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Like many of you, I really look forward to celebrating Thanksgiving. Between spending time with my family and pets, and finding the balance between tradition and innovation on the dinner table, it’s always an enjoyable holiday. Most of all it is a good day for reflection (perhaps while recovering from all the food) on what we each have to be grateful for this year.

good-el-rodeo

At Jolkona, we also have lots of reasons to give thanks. Our donors support our partners and our mission of demonstrating that anyone can be a philanthropist. Our partners work with us to provide high-impact aid locally and globally, showing that great things can be accomplished with creativity, love, and social innovation. Our Give Together members, by joining this new donation platform, are helping us revolutionize charitable giving. And of course, we are thankful for all the volunteers and staff who have helped make Jolkona bigger and better this year by giving their time, energy and talent. Personally, I am thankful for everything that I have learned since joining the Jolkona team.

Give Together: Fighting Poverty & Helping the Philippines

Along with Thanksgiving, Hanukkah is also starting this week, and the pine-scented, carol-filled escalation to Christmas has already begun. In the meantime, we still have a couple of days left in our November Give Together campaign to Alleviate Poverty. Our partners for this month — Upaya, Dagbe, and Washington C.A.S.H. — could still use your contributions. With your help, we can reach the funding goal by Dec. 1!

Next month, in lieu of a new theme, Give Together members will be included in our major holiday campaign: Standing With the Philippines. Donations to this campaign will help Peace Winds America provide shelter, food, water, medicine, bedding, and hygiene kits to the survivors of Typhoon Haiyan (also known as Typhoon Yolanda)Contributions can also be made in honor of family and friends — a meaningful holiday gift, especially for the people on your “nice” list who already have everything. Win-win-win!

If you’re in the Seattle area, you can carry the grateful and giving spirit of Thanksgiving over into December — and cleanse your palate from the chaotic consumerism of Black Friday and Cyber Monday — by celebrating #GivingTuesday with us on Dec. 3. Head over to Facebook for event details and to RSVP. The festivities are free; anyone who donates to the Standing WIth the Philippines campaign during the party will be entered to win fabulous raffle prizes.

Celebrate Thanksgiving by Giving Together & Standing With the Philippines, and we look forward to giving through the holidays with you!

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Jolkona’s holiday campaign has officially launched! This year, we have partnered with Peace Winds America (PWA) to bring high impact aid to those who have been affected by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. With your help and the experience of PWA, we can bring high impact aid to thousands of injured and 10 million displaced Filipinos.

Peace Winds America is an organization that focuses on strengthening response and relief to disasters in the Asia-Pacific. Based in Seattle WA, PWA works across all areas of disaster response, NGOs, private sector, governments and military, to coordinate effective relief for disaster stricken areas around the Pacific. Using multiple projects to work on both preparedness and relief in the face of disaster, such as coordinating between Sister Cities, PWA is dedicated to preventing natural disasters from turning into humanitarian crises.

In the Philippines, PWA is providing much needed aid to hard hit and ignored areas. They will provide shelter, canned food, water and medical supplies. With their experience not only in disaster relief, but also working in the Philippines, PWA ensures that your donation has a direct impact. Your contribution will provide a Filipino family with food, bedding, water and hygiene kits.

While current efforts will focus on immediate disaster relief PWA and Jolkona will continue to support longer term recovery and rebuilding, by providing semi-permanent housing, support for local industries like fishing and agriculture, and community support including disaster education and counseling services.

We are excited about our partnership with PWA and the opportunity to provide direct, high impact relief to the Philippines. Luckily, it’s easy for you to get involved in giving with PWA as well. To celebrate the launch of this campaign, we are hosting a #GivingTuesday party at our office on December 3rd from 6:30 to 8:00 PM. Join us for free food and beverages, and a fun opportunity to donate to PWA and disaster relief. For more information and to RSVP, head over to our Facebook page.

Our holiday party isn’t the only opportunity for you to give. You can make a donation to this project any time here.

With the holiday season commencing with Thanksgiving on Thursday, bring the “giving” back to “giving season” by putting the Philippines on the road to recovery. Donate today!

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This December, join Jolkona and thousands of organizations across the US in celebrating Giving Tuesday. Set on Tuesday, December 3rd, Giving Tuesday is a day to celebrate philanthropy.  The goal is to get as many people as possible involved with serving their communities, volunteering with organizations, donating to an important cause or disaster relief. In the wake of Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and a season dedicated to consumerism, Giving Tuesday is a great opportunity to reflect on what makes the holiday season really special – giving.

With international involvement, Giving Tuesday has the potential to not only reach thousands of donors, but to impact millions of people in need globally. The first Giving Tuesday saw an 50% increase of online philanthropy, and this year is expected to grow even more. Another reason why this movement is important is it’s emphasis that anyone can be a philanthropist. As this idea is central to Jolkona’s mission, we absolutely had to be involved. We have several ways you yourself can be involved.

  • On December 3rd, Jolkona will be holding a special Giving Tuesday party at our office from 6:30 to 9 PM.  This is not only an opportunity to eat, drink, and celebrate with the Jolkona team. Its a chance to learn more about and donate to our special Holiday Campaign to support the Philippines. Take a look on Facebook for more information about the event and to RSVP.
  • You can also celebrate Giving Tuesday by donating to one of our Give Direct projects. With a number of high impact causes to choose from, making a difference on #GivingTuesday will be both easy and effective.
  • If you want to spread the spirit of Giving Tuesday throughout the year, you can sign up for Give Together, and make an impact every month.

Remember to RSVP for our Giving Tuesday party on December 3rd, and keep your eyes open for more information about our December Campaign.

As we eagerly look forward to Giving Tuesday, remember that there is still over a week left to contribute to one of our Poverty Alleviation Give Together projects. Don’t wait for #GivingTuesday, and Give Together Today!

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Alicia Holmes has the distinction of being our first Give Together member who was completely new to Jolkona. Not only had she never donated through Jolkona.org before, but she doesn’t know anyone affiliated with us, she’s never attended one of our events, and she lives all the way across the country…

We couldn’t wait to hear her story!

Age:  30

Occupation:  Senior advisor for a healthcare and pharmacy innovation company

Location:  Massachusetts

How did you hear about Jolkona, and what made you want to contribute?

I saw an article [on LinkedIn] that described Jolkona’s philosophy and contribution model. The type of projects that Jolkona was targeting — small scale, material impact, varying causes — resonated with me. I like knowing that I didn’t just contribute X dollars to a particular city or country; I know that I helped purchase books for a local school or provide job-training for young women.
Jolkona strikes me as fresh and innovative. I was floored when I received an email from an actual person, Nicole, after signing up for Give Together online. No “do not reply — distribution only” emails. Real people who care about their work and the causes they support are the people behind this organization.

How did you hear about Give Together, and what inspired you to join?

After reading about the company, I learned more about Give Together on Jolkona’s website. It’s a practical, results driven program where you’re actually engaged in the act of giving and can witness the collective result as more people join the cause. It isn’t just an anonymous donation on a website.

How would you define “philanthropist?”

I think the term philanthropist sounds so formal that most people wouldn’t describe themselves as such, unless you actually are Bill or Melinda Gates. But in my mind, philanthrophy only requires that you look outside of yourself, your situation, and try to make a positive impact on humanity. There are many more philathropists walking around this world than we think.

What other causes do you support, and what kind of causes would you like to support in the future?

Veterans organizations have always been important to my family, as I come from a long line of service men and women. My father is a former Marine and Vietnam veteran, and in their retirement, my parents have started a non-profit to provide respite for soldiers and their families. I guess I take a lot of cues from them.
Healthcare (especially nutrition and prevention) and education are at the top of my list as well. Those are just a few areas where you can do more than relieve an immediate need. You can support the development of skills that will be useful for a lifetime (and hopefully passed on to later generations). Small contributions are magnified in that way.

What would you say to encourage others to donate to projects through Jolkona or elsewhere?

If you want to make an impact, if you want to know where and how your dollars are being used to help others and make the world a little more liveable, this is where you start.

Thanks Alicia!

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Today is National Philanthropy Day, and what better way to celebrate than to Give Together? Take today to recognize and appreciate the positive impact the philanthropic community — you included! — has had on our world.

Our third and final Give Together partner for November, Dagbé, works to alleviate extreme poverty by providing healthcare and education to youths victimized by child labor and human trafficking. With your help, Dagbé can give some of the most vulnerable children in West Africa a chance at a better life. In the organization’s own words:

What’s your mission, and why? What inspires your organization?

We work with local care providers to provide basic housing, food, and restore social stability, access to education, and healthcare to orphans, victims of child trafficking, physical and sexual abuse, and destitute poverty, as identified by local authorities. Our vision is to provide support for the wellbeing of children in crisis situations, and foster an environment to allow them to develop into healthy, educated, and productive members of society.

So many Beninese children need someone to provide them with life-changing opportunities. Instead of living day-by-day working long hours just to get their next meal, we want these children to be able to go to school, enjoy their childhoods, and be set up for long-term success, and this is what drives us.

What’s your project for this month’s Give Together campaign?

Provide Critical Care to Keep Children from Being Further Victimized by Human Trafficking

What’s the impact of every $150 that Give Together members raise for your organization?

  • $150 will help reunite a trafficked child with their family (costs of staying at our center, investigation, transport, etc.)
  • $250 will help reunite a trafficked child with their family and provide them with school or vocational training for one year to encourage stability and progress.
  • $500 will provide for school fees and expenses for five trafficked children per year.
  • $1500 funds an anti-trafficking training seminar for 50 people. Raising awareness is critical to putting an end to child trafficking in Benin. These change agents are trained to prevent, identify, and report cases of trafficking and the training seminars have proved very effective.

In a nutshell, why should Give Together members support your project this month?

Dagbé is currently the only organization offering direct care services to children in crisis situations in this region in central Benin. Our efforts are critical to the children’s wellbeing. Our time spent living and working in the community ensures that the effectiveness of every dollar is maximized. We are committed to serving these children and this community.

We love impact reports at Jolkona. Do you have a favorite story you can share about how your organization changed someone’s life?

Our anti-trafficking training seminars have proved very fruitful. They are very well organized and attended by approximately 50 members of the community. They are also broadcast over the local radio to an estimated 15,000 listeners. Each training seminar has produced immediate results. A year ago, community members alerted us to a trafficking case only three days after the seminar. We were able to rescue a little girl who had been trafficked for purposes of sexual exploitation. We cared for her and were able to reunite her with some of her relatives and send her to school. We also worked with authorities to bring the traffickers to justice.

This past August, after another anti-trafficking training, we were alerted to the case of a ten-year old boy who had been taken from southern Benin to the north to work in masonry. Due to the long hours and harsh conditions, he had fled and walked nearly 100 kilometers until he was found by one of the recent training seminar attendees – hungry, with swollen feet, and in poor health. He stayed with us for several weeks while he recovered and we worked to find the best possible solution for him. His father passed away when he was young, but we reunited him with mother in southern Benin. She has very few resources to care for him, much less send him to school, and we are thrilled to be paying for all of his school expenses as well as most of his basic care needs.

These children would normally go unnoticed. Child labor and child trafficking is an issue in Benin, and many people are unaware of just how far some of these children get pushed and exploited. By raising awareness of the issue we are making a difference, with the added impact of caring for the children in the aftermath of an instance of trafficking and providing opportunities for them to have better futures.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Dagbé is thrilled to continue partnering with Jolkona. In April 2013, we were honored to receive some Jolkona team members as guests in Benin and together we witnessed the positive impact that we achieved by working together.

Remember to Give Together, and check back on the Jolkona Blog for more installments of the Partner Spotlight series.

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Washington Community Alliance for Self-Help (C.A.S.H.) is a nonprofit working to alleviate poverty right here in Seattle, by helping entrepreneurs become financially self sufficient. As part of our Partner Spotlight series for Give Together November, we asked the organization some questions about this month’s project:

What’s your mission, and why? What inspires your organization?

Washington C.A.S.H. provides the business training, supportive community, and capital to help enterprising individuals with limited financial resources gain self-sufficiency through small business ownership. We serve individuals at the most vulnerable end of the economic spectrum: people whose assets and wealth have been greatly depleted by the economic downturn, and whose circumstances — including English language barriers, lack of literacy or education, poor or nonexistent credit, or cycles of persistent generational poverty— prevent them from advancing out of low-paying, inflexible employment. Our programs equip people to take ownership over their financial situations by becoming their own bosses and making a living pursuing their passion—whether that is landscaping, handcrafting jewelry, or selling gourmet pizzas a farmers’ markets and street fairs.

What’s your project for this month’s Give Together campaign?

Washington C.A.S.H.’s cornerstone 8-week Business Development Training equips low-income entrepreneurs with the skills and knowledge they need to become financially self-reliant through small business ownership. For financially vulnerable individuals, the BDT is a lifeline to help them build their confidence and define, organize, and launch their own micro-businesses.

What’s the impact of every $100 that our Give Together members raise for your organization?

Every quarter, at least twenty ambitious entrepreneurs want to enroll in the BDT but are unable to pay for course materials. This month, Washington C.A.S.H. seeks contributions to its “scholarship fund” to cover material fees for individuals enrolling in the next round of trainings. For every $100 that Give Together raises for this project, Washington C.A.S.H. will be able to waive the course materials fee for one low-income entrepreneur to enroll in the BDT and take their first step toward financial self-reliance.

In a nutshell, why should Give Together members support your project this month? 

  • Washington C.A.S.H. serves only low-income individuals; the average entrepreneur supports a family on $22,267 per year.
  • Washington C.A.S.H. is unique in the Puget Sound region in that it offers aspiring entrepreneurs a comprehensive toolbox of services that includes training, coaching, financial assistance (micro loans and matched savings accounts), AND retail incubation through the Ventures retail store.
  • Washington C.A.S.H. is remarkably successful: on average, businesses more than quadruple their revenue, and just over half (51%) of clients experience an increase in household income, within the first year and a half of receiving services.

We love impact reports at Jolkona. Do you have a favorite story you can share about how your organization changed someone’s life?

Before finding Washington C.A.S.H., Nelson faced challenging circumstances; he spent years in and out of homeless shelters and battling mental illness. Then a counselor referred him to our program, and Nelson began working closely with one of our experienced business coaches. Through customized training and coaching, Nelson learned how to overcome obstacles to the success of his business. Staff at Washington C.A.S.H.’s Ventures retail store in Pike Place Market helped Nelson refine his products and prepare them for larger markets. Now, nearly two years later, Nelson is CEO of Organic Teas United LLC and sells unique organic tea blends in several large retail outlets throughout the Pacific Northwest, including Uwajimaya. Nelson is proud to be a client of Washington C.A.S.H.; he says, “The program reminds me of essential vitamins…our bodies won’t function optimally without the essentials.”

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Our services helps people change their lives; with your help, a struggling single mother becomes CEO of her own small business; a disabled veteran launches his own company; or a young ambitious immigrant family opens up shop in their new country.

Give Together today to empower low-income entrepreneurs to become financially self-sufficient through small business ownership!

Check back on the Jolkona Blog for more installments of the Partner Spotlight series.

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My father is a Vietnam veteran, so I never let a Nov. 11 go by without thanking him and others for their service — especially since our emotional trip to Vietnam in 2007 with a group of veterans and philanthropists. We had no connection to Seattle yet at that time, but coincidentally, we accompanied the Seattle Rotary Club and Son Michael Pham, founder of Kids Without Borders, on our first visit to the Go Vap Orphanage in Ho Chi Minh City.

Happy Veterans Day, aka Remembrance Day for our neighbors to the north and other parts of the world.

Southeast Asia is also on my mind as we are hearing worse and worse reports of the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan, with more than 100,000 feared dead in the Philippines and panicked evacuations causing chaos in Vietnam.

Jolkona does not have any projects in those two countries this month, but through our headquarters here in Seattle, we have ties to the Filipino and Vietnamese American diaspora. Check out this Seattle Times story for information on how these groups are responding, including links to helping the rescue, recovery and rebuilding efforts through the Red Cross, World Vision and Mercy Corps. (Both WV and MC are also based here in the Pacific Northwest.)

And please check back for more information as we work with our nonprofit partners to help these ongoing efforts, as well.

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It’s still Diwali for a few more days, so let’s start our November Partner Spotlight series with a nonprofit organization that fights poverty in India: Upaya Social Ventures.

Upaya logo

As one of three organizations in this month’s Give Together campaign for Poverty Alleviation — and also our neighbor in Jolkona’s new downtown Seattle office! — Upaya is creating silk weaving jobs in northern India for skilled workers living in extreme poverty. In his own words, Steve Schwartz, Upaya’s director of strategy and operations, explains why it’s important to support this project:

What’s your mission, and why? What inspires your organization?

Upaya Social Ventures builds businesses that create jobs and improve the quality of life for people living on less than $1.25 a day. We do this because we believe that giving someone a change to earn a stable and dignified living is the best way to ensure that everyone has a chance to permanently break the cycle of extreme poverty.

What’s your project for this month’s Give Together campaign?

Upaya is working with a Bhagalpur, Bihar-based startup that trains Tasar silk weavers on new skills, techniques, equipment and designs. By contributing to this project, you are supporting Upaya’s ability to provide both the startup capital to launch the business and the management support to create new jobs and remain competitive in the marketplace.

If Jolkona’s Give Together members raise $250 for your organization, what’s our impact?

Based on the program costs for its current portfolio, we estimate that Upaya spends a mere $250 for each job created — a job that can continually support a family for a lifetime.

In a nutshell, why should Give Together members support your project this month?

The real question is “If a job is the key to providing food security, housing stability, and a chance to invest in children’s education to families living in extreme poverty,” the question really becomes “Why shouldn’t Give Together members support the Upaya project this month?”

We love impact reports at Jolkona. Do you have a favorite story you can share about how your organization changed someone’s life?

Just one? I’d encourage everyone to check out the Face-to-Face section on our website to hear all about the folks who are having their lives changed by their first stable job.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I am not just representing a Give Together project; I’m also a member!

Join Give Together, and check back on the Jolkona Blog for more installments of the Partner Spotlight series this month!

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With November, we welcome not only the holiday season, but also a new Give Together theme: Poverty Alleviation.

This month’s Give Together partners help vulnerable people lift themselves out of extreme poverty in Benin, India and Seattle. Through Give Together, providing education and training to empower people to gain financial independence and live and work in dignity may be the most important gift you can give this year.

Upaya2

Upaya

Upaya Social Ventures works to improve the lives of silk weavers in India, who live on less than $1.25 a day. The nonprofit works with a local startup based in Bhagalpur, Bihar, to teach the silk weavers new techniques, equipment, and designs so the weavers can earn a stable and dignified living. In addition, your donation also provides capital for their partner start-up to expand their business and create new jobs in their region. Every $250 our community raises through Give Together will help Upaya create a new job for one of these talented weavers.

Dagbé

Dagbe2

Dagbé works in  the West African country of Benin, supporting orphans and children who have been victims of human trafficking. This grassroots nonprofit organization provides food, safety, healthcare, schooling and social stability so that children in crisis situations can grow up to be healthy, educated and productive. In addition to aiding children, Dagbé also educates communities about human trafficking and child labor, and what they can do to prevent it. Every $250 raised by our Give Together community will help Dagbé reunite a trafficked child with his family, and fund his education or vocational training for the next year.

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Washington C.A.S.H.

Community Alliance for Self-Help, also know as C.A.S.H, is a Washington-based organization that helps low income entrepreneurs develop their own business. Through their Business Development Training program, they help ambitious individuals who face obstacles such as low income, language barriers, and limited education and literacy develop the skills and training necessary to launch their own business, and become financially self reliant. For every $100 raised by our Give Together community, Washington C.A.S.H. can send one entrepreneur to an 8-week business training program.

The Giving Season

To learn more about these amazing projects, keep visiting this blog to read November’s Partner Spotlight series.

As we look forward to spending time with family and eating holiday meals (and stocking up on Trader Joe’s seasonal snacks), it’s also a great time to get into the holiday spirit by giving back, locally and globally. Check out Jolkona’s events through our website, Facebook and Twitter feeds for upcoming campaigns related to the holiday season — including our #GivingTuesday Seattle party on Dec. 3.

Start out your holiday season right, and Give Together for Poverty Alleviation today!

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During my journalism career, I spent more than six years covering religion, and you would think that being married to an Indian American would have helped whenever Hindu news stories came up. Unfortunately, my husband is clueless about his family’s faith, so my research generally involved a basic Google search, then a quick call to his parents or sheepish Facebook chat with his cousins. Eventually, I grasped the basics — at least, enough to understand that the giant pink swastika wall hanging we received as a wedding gift was truly well-intentioned! (We left it in Pune. Auspicious or not, no way was that thing going on display in our Upper West Side apartment.)Diwali_Diya

Maybe it was a stretch in looking for new angles while covering longstanding belief systems for so many years, but I always got a kick out of finding similarities in unexpected places, such as between Muslims and Mormons. And despite my initial whiplash over the swastika symbol, I still notice common themes between Hinduism and Judaism. Both religions have a plurality of adherents who barely practice the basic rituals, yet still strongly  identify with these traditions on an ethnic-cultural basis. Both have a “festival of lights” around this time of year. And both have a confusing range of calendar start dates and English spelling options for every holiday… not exactly helpful for a journalist!

In any case, the major Hindu holiday of Diwali / Deepavali starts this weekend. (Some say it starts today; some say it starts Nov. 3. Bloggers get to be vague!) And for the first time, we are attempting to host a Diwali party. Our festivities will consist of serving food from an Indian restaurant, lighting candles, playing Bollywood films and soundtracks, and asking guests to make donations to Jolkona’s Upaya project in lieu of bringing us bottles of wine or some other kind of host gift.

Here are some other worthwhile nonprofit projects related to India, if you’d like to make a charitable gift in honor of Diwali this week:

Happy Diwali!

P.S. Forgot to add: this holiday is also observed by Buddhist, Sikhs and Jains! If that’s you, please feel free to share how you celebrate Diwali, either by posting in the Comments section or on our Facebook wall.

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GET INVOLVED!