book helped educate me further…

Each page of Half the Sky was a bigger eye opener than the last. Kristof provides detailed and moving stories of women who have suffered more than I ever dreamed possible.

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Here at the Jolkona Foundation, we empower, we educate, and we offer access to much needed public health services by connecting you with many partner organizations. More importantly, we believe in the impact we can make, especially by supporting development work targeted towards improving the world. Through your support, we are having a real global impact and are working to ensure that the changes we make today have a positive and lasting impact on the future.

March is National Women’s History Month and a celebration of women who struggled to unlock doors so that women today can open the doors and walk through them. The Women’s History Project organizes this month and declares that:

Now, more than ever, the work of this movement needs to continue and expand. Each new generation needs to draw information and inspiration from the last.

As part of our global focus, we’re spending the month of March appreciating the past and looking to the future. We’re highlighting our women-focused projects that are creating lasting change around the world. We’re also honoring the obstacles women have overcome in the past and how those women inspire us to accomplish even greater goals today.

It’s going to be an incredible month, and we hope you’re as excited about this celebration as we are!

What to make a lasting global impact you can see?

Donate to support the work of our women-focused projects today!

How else can you get involved?

And we want to hear from YOU! Share your story: How are you celebrating Women’s History Month?

Here at the Jolkona Foundation, we empower, we educate, and we offer access to much needed public health services by connecting you with many partner organizations. More importantly, we believe in the impact we can make, especially by supporting development work targeted towards improving the world. Through your support, we are having a real global impact and are working to ensure that the changes we make today have a positive and lasting impact on the future.

March is National Women’s History Month and a celebration of women who struggled to unlock doors so that women today can open the doors and walk through them. The Women’s History Project organizes this month and declares that:

Now, more than ever, the work of this movement needs to continue and expand. Each new generation needs to draw information and inspiration from the last.

As part of our global focus, we’re spending the month of March appreciating the past and looking to the future. We’re highlighting our women-focused projects that are creating lasting change around the world. We’re also honoring the obstacles women have overcome in the past and how those women inspire us to accomplish even greater goals today.

It’s going to be an incredible month, and we hope you’re as excited about this celebration as we are!

What to make a lasting global impact you can see?

Donate to support the work of our women-focused projects today!

How else can you get involved?

And we want to hear from YOU! Share your story: How are you celebrating Women’s History Month?

GET INVOLVED!