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Our first five participants in Project Catalyst, Jolkona’s new accelerator for social entrepreneurs from developing countries, will come from Indonesia to Seattle in the next couple weeks. This 2-week intensive workshop will allow them to further hone their business plans, meet prospective investors and gain new insights. We can’t wait to welcome them to our offices on June 8!

Both of Dino’s projects, Claps and Vertesac, work toward raising awareness of climate change and natural disasters, and encouraging people to modify their behaviors to improve our shared environment. A mobile photo sharing app for pictures and videos of the “real” impact of climate change, Claps aims to document and educate civilians about natural disasters. Meanwhile, Vertesac is a smart shopping bag system designed to track consumer use of reusable bags and offer discounts to users. Vertesac aims to reduce the excessive use of plastic bags through these economic incentives.

Q: Outside of this project and work, what else do you do for fun in Indonesia? What other passions do you have?

I also write a series of books called Books of Light. I call the  genre of the book “Science Mythology” or “SciMyth.” Simply said, science mythology is a story based on scientific fact about some event or natural phenomenon. Imagine Terminator meets The Lord of the Rings. I also create game boards, and take pictures as photographer. My passions are technology, environment, and art. I like to think about the problems that we have in our society and the opportunities that our technology offer.

Dino Fitriza (3)Q: So, what inspired you to start this venture?

The idea of Vertesac started in October 2011. In my city, Bandung, Indonesia, like other big cities, there are big problems with excessive plastic bag usage. Campaigns that encourage people to stop using plastic bag or to pay for plastics or to use your own bag have risen  all over the world. But, I found out that, when consumers buy some products, they think about their own “economy” first, and “ecology” second. Customers will look for direct benefits or incentives such as a cheaper price, discount, bonus, etc. So, I thought why don’t we create a system where each time users bring reusable shopping bag, they will get direct economic incentives? And so, Vertesac was born.

Q: Tell us a story of a person who has benefited from your program.

I can divide the people who have benefitted from this program into three categories. The first one, of course, are people all around the world who will keep a healthy environment with the reduction of plastic bags in circulation. The second are the customers who get better prices and discounts and the stores also reduce the cost of plastic or paper bags. Lastly, are the people who produce our reusable bags. Through the project, we have also created jobs. Our bags are made in Cimareme Village in Bandung by local women.

Q: What is one obstacle you have faced in running the program? How did you overcome it?

Our main obstacle is that we’re short on cash. Sometimes we run out “Fuel of Cash” so we can’t produce more bags to expand our market and get more store connections at the levels we want. Some stores also want us to pay them to accept Vertesac program. We try to overcome this by bootstrapping, getting investment from family and friends and by winning some competitions for cash.

Q: What are you looking forward to when you come to the United States as a part of Project Catalyst?

We are looking for strategic partners that can help us with fundraising, so we can expand our impact on the market. We are also looking for mentors or investors that can bring Vertesac to the next level as a world class social venture.

We are very excited to have Dino Fitriza here in Seattle! If you are interested in helping these amazing entrepreneurs, Project Catalyst is recruiting for mentors, coaches and hosts! If you are available between June 8 and 22, please contact catalyst@jolkona.org.

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Our first five participants in Project Catalyst, Jolkona’s new accelerator for social entrepreneurs from developing countries, will come from Indonesia to Seattle in the next couple weeks. This 2-week intensive workshop will allow them to further hone their business plans, meet prospective investors and gain new insights. We can’t wait to welcome them to our offices on June 8!

Our fourth feature is Mirah Mahaswari, whose Pack Your Spirit program promotes literacy and instills passion for reading in Indonesia. Pack Your Spirit collects children’s used-books, hosts community events, and coordinates their transportation to remote schools in the villages of east Borneo.

Q: Outside of this project and work, what else do you do for fun in Indonesia? What other passions do you have?

I love traveling! I usually spend my leisure time traveling around Indonesia. Last time, my husband and I stayed for almost three days in a beautiful island called Derawan in East Kalimantan. We snorkeled and enjoyed the underwater view so much!

Q: So, what inspired you to start this venture?

Balikpapan Menyala was already established by the time I moved here. As volunteers, we try to create social activities to solve problems in our community. Here, we face an illiteracy issue and low passion in reading. Because of those, we inspired to organize an event to pack and share books in Balikpapan.

Q: What is one obstacle you have faced in running the program? How did you overcome it?

Asking the public for book donation was quite hard. It wasn’t to promote the cause by social media and posters. We overcame this by doing roadshow to schools and coordinated with the student council and headmasters. Then, we promoted a “one man, one book” donation program to every school. Within a month, around 4,000 books were collected from 11 primary schools, 7 junior high, and 5 senior high schools.

Q: What are you looking forward to when you come to the United States as a part of Project Catalyst?

It such a tremendous benefit for me to get connected to a global network in the U.S. I’m looking forward to learning about funding and program sustainability from the mentors and social enterprise practitioners in Seattle. I hope to take the project into a bigger scale and impact 🙂

We are very excited to have Mirah Mahaswari here in Seattle! If you are interested in helping these amazing entrepreneurs, Project Catalyst is recruiting for mentors, coaches and hosts! If you are available between June 8 and 22, please contact catalyst@jolkona.org.

Keep up with everything Jolkona by following us on Facebook and Twitter

Our first five participants in Project Catalyst, Jolkona’s new accelerator for social entrepreneurs from developing countries, will come from Indonesia to Seattle in the next couple weeks. This 2-week intensive workshop will allow them to further hone their business plans, meet prospective investors and gain new insights. We can’t wait to welcome them to our offices on June 8!

Our third feature is Nadine Zamira, whose communications agency, LeafPlus, focuses on sustainability projects through inspiring perceptions, emotions and actions. LeafPlus works with government agencies, businesses, NGO’s, schools and communities to identify their sustainability objectives and translate complex concepts into creative, engaging and easily shared stories.

Q: Outside of this project and work, what else do you do for fun in Indonesia? What other passions do you have? 

Nothing makes me happier than to travel to exotic natural destinations around Indonesia. I feel happiest in nature and blessed to be living in a country with such amazing landscapes and people. I’ve also recently discovered diving and am quickly becoming addicted to it. My travels also remind me constantly of my mission and the people that it touches. Other than that I can easily get lost in books and movies.

GUG3Q: So, what inspired you to start this venture? 

I saw a very urgent issue, but, at the same time, I saw how disconnected people were from it. I became frustrated by the way nature and its relationship with humans were being represented in our communications. Campaigns were intimidating, badly designed, and full of information the audience can’t process. They did not inspire love or empowerment to take action. We quickly learned that the uncharted field of sustainability communications translates into many things we did not project. Which is great, we get a kick from the adventure!

Q: Tell us a story of a person who has benefited from your program. 

First and foremost may I say my employees? 🙂 They are an enthusiastic and passionate group of people who want to work for change. Traditionally fighting for ‘a cause’ was seen as falling into the domain of ‘charity’ and ‘pro-bono’ work. But now with social entrepreneurship, the economic wheels are also an important element in forwarding change. I take joy and pride in knowing that LeafPlus has provided an opportunity for a people to do what they love and sustain themselves financially too.

Q: What is one obstacle you have faced in running the program? How did you overcome it? 

In the first few years of the venture, it was about convincing people that our service was needed, and what exactly it was that we had to offer. It was kind of tough as we were still defining and redefining ourselves, and still had limited resources. We figured out that the best strategy was to work with what we had, and that meant using our personal networks and implementing programs with next to nothing profit just to build our portfolio. Over time we slowly started to build trust and reputation, and people started to understand how we were different. I can’t stress enough how powerful persistence is, and just to START. Waiting until all the stars align won’t get you anywhere.

Q: What are you looking forward to when you come to the United States as a part of Project Catalyst?  I’m looking forward for mentorship on how to grow my business — what I need to fine tune and identify, what tools to build, how I can attract investors to grow further, etc. I think since the get-go, my partners and I had little time to focus on business strategy. But I must say I am personally very excited about visiting Seattle, being one of America’s greenest cities. Many of my projects are tied to urban environments, and I hope to absorb as much as I can from the sustainable-savvy Seattle. Very excited!

We are very excited to have Nadine Zamira here in Seattle! If you are interested in helping these amazing entrepreneurs, Project Catalyst is recruiting for mentors, coaches and hosts! If you are available between June 8 and 22, please contact catalyst@jolkona.org.

Keep up with everything Jolkona by following us on Facebook and Twitter

Our first five participants in Project Catalyst, Jolkona’s new accelerator for social entrepreneurs from developing countries, will come from Indonesia to Seattle in the next couple weeks. This 2-week intensive workshop will further hone their business plans, meet prospective investors and gain new insights. We can’t wait to welcome them to our offices on June 8!

Our second feature is Hendriyadi Bahtiar whose The Healthy Shredded Fish venture not only produces an Indonesian national snack, but is a campaign for healthier lifestyles. In addition, the project employs fishermen’s wives in coastal areas in South Sulawesi, increasing income and reducing poverty in the area.

Q: Outside of this project and work, what else do you do for fun in Indonesia? What other passions do you have?

Traveling and volunteering. When I was 18 years old, I decided to be a backpacker. Realizing the beautiful scene in Indonesia as archipelago country, I started to explore it: hiking, climbing, snorkeling and learning how to dive. In 2010, I had the chance to explore Indonesia through Sail Banda, a 30-days youth expedition with Indonesian Navy. This program gave me an enlightenment about the marine and coastal potential in Indonesia and it was a great chance to get a taste of our cultural diversity. In 2011, I chosen as facilitator for Sail Belitung to explore Sumatra Island for a month. Moreover, I love playing with kids and volunteering to raise update books for them. I enjoy writing and playing table tennis.

Q: So, what inspired you to start this venture?

Traveling taught me a lot and opened my mind act after seeing the coastal condition in all over Indonesia. Many people who live in coastal areas have a lot local resources but have poor education and economy. They have limited access to books and school facilities; they don’t have good packaging for products and they have limited market. So, after getting a scholarship for a short course in Iowa State University and joining Indonesia Canada Youth Exchange program, it motivated me and other alumni to take action. In 2012, we launched education program for the children through providing mini library named Sahabat Pulau and collaborate with Econantural Foundation to empower their mothers (fisherman’s wives) to create economic value through product diversification from fish such Shredded Fish, Snack Fish and Seaweed Snack.

hendriyadiQ: Tell us a story of a person who has benefited from your program.

Running the program really helped women in coastal areas to increase their quality of life. They are really happy because can help their husband to increase their family income. Beside that, they learned how to manage their money through financial literacy from the volunteers. In addition, while they work, their children have the chance to learn and play in mini library. We provide spot for children books and children games in production house and assist with volunteers. Some of their children get scholarship from our partners such Not Another Child scholarship program.

Q: What is one obstacle you have faced in running the program? How did you overcome it?

The main obstacle is volunteer management. In the first year, we have difficulties to find loyal and committed volunteers and staff. After a discussion with the board, we initiated Youth Volunteer Camp to spread the volunteerism virus and motivate them through sharing from experts. In this program, we talk about volunteerism, community empowerment, project management, social entrepreneurship, and fundraising. This was really effective and helped us sustain our venture.

Q: What are you looking forward to when you come to the United States as a part of Project Catalyst?

I would like to share the potential of people (women and youth) and local resources in coastal area in Indonesia. We need more youth that can be involved to maximize those potentials, especially in packaging, marketing and financial literacy. Furthermore, I am looking for a mentor that can help us improve the quality or level our ventures. Networking with social entrepreneurs, NGOs, donors will be valuable to accelarate the project and I hope those networks can help to give more impactful to the community after going back to Indonesia.

We are very excited to have Hendriyadi Bahtiar here in Seattle! If you are interested in helping these amazing entrepreneurs, Project Catalyst is recruiting for mentors, coaches and hosts! If you are available between June 8 and 22, please contact catalyst@jolkona.org.

Keep up with everything Jolkona by following us on Facebook and Twitter

Our first five participants in Project Catalyst, Jolkona’s new accelerator for social entrepreneurs from developing countries, will come from Indonesia to Seattle. This 2-week intensive workshop will further hone their business plans, gain valuable insights, and meet prospective investors. We can’t wait to welcome them to our offices on June 8!

Over the next three weeks, we will profile each entrepreneur. Our first feature is Nadya Saib, 27, whose project, Wangsa Jelita, produces non-toxic, natural personal care products to address environmental issues of waste while empowering local farmers and artisans. Read below to see what Nadya has to say about her nephews, about entrepreneurship, about rose farmers, and more.

Q: Outside of this project and work, what else do you do for fun in Indonesia? What other passions do you have?

I think everyone has their own definition of fun. For me, playing with and poking fun at my nephews is so much fun. I consider my family as one of the most significant elements in my life, so spending quality time with them, whenever possible, is one of the best ways to spend my time outside of work. Once in a while, I speak about entrepreneurship to youth, students, and other fellow entrepreneurs. I find sharing as a good reminder for me. I’m also part of the Global Shapers Jakarta Hub, an initiative under the World Economic Forum. Being part of this group gives me the chance to meet like-minded people, which triggers an inspirational jolt in me. For me, that is fun too.

Wangsa Jelita slide campaignQ: So, what inspired you to start this venture?

The fact that there is no pharmaceutical regulation of the word “natural” encouraged my two friends and me to create something that would embody the true concept of “natural.” That was the initial idea. So right after we got our bachelor degrees back in 2008, the three of us, pharmacists by training, started “Wangsa Jelita”–which means “Beautiful Dynasty.” We carefully chose only “good” ingredients to put in our formulation of personal care products and picked out the best processes to make them. It was a kind of hobby at first, something we enjoyed doing, something we were excited about. About a year after that, we met local farmers by chance, and we were inspired to expand Wangsa Jelita. The spirit of introducing and producing truly natural personal care products remains the same, but the way we conduct our business has evolved–from a traditional profit maximizing business to a social enterprise that empowers local communities.

Q: Tell us a story of a person who has benefited from your program.

I suppose I should tell you about the moment when my team told rose farmers about the idea of utilizing the roses to produce soaps. Some laughed, some asked whether we can make soap out of other kinds of flowers and/or veggies, some didn’t see the value in doing so. But the best thing was that most of them wanted to know more about our idea and wanted to take part. We held a year-long program to teach women farmers to add value to their roses by producing rose water extract and rose soaps. In an interview, a rose farmer said that she’s proud of herself for having new skill as well augmenting her family income.

Q: What is one obstacle you have faced in running the program? How did you overcome it?

I’ve learned to contend with my assumptions; may it be about how the business should be run, or how to maintain the relationships with the communities and customers, or even what kind of products should be developed. I think every leader has their own assumption and sometimes, they have the tendency to be very firm about it, and I’ve learned that this tendency has the potential to harm the company. The first step of how I overcame it was by acknowledging it. Our job is finding the best path should be taken so that the company can meet its goals, to serve more people. So the next step I took was teaching myself and my team to listen to our stakeholders more, and to listen carefully. And I found that this way has made a big difference to me and my team, particularly in our way to run the business.

Q: What are you looking forward to when you come to the United States as a part of Project Catalyst?

Foremost, meeting the mentors is what I’m very much looking forward to. It always excites me to meet people who have been there and done that. I really wish I can learn as much as possible from Project Catalyst, and hopefully, in one way or another, I, too, can benefit everyone I encounter in the program.

We are very excited to have Nadya Saib here in Seattle! If you are interested in helping these amazing entrepreneurs, Project Catalyst is recruiting for mentors, coaches and hosts! If you are available between June 8 and 22, please contact catalyst@jolkona.org.

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My friends and I fell in love with Myanmar (Burma) before Hilary Clinton ever set foot in there. In the May of 2010, no one I knew had ever been. Back then, Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi was still under house arrest, and the military regime limited travelers’ access to certain parts of the country. Right on the heels of North Korea, it was the second most isolated country in the world.

Since the junta overthrew a democratic government in 1969, to the outside world, Myanmar became synonymous with systematic human rights violations, forced relocations, drug trafficking, and poverty. But what my friends and I found there were beautiful Buddhist temples and golden pagodas, as well as the most generous, most kind-hearted nation of people. Everywhere we went, the Burmese smiled at us, waved to us, shouted mingalaba! On a full day of trekking through the hills of Kalaw, two remote villages welcomed us into their wedding festivities, fed us steeped tea and lavish meals. On our way home, we stumbled upon a Nepalese ceremony, and the people offered us even more food, more drinks, more candies. Their children accompanied us halfway back to Kalaw, singing and dancing as they skipped beside us, chatting in Burmese, laughing.

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Team Stupa. May 2010.

Like most Burmese children, I later learned, most of these singing and laughing children had never touched a picture book. The educational system in Myanmar had been practically non-existent; the illiteracy rate among those over 15 and older stood at 2.5 million people in 2011. According to United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), 33% of school-aged children in Myanmar do not attend school and 70% of those who do are unable to finish at the primary level. Much of this is due to the lack of funds in barely maintained educational institutions, as well as the general poverty in the country that forces children out of schools at a young age in order to earn wages for their families.

In recent years, the junta has started handing over its power to a democratic system in non-bloody, non-violent reform, and willingly opened its doors to the outside world. As Burma embarks on such a historic transformation, the education of its children becomes more important than ever. Educational Empowerment provides Burmese children access to an educational environment in Myanmar that improves their future economic opportunities. Not only does EE provide books for children and develop community and monastic school libraries, it also aims to provide teachers with trainings and materials.

I would gladly support any organization working to build a democratic future for the brave, kind-hearted people of Myanmar. Through Give Direct to EE, we can play a part in ensuring children education and economic success at a critical time in the building of a free Myanmar! Give today! Every dollar matters!

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This Sunday, May 11, is Mother’s Day: the day we celebrate moms and what they do for us and our communities. Many of us take this opportunity to shower our mothers with gifts, cards and affection — but what about giving a gift that also impacts a mother in need?

Jolkona is here to help you find a Mother’s Day gift that honors moms in more ways than one. Your donations can support three projects that improve maternal health in Palestine, Guatemala and India.

Support Safe Births in Palestine

Your gift through MADRE will provide a “safe birth” medical kit, and help train and equip Israeli and Palestinian midwives to deliver babies in the West Bank. Due to movement restrictions, an estimated 2500 Palestinian women face difficulties on their way to hospitals and birthing facilities. With your help, midwives can reduce maternal and infant mortality, by providing the resources needed for a safe pregnancy and successful delivery.

Provide Maternal and Prenatal care in Guatemala

Your gift through Project Concern International (PCI) will help indigenous Guatemalan women living in isolated rural communities have access to prenatal care, as well as safe and clean birthing facilities. With your help, PCI will train hundreds of community health workers to make sure both mothers and babies are healthy and safe before, during, and after delivery.

Provide Prenatal care in Calcutta

Your gift through Calcutta kids will help provide six months of prenatal care, a safe birthing facility, and post-partum care for a woman living in the slums of Calcutta. Calcutta Kids uses community-based programs to optimize the health of both mother and child throughout pregnancy, leading to higher birth weights, and better immune and neurological development.

When you celebrate Mother’s Day by giving a gift in your mom’s honor to one of these Jolkona partner projects, you know you are making your own mother proud by aiding another in need. Happy Mother’s Day!

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The Seattle Foundation’s annual #GiveBIG campaign, which boosts donations to 1,600 Seattle-area nonprofits, raised an astonishing $12.89 million yesterday! Super-heroic, indeed.

Trevor Rotzien

Trevor Rotzien

Heide Felton

Heide Felton

We’re still in the process of tallying up donations, and we don’t know about our share of the foundation’s “stretch pool” or matching funds from eligible employers yet, but it looks like we raised about $1,500 for Jolkona within that 24-hour window. The funds will be used for our Seattle operations and to support an increased focus on South and Southeast Asia – particularly Bangladesh and Indonesia.

Michelle Primley Benton

Michelle Primley Benton

Special thanks to all our heroes, including Heide Felton, Trevor Rotzien and Michelle Primley Benton! (We would love to turn all our GiveBIG donors into superheroes. If you gave to Jolkona yesterday and want to get suited up, just tweet your preferred photo to @Jolkona or post it to our Facebook page this week.) It’s truly an honor to live and work in such a giving community.

I’m especially gratified because I’m wrapping up my time as Jolkona’s Communications Manager this month. Between our “Which Philanthropist Are You?” quiz, the Huffington Post and Seattle Times op-eds about the Bangladesh garment industry and factory disaster anniversary, and now all this GiveBIG fun, I’m feeling a bit like a superhero, too… albeit a pretty tired one today! It’s a good time to try one of those digital sabbaticals. Fortress of Solitude, anyone?

Thanks so much for reading my Jolkona posts and social media updates for the past year. You can still find me on LinkedIn and Twitter; my secret identity days are (mostly) behind me.

Gotta fly now…

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It’s Fun Friday, so take our quiz to find out!

Full disclosure: I wrote this quiz, but I was still surprised by my results! Not that they weren’t accurate, mind you… my social networks seem to agree, anyway. Also, I took it twice, to try a couple of different responses for areas where I was on the fence, and here’s what I got:

Quiz screenshot

Well, Kate Middleton IS my style icon

Oprah philanthropist

Oprah, huh? Must be the communications connection.

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GET INVOLVED!