On the eve of International Women’s Day, I attended a sold out screening of the film, Girl Rising. The energy in the theater was thick with anticipation and empowerment. As the film began, a hush fell over the crowd. Embracing every second of this amazing film, I learned of 9 girls from 9 different countries- Afghanistan, Haiti, Peru, Nepal, India, Egypt, Cambodia, Ethiopia and the Sierra Leone. Each girl faced with different life challenges from child marriage to abandonment, from the lack of education to violence, and much more. The main theme throughout is the power of education and how so many girls, millions of them, lack educational opportunities.

My heart swelled with sadness and disappointment as each story comes to life. Feelings of hopelessness overwhelmed me and my faith in mankind began to dwindle- how could so many girls be denied their right to freedom, to education, to choosing for themselves? And slowly, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, each girl showed strength and a fierceness that will not die. Each girl overcame her obstacle and displayed grace, light and pride in doing so.

As a mother of a young baby, my view of the world has changed this past year. Issues such as free and available education to every day safety become a common part of my every day thinking. In the film, Wadley a bright 8 year old Haitian girl is troubled as her world is changed forever after the terrible earthquake in Port au Prince. An estimated 80% of schools in Port-au-Prince were damaged or destroyed during the earthquake. Prior to the earthquake, about 40% of children were unable to pay school fees. Only 60% of Haitian children have the opportunity to attend primary school and only 20% go to secondary school. About 50% of all Haitians are literate.

With constant drive and fearlessness, Wadley returns to the makeshift tent school house every day, even when turned away because her mother could not pay the school fees. “I will come back every day until I can stay” she proudly reports. To Wadley, education is the key to her success in life and developing mind. Eventually, she wins and the teacher allows her to stay. With my child always on my mind, I pondered “What would I do if education wasn’t free or available for my young child? Would I send him to the local school house every day to try to be accepted?” Absolutely!

Statistics for education among young girls in developing countries is staggering:

  • Around 11 per cent of young people between the ages of 15 and 24 are classed as illiterate.
  • Worldwide, around 776 million adults and young people over the age of 15 cannot read or write – just under two thirds of them female.

– Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development

  • Studies show that every year of schooling increasing a girl’s future earning power by 10 to 20 percent.
  • Less than half a cent of every development dollar goes to programs specifically for girls, particularly those ages 10-14.
  • Girls make up more than half of the world’s 143 million out-of-school youth.

– Girl Up, United Nations Foundation

What can you do to encourage the Wadley’s of the world to fight for their right to be educated? What can you to do lift up women and girls around the world? What can you do to encourage equal rights for all? Through Jolkona and the Give2Girls campaign going on right now, projects and causes all over the world need your donations so organizations can continue the strong work and empowerment, helping so many girls in this world. And for a limited time, the first $2,500 in donations made towards women and girls will be matched by the Seattle International Foundation. So give what you can, give today! Educate girls! See Girl Rising! Find a screening here.

Jolkona is proud to be a part of this movement to support and empower women through the Give2Girls campaign. You can also be a part of this movement by helping to spread the word by liking us on Facebook, and by following us on Twitter (#give2girls), and Pinterest.

To celebrate and participate in Women’s History Month, we’re proud to be launching our third Give2Girls matching campaign, running through the rest of March – starting today! We’re dedicating twenty four days to improving the lives of thousands of women and girls around the globe. This year we’re partnering with our local champions of change, the Seattle International Foundation.

How does the campaign work?

Give to any of our 30+ projects related to women or girls, and we will match your donation, dollar for dollar, up to $250 per donor! Even better than that, though, we will double your proof! So donate $15 to provide workshops and other business opportunities for Peruvian women, and we’ll not only match your donation, but we’ll send you two impact reports. The campaign is being matched up to a total of $2,500.

Why this campaign?

Here are just some of the reasons:

  • Out of the world’s 130 million out-of-school youth, 70 percent are girls.
  • An extra year of primary school boosts girls’ eventual wages by 10 to 20 percent. An extra year of secondary school: 15 to 25 percent.
  • When a girl in the developing world receives seven or more years of education, she marries four years later and has 2.2 fewer children.
  • When women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90 percent of it into their families, as compared to only 30 to 40 percent for a man.
  • The total global population of girls ages 10 to 24 – already the largest in history – is expected to peak in the next decade.
  • One-quarter to one-half of girls in developing countries become mothers before age 18; 14 million girls aged 15 to 19 give birth in developing countries each year.
  • Medical complications from pregnancy are the leading cause of death among girls ages 15 to 19 worldwide. Compared with women ages 20 to 24, girls ages 10 to 14 are five times more likely to die from childbirth, and girls 15 to 19 are up to twice as likely, worldwide.
  • Approximately one-quarter of girls in developing countries are not in school.

(statistics taken from

I’ve said this many a time, and I won’t apologize for saying it again: at Jolkona it is necessary that we talk about statistics, of course. Statistics give us the overarching picture. But what fuels the fire that drives us is the story behind each statistic – the individual. And this is what we want you to see. This is why we give you, the philanthropist, not just the chance to change statistics, but to actually glimpse into the life of the individual behind the statistic by seeing exactly how your donation makes an impact.

Our Give2girls campaign is not about changing statistics; it’s about changing people’s lives. So let’s do that.

Here are 4 ways for you to take action today:

  1. Make an investment in women and girls. Choose from over 30 different projects that support women and girls and give to girls today
  2. Get Educated. Learn about the history of Women’s History Month and then learn about investing in women for poverty alleviation. We like the Girl Effect and UN’s womenwatch
  3. Watch the film Girl Rising made by the inspiring 10×10. Find a screening here.
  4. Spread the word. Support this movement by sharing the importance of investing in girls for poverty alleviation and share our campaign. Tweet using #Give2girls.
You can also help spread the word by liking us on Facebook, and by following us on Twitter, and Pinterest.

My wife told me this week that if we have a daughter one day, she wants her middle name to be Sojourner. “Pretty name,” I thought. “Bit of a mouthful, but on the flip side also not common, which fits the trend of parents finding alternative names for their children. Quite post-modern.” 

Not post-modern at all, actually. She then proceeded to tell me about Sojourner Truth, an African-American abolitionist and women’s rights activist from the 19th century. Had I ever heard of her before? Nope. Have you?

It occurred to me: despite the fact that I care about women’s rights and that, yes, I would call myself a feminist, my knowledge of women’s history is patchy at best. Surely, if I want to be someone who helps shape the future of gender equality, then mustn’t I know about its past? Good thing, then, that March is Women’s History Month.

Women’s History Month

Women’s History Month is a world-wide movement that looks back and celebrates the tenacious achievements of women in our history, with a mind to looking forward and increasing awareness of the great distance that is yet to be traveled to achieve gender equality. To celebrate and support Women’s History Month, we’re going to be rolling out our 3rd annual Give2Girls campaign (details of that to follow soon!). But this year, we want everyone (myself included) to come a little better prepared. We want everyone to educate themselves – a lot, a little –  in women’s history.

Get educated!

Ignorance, I believe, lies at the heart of most prejudice and misunderstanding. Ignorance, therefore, is one of the biggest hindrances to the advancement of gender equality. Here are some websites we love that have some excellent material on women’s history: –

The National Women’s History Museum. This also includes a great online exhibit.

The Smithsonian Museum

The History Channel

Women’s History Month starts tomorrow; learn something today!

Follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest and keep up to date with all we are doing and the impact you are making.

With the exception of perhaps the word security, stick the adjective social in front of any noun nowadays and it is suddenly rendered amicable, manageable, and even hip. Think media and imagine the infinitely vast voices of bias reporting, misreporting, and loyal agendas. Social media on the other hand, well that’s all swell. Networking, though perhaps necessary, is positively obsequious. Social networking? – totally keeping it casual. Engineering evokes highly complex designs and mind-boggling math. Social Engineering (it does exist) sounds quite delightful! Worker: bland. Social worker: tell me more! The word social even makes marketing sound bearable.

What about social justice, then?

I sense, just like the phrase “global development,” the phrase social justice draws us largely to nod our heads knowingly as we acknowledge its familiarity and importance, yet at the same time, somewhere in our subconscious, its magnitude shrouds it in uncertainty. Or perhaps it’s the familiarity itself – the phrase we’ve heard repeated over and over by reporters, politicians, advocates, friends – that causes the disconnect. Maybe it doesn’t really mean anything to us anymore. It is simply an issue in the world and a repertoire in our language.

World Day of Social Justice

The UN has officially recognized today, February 20th, as World Day of Social Justice. And at Jolkona we’re hoping that today you will stop and remember social justice, allow it to move from the nebulous area of your subconscious to the forefront and brightness of your conscience. And then: act upon it.

What can I do?

The UN says it concisely:

“We uphold the principles of social justice when we promote gender equality or the rights of indigenous peoples and migrants. We advance social justice when we remove barriers that people face because of gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion, culture or disability.”

Here are three projects you can support via our Jolkona giving platform which tackle social justice:

1. Provide Education for Disabled Children in Nepal. $36 sponsors one disabled child for a month of education. Proof of Impact: You will receive information and a photo of the student you are helping to sponsor.

2. Give Tech and Life Skills to Homeless Women in Seattle. $50 funds a basic life skills class to a group of women. Proof of Impact: you will receive information about the class that you provided.

3. Invest in Women Grassroots Leaders. $100 will supports women leaders participating in iLEAP’s fellowship program by providing a stipend for one week. Proof of Impact: you will receive the name and information about the woman fellow you support.

You can define justice in many ways. But one thing justice does is it puts power in the hands of the powerless. This is why we always talk about empowerment. Because when you donate, you’re not just giving to someone; you’re empowering someone.

Remember social justice. Empower someone today.

Spread social justice via social media: like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and re-pin our pins on Pinterest.

Note from the Editor: today is Valentine’s Day, but it’s also Generosity Day. We wanted to honor the generosity of Megan Fleming and all the stalwart work and time she has given to Jolkona. Be inspired by her generosity.

Megan Fleming, Jolkona volunteer since 2010, is a part of the Social Media and Communications team. Previously with Banyan Branch and now working on the Social Innovation team at Waggener Edstrom (where a few other stellar Jolkona volunteers also work), Megan is taking the lead on Twitter engagement for Jolkona and we are so grateful for her contributions.

In addition to the hours she spends tweeting for Jolkona, she also has assisted in procuring and fundraising for Jolkona’s annual fundraiser Corks n’ Forks as well as participating in strategic planning sessions.

Megan’s passion for volunteerism started before she came to Jolkona. Traveling through South East Asia in 2009 and 2010, Megan explored Cambodia. As she traveled to the beaches of Sihanoukville she witnessed the ugliness of pedophilia, sex tourism and general lack of respect for young children living in poverty.

Wanting to help these children, who live on less than $1 a day, she dedicated her time and energy to CCPP Cambodian Children’s Painting Project. At CCPP children not only have a safe place to visit, but also can learn and play.

At CCPP, children complete 2 paintings a day and then the pieces are sold at a gallery for $4 each. $2 goes to the child and the other $2 goes back to the program. Additionally, there are English lessons, typing classes, arts and crafts as well as games. They also experience field trips and receive hot meals, dental care, health care and clothing if needed.

Megan worked with children ranging in age from 1.5- 18 years old and came home with stories of little ones that warmed her heart, made her laugh and always had a smile for her. After her travels, Megan started working in social media and joined Jolkona as a volunteer to continue working towards funding global development and spreading awareness about Jolkona and its partners.

“One of the things I love most about Megan is her passion and enthusiasm for global development and poverty alleviation and her commitment to use her professional skills and expertise to give back.  For the past couple of years, Megan has been an instrumental piece of our social media engagement with donors and supporters and has helped keep our community engaged and aware of what’s going on with Jolkona and how they can help.  She’s also is willing to help support other teams and spread the word about Jolkona as needed which is always great in a small organization.  We’ve loved having her involved and a part of the Jolkona team!”  -Nadia Mahmud 

“As the person in charge of this blog, having people spread the word about what we’re saying is essential. Megan has totally been that person. That makes Megan essential. But it’s more than just spreading the word; it’s about believing in the message and wholeheartedly getting behind it. Megan has done this, and this is indispensable. She’s been the perfect confluence of passion, enthusiasm, and professionalism. Thank you, Megan!” – Gabriel St. John 

Megan has been an instrumental part of our social media success and is in charge of much of our engagement with our amazing tweets. Because Jolkona doesn’t spend any money on marketing or advertising, we really rely on the power of social media to outreach and spread awareness of our work and the amazing partners we work with. We are so thankful for Megan’s continued contributions and energy. Thank you Megan for being a part of Jolkona over the past couple years!

You can follow Megan on Twitter @MegMarieF.

Be inspired; be generous. Make a difference today. 

Share the love with those in need this Generosity Day by making a donation through Jolkona.

Or send one of Jolkona’s Valentine’s Day gift cards to the ones you love.

Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and re-pin our pins on Pinterest.

I was at one of Jolkona’s All Hands Meetings recently, and one of the ice-breaker questions posed to us was, “What’s one of the kindest things you’ve ever done?” It was an apt question seeing that we were all involved in philanthropy. Because it’s one thing being asked that if you all work for – I don’t know – Goldman Sachs, but it’s quite another when you all work or volunteer at a non-profit. And to be perfectly honest, I had a torrid time trying find an answer. Not because I was overwhelmed by the abundant choice of numerous and extraordinary acts of generosity that I had so compassionately performed; rather, it was for a complete lack of them. But ask me what’s one of my favorite places to eat, or one of my favorite Bob Dylan albums and you can bet I’ll give you several answers straight off the bat (Pho Cyclo, Poquitos, Blonde On Blonde, Blood On The Tracks….).

Why is this? I think it’s simple: food and music are significant parts of my life. Acts of kindness, less so.

Enter Generosity Day.

Generosity Day

Generosity Day started with Sasha Dichter, Chief Innovation Officer at Acumen Fund. Struck by his feelings of wanting to ignore the person who had boarded the train asking for money, he one day decided to start what he called the “Generosty Experiment”—a month-long experiment to say “yes” to every single request for help. Later in February 2011, a small group of people participated in a panel discussion during Social Media Week. After the discussion, Sasha Dichter was talking to the other panelists about his “Generosity Experiment”. Inspired and energized, the group suggested that they rally people around generosity on Valentine’s Day, which was just three days later.

Dichter later gave a brilliant TED talk about his experiment. In it he candidly admits that, despite working at a ground breaking non-profit, fundraising for many worthy causes, and caring deeply about the world’s brokenness, he was still a person who said No to generosity. His experiment was an attempt to break that habit.

I think most of us can relate to the reflex of No when we’re approached for help. Or maybe we sometimes say Yes, but in our heads and our hearts we’re thinking No. As Dichter comments, breaking that habit requires practice. And that is what Generosity Day is about: beginning to make acts of kindness a normal part of our lives. But this isn’t some Occupy Valentine’s Day movement. Instead, it’s about reclaiming Valentine’s Day with acts of sincere kindness and love – not obligation. It’s about making a start.

Dichter writes on his blog,

“Give to people on the street. Tip outrageously. Help a stranger. Write a note telling someone how much you appreciate them. Smile. Donate (more) to a cause that means a lot to you. Take clothes to GoodWill. Share your toys (grownups and kids). Be patient with yourself and with others. Replace the toilet paper in the bathroom. All generous acts count!”

And here’s another great thing about Generosity Day, it doesn’t – as Valentine’s Day so shamefully does – exclude those who are single or without love. Single, engaged, married, divorced, or widowed, it calls all of us to participate.

How will you participate?

Here are a few generous ideas for you:

Find out more and go to the Generosity Day website here.

Witness acts of generosity via the Facebook page.

Tweet the love using the #generosityday hashtag.

Share the love with those in need this Generosity Day by making a donation through Jolkona.

Or here’s a loving idea I wrote about earlier this week: Jolkona’s Valentine’s Day gift cards.

Spread the love and like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and re-pin our pins on Pinterest.

As an English teacher living in Italy I used to make all my students memorize Shakespeare. It didn’t matter what level they were – beginners or advanced – everyone had to memorize Shakespeare. Specifically, Sonnet XVIII: “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? / Thou art more lovely and more temperate….” At the beginning of every lesson I would reveal a new line and, like they used to do in the good old days, we would chant it together over and over. Usually, the aim was to have them memorize it in full for Valentine’s Day. The joke being, if they didn’t have a romantic figure in their life, it was a sure way to get one; and if they did, it was a sure way to keep them! But truthfully, I used to do it for other reasons: it was different, it was certainly practical (okay maybe not quite as practical as “Excuse me, where is the train station?” But it still had plenty of good vocabulary and useful grammar structures to learn), it was powerful, and it was memorable.

Wouldn’t it be great, then, if we could do the same with Valentine’s Day this year? Not memorize Shakespeare (though that would be quite a worthy feat in itself), but couldn’t we also do something this year that made Valentine’s Day feel different, practical, powerful, and memorable? You can.

Here’s an idea: instead of sending your loved ones the clichéd Hallmark Valentine’s card, why don’t you send them a Jolkona Valentine’s gift card.

How do they work?

It’s really very simple:

Choose your template

Purchase the gift card for your desired amount

Send the gift card to someone you love

The recipient redeems the gift card via any of our projects

In short, you’re giving so someone else can give. And if love is a gift, then this is love.

Forget not: actions speak louder than words. So this year, tell someone you love them by empowering them to take action. Besides, nothing says I love you like empowerment.

Make this year’s Valentine’s Day different, practical, powerful, and memorable. Send a Jolkona gift card and cultivate change here.

Spread the love and like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and re-pin our pins on Pinterest.

Only months before being shot in the head and neck by two Taliban gunmen on her way back from school in the Swat Valley of Pakistan, Malala Yousafzai, a girl of only 14 years of age, had said, “I think of it often and imagine the scene clearly. Even if they come to kill me, I will tell them what they are trying to do is wrong, that education is our basic right.” Malala Yousafzai was not only aware of the threat on her life, but she accepted it bravely and with defiance. Yousafzai was prepared to die for girl’s education.

The incident drew an international outcry. Yousafzai, miraculously still alive, was flown to the U.K., where she spent weeks on end in intensive care, undergoing highly complex brain surgeries and skull reconstruction. 3 days ago, nearly four months after the attempt on her life, Yousafzai, made her first public statement, repeating some not too dissimilar words, “I want to serve. I want to serve the people. I want every girl, every child, to be educated.”

Yousafzai’s story is as extraordinary as it is both courageous and inspiring. At its heart is a girl – a teenage girl! – willing to die for her freedom. A freedom that for most of us has already been fought – and won – by those who have preceded us.

7 reasons to invest in girl’s education

We would all concur and understand how education for girls should be a basic freedom. But what we perhaps fail to grasp is that, stemming from this basic freedom, are some incredibly rich benefits for their families, their communities, and society as a whole. So here are 7 great reasons why to invest in girls’ education*:

  1. When 10% more girls go to school, a country’s GDP increases on average by 3%.
  2. Countries where women’s share of seats in political bodies is greater than 30% are more inclusive, egalitarian, and democratic.
  3. In many developing countries, the mortality rate of children under the age of 5 is highest among those whose mothers had no education.
  4. Every year of schooling increases a girl’s individual earning power by 10% – 20%, while the return on secondary education is even higher, in the 15% – 20% percent range.
  5. Girls’ education is proven not only to increase wage earners but also productivity for employers, yielding benefits for the community and the wider society. 
  6. When women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90% into their families.
  7. The impact of investing in girls is intergenerational. A mother with even a few years of formal education is considerably more likely to send her children to school, breaking the intergenerational chain of poverty.

Jolkona’s Project

You can donate to an array of projects via our Jolkona giving platform which further girls’ education in Tanzania, Liberia, Afghanistan, Tibet, and Nepal. Give to one of these projects; help bring freedom and empowerment to girls today! Malala Yousafzai almost gave her life to advance the plight of girls in her country. What can you give?

If you want to know more about Jolkona,  follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

*Statistics taken from the UN’s Clinton Global Initiative.

Before January ends, and before we all begin to anticipate (with great excitement!) the move away from the winter months, I wanted to take the chance to look back at December and our Holiday Giving Campaign, our 10 Days of Giving.

A big part of the Holiday Campaign is for us at Jolkona to come together and work as a team (as the vast majority of us are volunteers with 9-5 jobs elsewhere, this isn’t always easy!) It’s also great opportunity for us to – quite literally – put our money where our mouths are, and to practice what we preach. Whilst it also means getting comfy with someone putting a camcorder in your face for your campaign video!


The impact

But at the heart of the Campaign is how the holiday season is not only about giving gifts to friends and family but about giving the gift of impact. And in the same way, one of the best things about the holiday season is seeing what gifts people get, so is it with the Holiday Campaign. So without further ado, here is the impact raised:

  • 8 children saved from diarrhea in India
  • 23 families provided with emergency medical kits in Palestine
  • 5 children’s annual school fees paid for in rural Benin
  • 3 safe birth kits for mothers in Palestine
  • 45 complete outfits for orphaned children in Kenya
  • 6 students’ monthly fees paid for at the School of Life program in America
  • 1 hygienic toilet built in rural India
  • 6 months of computer training for 9 students in rural Guatemala

As ever, thanks to everyone who gave back, who gave the gift of impact!

Start your own campaign!

Starting your own campaign is immensely simple:

Click on this link
Select a project
Give it a name
Set your campaign target
Tell your friends and family!

Like Jolkona on Facebook, follow us on Twitter , and check us out on Pinterest to keep up with all of our ongoing projects.


It would seem, as people, we like new beginnings – the clean slate, the fresh start, the frisson that accompanies the chance to embark on something different. The New Year is an apropos example. Cometh January 1st, cometh the renaissance of resolutions: the I won’ts, the I wills, the musts, the musn’ts, the 10 step guides to any goal you could ever think of, and so forth and so forth. We all want a second chance (or perhaps it’s our twentieth).

Now resolutions are fine and well (some, I daresay, even noble), but they strike me predominantly as an attempt at self-improvement. Essentially we ask ourselves, “How can I make my life better this year?” Again, this is not the worst question one could ask oneself. But I wonder how often, as the New Year chimes in, we pose the question, “How can I make someone else’s life better this year?” And I wonder what our lives – or more to the point, what other people’s lives – would look like if we did.

I think philanthropy asks us a very similar question. But it’s not a guilt trip; it’s an honest, straight forward question. With all the abundant resources I have – my time, my money, my talent – what can I set aside to help someone else? I wonder if in 2013 you will ask yourself this question – and be brave enough to act upon it. I wonder if, amongst all your personal goals and good intentions, you will give philanthropy a chance. At Jolkona we certainly hope so.

It’s interesting, after having worked at Jolkona for over a year now, one of the words I associate most strongly with philanthropy is story. I sincerely believe that understanding and experiencing this is aspect of story is essential to philanthropy and other acts of altruism. Really what happens when you engage in philanthropy is you engage in someone’s story – for the good. One way we try to show you this at Jolkona is by sharing with you the journey of your donation and its impact. A life is changed, someone is given a second chance, and a new chapter begins; a chapter you, the donor, have the privilege of helping author. Through philanthropy narratives are interwoven.

So when you’re standing on the threshold of 2014 at some New Year’s Eve party and someone asks you about your year, I wonder if you will bore them to death with the story of all your accomplishments, or if you will share the stories of the lives you helped change, the stories which now you’re a part of. I know who I’d rather be talking to.

If you’re interested in using your time and talents to help others, email

If you’re interested in using your money to help others, find a project you like here and donate.