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Last April, an 8-story garment factory collapsed in Bangladesh, killing more than 1,000 people and injuring more than 2,500. Many of them had lost arms, legs, or both. Jolkona’s campaign to fund artificial limbs for the survivors of this unprecedented disaster raised close to $25,000 in 5 days.

Last month, Nadia and I visited Bangladesh and met with some of the survivors. One of the women had been trapped for three days under the rubble, finally cutting off her own arm to free herself. She was 21 years old. Thanks to Jolkona donors, our partner BRAC has fitted her with an artificial arm, a monthly allowance higher than her old income from the factory, and the resources to start her own business.

Nadia and I were thrilled to see Jolkona’s impact in action. There are three components to this success:

  1. Partnership: BRAC  is one of the largest NGOs in the world and one of Jolkona’s founding partners. Over the years we have developed a very strong relationship with BRAC, allowing us to partner with them and respond quickly to disasters in Bangladesh and the other countries it serves.
  2. Feedback:  Jolkona has always prioritized direct feedback to the donor. We were able to assure donors that they would receive reports of the specific people helped by their funds, leading to a high volume of donations.
  3. Impact: Working together and with others on the ground, Jolkona and BRAC had a true impact on this disaster relief effort.

I believe this model can be adopted for other types of social work, not just disaster response. What do you think?

To continue making a true impact in Bangladesh, check out Jolkona’s LiftBangla projects.

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

When people talk about African safari, 99.99% of the time they are talking about the parks in Kenya and Tanzania or the ones in South Africa and Namibia. The remaining 0.01% of the time, people are talking about the 3rd park – Pendjari National Park which spans across Burkina Faso, Benin, and Niger.

Our Expedition’s last stop was Pendjari National Park. We spent about 36 hours at the park, including couple of game drives. It is clear why Pendjari doesn’t get as much love as the parks in eastern and southern Africa:

  1. Lack of diversity. Pendjari doesn’t have very diverse wildlife, unlike the safari in Kenya and Tanzania. That is a big initial hurdle that Pendjari has to overcome.
  2. Park services are not well developed. While the accommodations inside the park were great, the guide was below par, as was the vehicle we were using. We were delayed by more than an hour for our sunrise drive because our vehicle would not start.
  3. Animals are really difficult to spot. We were able to easily see elephants, buffaloes, hippos, and antelopes. However, the cats were to be really hard to find. Our guide didn’t seem very knowledgeable about locating the different animals. We did hear a lion growl, but the guide seemed unsure which direction we should head.
  4. Lack of coordination. One of the cool features in East Africa is that the different safari vehicles would communicate with each other if they spot a rear animal. This kind of communication was missing in Pendjari. While I appreciate the desire to provide an adventure feel in trying to find animals, Pendjari does need to make it easier to find the wildlife.

Pendjari might never become as big as the Serengeti or the Kruger National Park, but it has the potential of being lot more engaging than it is today. If the administrators of the park can address some of the issues I mentioned above, I believe Pendjari will be part of most West Africa tourist itineraries.

You can follow all the latest blog posts from our Jolkona Team in West Africa here

You can also help spread the word by liking us on Facebook, and by following us on Twitter,  Pinterest, and Instagram.

Our West Africa trip started with a visit to Elmina Castle in Ghana, the largest and oldest surviving slave castle. In fact, Elmina Castle is older than America. It was really interesting hearing the different periods in the history of the castle.

Unless you are physically walking around the castle, you can’t grasp the extremity of the conditions slaves experienced in the castle for three to four months before being shipped to the New World. A thousand slaves were kept in the castle, four hundred of them women. The slave dungeons were long, dark, and stuffy, while the masters’ chambers had unimpeded views of the Atlantic Ocean. The women slaves were forced to mate with the officers and if they became pregnant, they were allowed to leave the castle. The mixed-race children would be trained to also become slave traders.

This castle represents the darkest chapters in human history. I can’t imagine humans treating other humans so badly for hundreds of years. One would think that we have learned from the experience, but we continue to mistreat others. Surely we no longer have slavery in most of the world, but we still don’t have equality among all. Bias (social, race, caste, gender) still exists in many parts of the world.

So, Elmina castle is not just a relic of the past. It represents injustices that continue around the world, and reminds us that we have a long way to go before we can claim to be equal.

You can follow all the latest blog posts from our Jolkona Team in West Africa here

You can also help spread the word by liking us on Facebook, and by following us on Twitter,  Pinterest, and Instagram.

Nadia and I first met Wiclif at a conference in Mexico in 2010. He had arrived a full day late because he didn’t have the right visas – it was his first time flying. Then, in December, Nadia and I had a chance to spend a day with Wiclif getting to know his organization, Kito. Since then, we have developed a great friendship – I have talked about Wiclif in many talks and in 2012, Kito was added as a Jolkona partner. Kito teaches street kids life and entrepreneurial skills through a focused training program. The kids learn about business by running a social enterprise where they produce custom branded shopping bags for local stores. They learn everything from marketing to sales to finance.

I had a chance to visit with Wiclif in Nairobi this week and I was able to meet some of his newest students. They are still working in the Kwangware slum out of the same two rooms as we saw them 2 years ago. Now, they are selling 1,000 bags a month and just last year, for the first time, three of their graduates have started college.

Wiclif’s goal is to get to 4,000 bags. We spent a good portion of my visit brainstorming how they can get to that goal. Armed with a budget of only $25,000, it is amazing how much of an impact such small organizations can have in their local community.

I encourage you to support Kito’s work through Jolkona here.

You can follow all the latest blog posts from our Jolkona Team in West Africa here.  

Find out more about Jolkona by liking us on Facebook, and by following us on Twitter and Pinterest.

For the past 3 years, Jolkona volunteers have traveled to different parts of the world visiting our amazing partners and getting a deep understanding of how their work is having a lasting impact in the local communities. I am sure I speak for our volunteers when I say that these trips have been life-changing. Whether it is learning about a teacher who has taught in a Rio favela for 27 straight years, or learning about a family supporting an entire village in Kenya, or understanding the difficulty Myanmar refugees face in Thailand, these first hand experiences have really helped us appreciate the impact our partners are having on the ground, amongst some difficult circumstances.

First public trip: West Africa

Over the last 3 years, we have learned about how to design a successful trip that engages the participants through deep interactions with our partners on the ground. This year we are opening up our trip to the public for the first time. We are heading to West Africa in early April. We will be visiting 4 countries – Ghana, Togo, Benin, and Burkina Faso – and the trip will take exactly 2 weeks. We will be visiting 4 partner organizations and learning about everything from large scale urban waste processing to education in remote villages to microfinance and small business investments. I will be joined by these 5 folks on the trip:

Sue Jin Kim

I am currently living in San Francisco, working as an interaction designer for Amazon(Lab 126). I lived in Masan (my hometown in South Korea), Seoul, New York, Chicago and Seattle previously. I spent five years in Seattle working for Xbox, living in Capitol hill, drinking a lot of coffee, eating pho and listening music.

I have background in design research, design strategy and interaction design. I love travel- the latest trip I took was to Colombia last December by myself. That hat was an amazing time. I love new experiences, learning about new cultures and meeting people. It constantly challenges my perception about how things should be.

This trip will be an amazing opportunity for me as I’m deeply interested in topics like women and education; however, I haven’t participated deeply in these areas, other than going to women’s conferences.

Lena Alfi

Right now, I am spending few months traveling the world before starting my graduate school in the fall. Previously, I worked as a Development Coordinator at an international health and humanitarian aid non-profit, Project Concern International (PCI). I mostly work on the business development side (proposal writing) for a women’s economic empowerment program in 16 countries.

I was born and raised in Los Angeles, and my parents are from Egypt and Syria. I speak Arabic and little bit of Spanish and I enjoy hiking and yoga.

This trip sounds like a great opportunity to learn about the innovative ways people have generated resources for themselves, and to immerse into a new culture and part of the world I’ve never been to. As I’m starting graduate school in the fall in International Development, I would love to bring a new and fresh perspective about West Africa.

Monica Mendoza

Never underestimate the power of social media. I was introduced to Jolkona via Twitter when they mentioned a project in the country of my birth, Bolivia. I am now volunteering with Jolkona to apply my marketing experience to the work Jolkona is doing. Professionally, I love the audience engagement aspect of marketing and I am excited to help Jolkona seek out individuals who want to make a difference. I have wanted to visit Africa for quite some time and I am excited for the opportunity to see first hand how the mix of contributions and passion is having a positive impact.

Punit Java

I am passionate about finding new ways to connect people with technology to enrich their lives. I have several years of experience building mobile and embedded products with Microsoft, Amazon and through my own private ventures. I have a Bachelors degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Waterloo. I have been volunteering with Jolkona to help with technology strategy including building the web and mobile experiences.

This trip is a great opportunity for me to observe social innovation and technology in developing nations, and hopefully figure out a way to make an impact.

Nancy Xu

I’ve been working with Jolkona for 3 years on various creative endeavors like the Hulu commercial, event posters, and at the moment the website redesign. I’ve loved volunteering, social and community work since I was 11, but it was really the first Jolkona trip 3 years ago that changed my life. I’m looking forward to another life changing journey to see the amazing innovations, this time in West Africa.

A big part of these trips is the discussions and reflections that go on outside of the partner visits. I am thrilled about the background and experiences the individuals in this group bring to this trip. It will be exciting to see how each of us personalize the experiences over the two weeks and what these experiences mean for each of us. We will be blogging from the trip continuously and so check back often with the Jolkona blog to see our latest updates

Join a future expedition

We are going to be opening up our future trips to the public as well. We are planning expeditions to Central America, East Africa, and Southeast Asia in the next 12 – 18 months. Spots are limited and if you wanted to stay informed about upcoming expeditions, please send email to expedition@jolkona.org

During our recent trip to Bangladesh we visited Greenovation Technologies – a small social enterprise that was founded by 4 fresh graduates from Dhaka University. An inventor, Dr. Mahbubul Khan, is also involved with the startup. Greenovation Technologies is trying to commercialize one of Dr. Khan’s inventions, called jutin. Jutin is created by combining jute with resin. Alternating layers of jute and resin are placed together. Between each layer or jute and resin a special “glue” (invented and patented by Dr. Khan) is added. The more number of layers there are the stronger the final jutin sheet is. The entire stack is than placed outside in the sun and allowed to bake for 20 minutes. The resulting material is called jutin.

 

Greenovation Technolgies team with one of their model homes made from jutin.

Jutin is more durable than tin, lasting for almost 20 years. The team expects jutin to be cheaper than tin, once economies of scale is achieved. The team also believes jutin can be a great alternative to other building materials, especially those used for cheap construction. There are millions of families in Bangladesh who live in very weak structures made from low-quality tin or hay. Greenovation Technologies believes that jutin will make a far better alternative for such homes, being cheaper and stronger and hopefully, therefore, far more sustainable. They are passionately focused on making that happen.

However, the team faces significant challenges:

  1. Lack of funding. The team has very little capital. They have taken part in business competitions and have done very well. However, the winnings from these competitions are not enough to offset the full cost of setting up a production service. This issues effects all the other issues below as well.
  2. The need to do more research. The team needs to do more research into the long-term effects of jutin. Jutin contains resin (a polymer). The team needs to find out the environmental effects of its long-term presence.
  3. Find the quickest way to scale. The team wants to set up a manufacturing plant to create jutin sheets. However, that is a extremely risky undertaking, especially for a team with little capital and no experience in manufacturing. They will be looking at other options like licensing the technology to other existing manufacturers.

Greenovation Technologies serves as a great example to all of us that the social entrepreneurship journey is filled with challenges and setbacks. Like other social entrepreneurs, this team has to prove that they have the resilience and the creativity to overcome these problems.

Capoten

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One thing we LOVE about Seattle is the number of do-gooders there are and the amount of innovation that comes out of this city. To help facilitate those that have a business idea for social good or want to be a part of one, our friends at the Hub Seattle are hosting Seattle’s first SocEnt Weekend.



In case you’re wondering what #Socent Weekend is, it’s a 50 hour crash-course in how to start a social enterprise – a business that will have a positive social impact on our world.

To kick off the weekend, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn will be at the event on Friday evening just before 7pm. Teams will work throughout the weekend towards a final pitch on Sunday evening at 5:30pm. In this time, teams will take an idea to make positive social change and develop an actionable business plan to move forward.

The organizers have got a host of amazing prizes, phenomenal judges and mentors, as well a great group of participants to build up your network.  Don’t miss out on this first-of-its kind opportunity.  If you have a great business idea for social good, or want to be a part of one and can contribute your design or development skills, register today!

With just one day left until the big event starts, SocEnt weekend is specifically looking for a few more designers, techies, or startup junkies. If that’s you, you’re in need of this weekend at #SocEnt Weekend. Teams of social entrepreneurs need your skills and action-oriented approaches to turn their ideas into world changing real businesses.

We can’t wait to hear about the great social enterprises that come out of the weekend!

 

 

Earlier today we visited ADCAM in Manaus. Manaus is the 4th major economic zone in Brazil after Sao Paolo, Rio de Janeiro, and Minas Gerais. The factories of major companies Suzuki, Sony, and Nokia are driving the growth of Manaus. Favorable tax rates have attracted many companies to this region over the last 30 years. As companies set up their factories, the opportunity for labor positions surfaced. Many people from the surrounding regions migrated to Manaus in hopes for a job. However, they faced very difficult circumstances. Many of them didn’t get hired due to lack of experience or qualification. Those who did get jobs did not earn enough income to provide basic necessities to their families.

Non-profit organizations started springing up in Manaus to help support these workers and their families. One such organization is ADCAM. Since its inception in 1984, ADCAM has grown from a small daycare to an education entity. Spanning a high school, a college, and a vocational institute, the organization is providing education services to over 5,000 students every day. We had a chance to spend an entire day at ADCAM in Manaus. We spent time with some students, some of the teachers, and the founder. Many of the students had started working as early as 14 years of age, the legal age in Brazil. They receive vocational training at ADCAM which then can be used when they pursue their career.

One of the questions I had during this trip was to understand how the boom in industries over the last 30 years is affecting the environment thus, and the impact in the future. While both the teachers and founder acknowledged the challenge, I felt they did not provide a clear answer about how their program will specifically address this challenge. They also mentioned that they will start environmental training courses soon.

Over the last 30 years, ADCAM has responded to the needs of the Manaus community and growing number of factories. I am confident they will continue to evolve, preparing the next generation to answer the environment challenges I had hoped to gain insight into.

The future of Amazon might not be decided by board rooms in New York or London. Rather, if organizations like ADCAM expand, the future of Amazon may be determined in the classrooms in Manaus and other areas.

Want more on the South America trip? Adnan Mahmud and Nancy Xu are also blogging about their experiences with the team. Follow Adnan here. Follow Nancy here. Keep up to date with us also on Facebook.

Groupon Jolkona campaign

Yesterday Jolkona launched a Groupon campaign to support a 10-week training fellowship for women grassroots leaders from around the world. This is a great campaign on so many levels. I decided to share my top 10 reasons why this is an awesome campaign.

10 Reasons to Support Women Grassroots Leadership Training through Jolkona

  1. According to the World Food Programme, for every dollar invested in a woman in a developing part of the globe, $0.90 of it will be spent on the woman’s family or community. So your dollars are going a long way.
  2. Women spend a lot of time with their children, setting great examples for the next generation on how to impact society.
  3. Women are proven community leaders. The training received by these women will be transferred to the rest of the community.
  4. Every one of these women is a great collaborator. Upon their return home, the impact of the training they receive in Seattle will be magnified through their collaborations with others.
  5. These women are champions of a fairer society. Your support for this campaign will lead to more just societies where these women live.
  6. After the training, these women leaders will be equipped with additional resources to grow their already high-impact programs.
  7. Through this training, women grassroots leaders will share best practices with each other. This sharing of ideas will lead to increased efficiency for each of their programs.
  8. All of Seattle will be able to learn from these leaders’ innovative approaches to solving problems in their societies, fostering deeper engagement by the Seattle community in international development
  9. This program works. Watch this video from the 2010 Women in the World Breakfast about the impact it had on a participant from last year.
  10. For every $10 donation you make to our campaign on Groupon, the Seattle International Foundation will match it, doubling your impact. Plus Groupon is covering all transaction fees, channeling 100% to go towards this cause.

If you can give a $1 for each of these reasons, then you will consider buying our Groupon deal for only $10.

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You can read more about this unique program here to build capacity among a new generation of women grassroots leaders. With your support, these women leaders will be catalysts for positive change in their institutions and communities.

Women’s Co-operative Program in Kenya

The first time Team Africa learned about the Women’s Co-operative Program was when we visited a small grocery store while out on a stroll with Joshua Machinga, the founder of the Common Ground Project (CPG), in the Kiminini marketplace in Kenya. The store had a few rows of wooden shelves, mostly empty except the first two, which carried bags of cassava flour and dried maize along with some fresh offerings such as bananas and tomatoes. Joshua introduced us to the women working in the store and noted that this was a co-op ran by the Women’s Co-operative Program.

Joshua’s goal for establishing a women’s co-op was to increase the marketing power of local women in hopes of increasing their income. The Nasimiyu-Nekesa Fund was established to provide local women the small loans they needed to start their businesses. The program resembles other microfinancing programs except for one important distinction: no Microfinancing Institutions (MFI) are involved.

Instead, the Nasimiyu-Nekesa Fund receives money from donations, the co-op store, and most importantly, the women in the Women’s Co-operative Program. Women who want loans must first contribute some savings to the Nasimiyu-Nekesa Fund. They are then allowed to borrow up to three times the amount of their deposit. Additionally, similar to other micro-financing programs, a woman must have 5 guarantors before a loan is received to ensure that the amount can be repaid. The Women’s Co-operative Program also provides continuing support by setting up the co-op store as a community buyer to enhance the viability of the businesses. Women can choose to sell their products (usually food) to the co-op store and any revenue the store generates from selling in the market goes right back into the Nasimiyu-Nekesa Fund. Women in the co-op program can also invest in shares of the store and receive annual dividends based on the store’s profit.

This model of microfinancing can offer some significant advantages over the conventional route involving MFIs. With the middleman out of the equation, more revenue is recycled back into the program and the community. The penalties for defaulting are less severe than those imposed by a lot of MFIs, yet the incentive to succeed remains strong, enforced by both the guarantors and the community of women who have invested in the fund. Furthermore, this program affords an opportunity for the women to learn about investment and saving techniques. Every month, participants congregate to settle debts, borrow money, and make new investments. The monthly meeting serves as a platform for the women to socialize, bond, learn, and share their ideas.

Joshua was nice enough to invite us to such a meeting and it gave us a chance to interact with the women of the program. Although the women were at first shy and curious of our presence, they warmed up quickly as we mingled and socialized with the crowd. Some were excited to share their experiences and their opinions of the program.

I personally spoke with a woman who had borrowed money to start a chicken farm. Even though she only attended school until she was 13, she spoke eloquently and analytically of her situation. She was widowed a few years ago and has two children of her own. The amazing part is that she has also been caring for eight other children who have either lost their parents, or have guardians who are unable to take care of them. She borrowed money from the Nasimiyu-Nekesa fund a year ago to start a chicken farm which she says is low maintenance and fairly profitable. The business is growing, and she is now in the process of taking out her third loan for a farm expansion. Having repaid her first two loans in full, she is able to borrow an even larger amount to invest in her business. When asked what improvements she would like to see in the program, her reply was simply that she wished more women would trust this program, invest their savings so they can take advantage of the loans, and be able to do what she did.

I asked her what enabled her to take a leap of faith and she told me it was because she trusted Joshua and felt safe to give money to this fund. “You have to trust someone right? Otherwise you are on your own,” she said.

Helen Li is a program manager at Microsoft during the day and volunteers with Jolkona doing business outreach. She also traveled with the Jolkona team who visited our partners in East Africa this past December.

As the CEO of Jolkona, I am proud of what the team has accomplished in 2010. It has been a great foundation building year for the organization.

I want to start by thanking our partners and donors for believing in Jolkona through our early stages and providing us with invaluable feedback. You are at the center of our work and you are our inspiration for putting in long volunteer hours after a full day at the office or school.

Famed tennis player Arthur Ashe once said, “Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.” Jolkona’s journey these past three years is a testament to that adage. In 2010, Jolkona made great strides in ”doing” and proving proof to becoming a highly successful giving platform.

Jolkona’s success is directly measured by on how much impact is delivered to those lives that need the help the most. The global impact we made in 2010 has reached thousands, but some of our highlights include:

  • Providing meals to 600 children in Uganda
  • 43 prosthetics provided in Bangladesh
  • Responding to the floods in Pakistan before the news hit mainstream media in the U.S.
  • 30 farmers trained in Sudan
  • 13 women’s stories sponsored in China
  • 2,800 trees planted in Ethiopia
  • 43 children tutored in Guatemala
  • 50 classes received books in USA
  • 100 days of medical supplies provided in Bangladesh

Coming into 2010, we were a fledgling startup without any major financial backing. We had few projects on the site and a handful of early adopters. Quickly, Jolkona learned how to build a successful startup organization with little to no resources and building a dynamic volunteer team that is beyond passionate about our mission. What is the cornerstone of our mission? It’s championing transparency within Jolkona and its partner community – something we care about deeply.

By the end of the year, our team grew from two to 20+ highly-skilled volunteers. Our donor base more than doubled, donations grew by almost 300%.

Jolkona landed our first corporate sponsor, partnering with communications agency Waggener Edstrom Worldwide (WE), on the matching grant campaign called MatchED, which funded up to $5,000 (U.S.) of individual donors’ contributions to educational projects showcased on the Jolkona website.

A second campaign – Give Health made possible by a group of anonymous donors – alone raised close to $14,000 for our projects.

Measuring impact continues to be a major focus for Jolkona and in 2010, we were able to work together and completed the following: align our measurements against the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The Jolkona team was also able to visit some of our partner projects in Africa for the first time in 2010 and see the real difference that we are making in the lives of those on the ground and we rounded out the year with our 12 Days of Giving Campaign generating over $5,500 in funds.

2011 is off to a feverish pace – we are thrilled to have hired our first two employees to start off the year. It had become obvious Jolkona needs a full-time team in order to reach its maximum potential: co-founder Nadia Khawaja Mahmud will be taking over as the CEO and Laura Kimball will be leading our marketing and outreach efforts. Their depth of knowledge and operational execution has been critical in building Jolkona into what it is today and we look forward as they continue lead efforts and breathe passion into our organization. We secured our first ever grant from Seattle International Foundation which is vital to developing outreach in areas such as Asia and South Africa. Over $4,000 was raised at the Social Media Club of Seattle anniversary party (SMC). This was our second year celebrating SMC’s birthday, and we are very humbled to be selected as the sole beneficiary!

Saving the best for last, I can’t pass along enough praise and thanks to all of the Jolkona team for the great work they have done in 2010. I am honored to have worked with such a passionate, dedicated team. I look forward to continuing to work with all of you in 2011 and beyond.

Stay tuned, as Jolkona will launch our first matching campaign for 2011, to be unveiled in mid-February and will focus on education projects.

Best wishes for the New Year and our new chapter!

Adnan

Photo Credit: becca.peterson26

During our recent trip to Africa I found myself drawn to farming. I took a lot of interest in projects that were dealing with farming – everything from how to increase yield to helping farmers find markets for their crops. I took pages and pages of notes. I could not figure out why I was so fascinated with farming. I couldn’t figure out why farming would be so compelling to someone like me, a city-dweller from America who is an engineer by profession.

Then on our second day at the Serengeti, after we finished our hot air balloon ride and were on our way back to the visitor center, we came across a leopard. There were 20 to 30 other tour vehicles around the leopard all juggling for a good position to get a good picture of the leopard. We waited around for over 30 minutes trying to get the best angle to catch the spotted animal. That’s when I realized that I was drawn to farming because it was similar to photography.

Photography is all about getting the perfect shot. It is about tweaking all the various factors like lighting, exposure, film speed, etc., and combining them in a particular way to get the perfect picture. It takes many years of practice to understand how these various factors work with each other. The ultimate goal is not to only get one perfect picture, but to be able to replicate that quality over and over again for every picture you take.

Farming is not that different. Farmers spend years trying to understand how the various factors like rainfall, season, sunlight, amount of fertilizer, harvest time, etc., can be tweaked to give them the maximum yield. Their ultimate goal is also not just one great harvest, but to be able to take the learnings from one great harvest and replicate it for every season.

The trial and error aspect of farming along with the ultimate goal of perfection makes farming very appealing to me. If we can figure out how some of these lessons can be better shared across communities, then we can help accelerate this learning process. There is some great work being done already, especially in the mobile space (e.g. receiving weather updates on phones). And I imagine we will see a lot more innovations around sharing farming knowledge in the next 3 to 5 years.

This series of four photos is my attempt at trying to capture a perfect shot of the leopard.

All photos are by Adnan Mahmud.

It has been 1 year since the devastating earthquake in Haiti. It is a good time for us to take a look at the conditions that have changed since then. The purpose of this post is to present some statistics that highlight the challenges that still exist in Haiti.

  • The earthquake struck at 4:53 PM on Tuesday, January 12th, 2010. By January 24th, there were over 50 aftershocks in Haiti.
  • The immediate effect of the earthquake included 230,000 dead, over 300,000 injured, more than 1 million people homeless, and close to 300,000 buildings destroyed including 250,000 homes, 30,000 commercial buildings, and presidential palace and many ministry buildings.
  • On the 22nd of January, the United Nations noted that the emergency phase of the relief operation was drawing to a close, and on the following day, the Haitian government officially called off the search for survivors.
  • 1.3 million people are still displaced today.
  • According to the Guardian: “Although the international community promised almost $10bn in aid earlier in 2010, very little has actually arrived. What is more, support appears to be dwindling. In 2010, more than 35 countries and multilateral agencies pledged roughly $3.8bn to reconstruction. Going into 2011, pledges have diminished to 20 countries amounting to $1.5bn.”
  • While the whole world watched over Haiti and with thousands of aid organizations present in the country, over 3,500 people have died since October from a Cholera outbreak.
  • Only 5% of the rubbles have been cleared thus far. At this rate it will take 20 years to clear up all the rubbles from the earthquake.
  • There has been a high number rapes reported at the various campsites.
  • Amidst all this, the country has also been crippled by serious political instability without anyone showing great leadership and vision.

Petionville Golf Club in Port-au-Prince was the only golf course in Haiti. This before and after photo from Oxfam shows how the golf course (in the left) has turned into a tent city now (right):

For everyday people, there has been no change. At Jolkona, we are committed to working with some of the most effective organizations on the ground to get help to those who need it the most. We provide 5 diverse projects – from planting trees to helping rape victims to permanently bringing a family out of poverty – that allows you to have an impact that you wish to make. Check out our projects in Haiti.

We ask you to pledge a gift to Haiti and we will report back to you about the impact of your donation.

Photo Credit: Oxfam International

Throughout my trip thus far, I have seen over 10 projects and many innovations around the pivotal role community plays in development. Everywhere I have seen examples of individuals who depend on their community for support in order to advance themselves and in turn enrich the well being their neighbors. In turn I have seen communities come together to help those who need it the most. Because of this model, this inherent need to build up each other and those around them, these groups of individuals create change by organizing their efforts together.

I call this “Powered by Community” and here is the impact community can have in affecting change:

  1. Foster closer community through honesty and openness. Members of the community of Dago, Kenya come to together once a year for the Kick It with Kenya Soccer Tournament.  Time is made to connect and openly share ideas with other communities who come over as visitors to  the tournament. Making time to honestly share helps with community growth and building long-term relationships.
  2. Break taboos and stigmas. Talking about HIV and AIDS used to be a big taboo in African villages like Dago. Now every community has a voluntary counseling and testing center (VCT) where the conversation about the prevention of HIV and AIDS is commonplace. It is far easier to change long held beliefs if change is being done as a collective whole.
  3. Continue traditions. Families have started to see their members spread out geographically. In a family with 5 children, most might move out to the city or even another country. Yet, during Christmas, everyone attempts to come back home to reconnect with their roots and share stories – continuing a tradition that has been in place for generations.
  4. Improve health. In Dago, Community Health Workers organize their own communities to educate themselves about current health conditions, provide preventive measures, and distribute medications to those in need. Providing this much-needed service at a reduced cost increases the prevention of illnesses to all within the village.
  5. Educate the youth. Every community has a primary school with the goal to send every child to school. In addition, communities are finding ways to support continuing education of the brightest students so that every family can continue to prosper. For example, Dago’s orphanage has solar power – giving the children ability to study after dark, while 99% of the homes in Dago don’t have power at all.
  6. Share risks. In the village of Kiminini, Kenya, women pool their savings to make loans to their peers. The borrower needs to get signatures from other women in her group before applying for the loan. This way, the women in the community take the risk of having to pay back the loan in case the borrower defaults. Distributing risk empowers the community to insure the borrower is successful.
  7. Share responsibility. Just like distributing risks, the women in Kiminini understand the share responsibility amongst the group members to make sure that the borrower pays back the loan on time by distributing ownership for loan amongst members of the group.
  8. Build skills. Outside of Kampala, Uganda, an orphanage houses close to 100 kids during the holidays. They kids don’t have a family to go to. Yet, they are spending the holidays learning various dance techniques like their own regional dances as well as salsa and other contemporary styles. Encouraging learning during what would typically be a difficult time for these children raises their self-esteem and further develops their sense of cultural belonging.
  9. Achieve self-sustainability. In Dago, Kenya, the villagers are implementing farming initiatives that will ensure that they can meet the local food needs and have all the pieces in place for self sustainability now and for future generations.
  10. Have a family. The community provides a family to everyone, including those who don’t have one of their own. In Dago, the community comes together to support widows with housing, food, and land for farming.

How do you define community?

KITO International takes reformed street youths in Nairobi, Kenya and provides them with operational business training so that they can work with KITO’s many businesses (e.g. bag productions) and/or set up their own, profitable business. Nadia and I had a chance to meet with the first group of youths who are about to finish the course. It was amazing to hear their stories, where they are from, and the dreams they want to pursue after they finish at KITO.

One of the youths that spoke to one of my own passions was named Alex. He wants to be a rapper. Here is a short sample of what Alex’s talent:

The mastermind behind KITO, is Wiclif Otieno, who we met at Opportunity Collaboration. He himself was a street child in Nairobi. He is commonly called a “reformed street kid” – street children who are rescued from their current conditions. After going through the government-run program, he realized that a big problem faced by these reformed youths is that there are limited opportunities to apply themselves after completing the program. As a result, they can often end up back out in the street as before. Wiclif wanted to break the cycle and create change. Through KITO, the next step is to help Alex connect with a producer.

I am looking forward to having KITO go through Jolkona’s vetting process and be added as a Jolkona partner so that you can help Alex and others pursue their dreams and leave the street life behind them.

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