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I’ve worked with several food-related nonprofits in the Seattle area, providing cooking classes, nutrition education and youth engagement for low-income and immigrant communities. Local farmers donated fresh fruits and vegetables for our programs; opening the produce box was a highlight every week. We embraced the challenge of cooking with garlic spears and sun chokes, varieties of mushrooms, and raabs, all unknown to our veggiephobic immigrant and refugee youths.

While naming new vegetables and sharing in the glee of tasting nectarines for the first time, we also learned that CSAs – community-supported agriculture – are great for the planet. If there’s a CSA program available in your area, sign up! Celebrate Earth Day (Monday, April 22), and start reaping these significant benefits:

  1. Eat fresh: Since everything is grown locally, you can count on getting fresh ripe produce that hasn’t been sitting inside a truck for days.
  2. Try something new: Each week, be surprised by a new fruit or vegetable, and experiment with it. My favorite item from 2013: garlic spears! (See recipe below.)
  3. Save the planet: The earth suffers when crops are grown en masse and flown around the world. By subscribing to a CSA, you encourage local farming and heritage variety crops. You may not get tomatoes in December, but you’ll get a dozen different varieties all summer long.

What’s a CSA?

CSA stands for community supported agriculture, and is a loosely organized group of customers and farmers who organize to sell “shares” of the farmers’ crops to the customers, who in turn subsidize the farmers, their operations, and often their families. Some CSAs ship directly to customer homes, but others allow you to pick up your share at a nearby collection point.

How much does it cost?

Depending on how large the CSA is or how many seasons you sign up for, you can expect to pay anywhere from $20-$50/week for a seasonal share. That means a typical June to November summer season may cost between $400 and $1,000. Some CSAs ask for the money upfront; others charge on a weekly basis.

Which is the best one?

If you live in the Seattle area and want the convenience of home delivery (at the cost of having a CSA that isn’t a 100% local), New Roots Organics is my favorite: you get a list a few days before the drop-off, and an opportunity to switch out the items you don’t want. Plus owner Carolyn is incredibly friendly and responsive!

Typical Late-Summer Box

  • Spinach – 1/3 lb
  • Arugula – 1/3 lb
  • Swiss Chard – 1 bunch
  • Turnips – 1 bunch
  • Radishes – 1 bunch
  • Storage onions – 1 lb
  • Lettuce – 1 head
  • Kale – 1 bunch
  • Carrots – 1 bunch
  • Sunchokes – 1 lb
  • Cabbage – 1 head
  • Garlic – 2 heads
  • Pumpkins – 1 ea

If you’re willing to pick up your box a few blocks or miles from home, the City of Seattle’s P-Patch and Oxbow Farms are also great.

Aparna’s Garlic Spear Pesto

  • Eight 10-inch-long garlic scapes/spears
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup shelled walnuts or pinenuts
  • Zest and juice of 1/2 a large lemon
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil(evoo)

Throw in all ingredients into a food processor, and pulse until they come together. Add salt and extra lemon juice/evoo for taste and consistency.

Use pesto in sandwiches, on pasta – everything is better with a garlicky twist!

Aparna Rae is an organizational and development consultant in Seattle’s nonprofit sector.

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I got the news on a Thursday afternoon, in February 2012. Our sales team had completed a stellar quarter at Google, and the email notified me that I could expect a handsome bonus in a few weeks time.

As my mind raced with ways I could use the extra money,  I thought about my recent volunteer expedition to South America, with Jolkona. I’d been meaning to do something positive once I got back to the U.S.; perhaps a donation was a good place to start. I called up my good friend, Jolkona CEO Nadia Mahmud, and told her I wanted to make a donation benefiting women and girls. Nadia said, ”Well, rather than a donation, how about making a sponsorship?”

I’d never done something like this before; weren’t sponsors supposed to be big organizations or corporations, and not random tech employees like myself? But together, Nadia and I crafted a plan for Jolkona’s 2nd Annual Give to Girls campaign. I’d match donations, dollar for dollar, to a handful of charities that Jolkona works with — and we decided to approach the women’s network at my office to come on board as a key marketing partner.

My initial thought was to not mention my individual sponsorship in our marketing campaign, keeping it anonymous . The head of our women’s committee thought this was ridiculous. “Absolutely not! We’ll tape a video of you talking about the campaign, and you need to put your name on this.” I was reluctant, but the personal touch seemed to work.  Our community banded together, and the donations came in day by day. I received countless emails from co-workers and friends excited to support our efforts. And one particularly generous coworker of mine, Jessan Hutchison-Quillian, was moved to join me halfway through the campaign as a sponsor.

I never imagined we’d raise $25,000 for girls & women in 2012, and I’m so happy Jolkona’s Give to Girls campaign is now in its fourth year.

Through my Give to Girls sponsorship, I learned a couple of powerful lessons. First, I witnessed the power of the crowd rather than the individual — we can truly amplify our impact when we give together. Second, I experienced how people around you will rise to the occasion when you share your personal passion for something. Jessan jumping in as a co-sponsor was an unexpected and wonderful example.

During these last few days of Women’s History Month, I encourage you to make a meaningful donation to Jolkona’s Give to Girls campaign.

Zanoon with other Jolkona volunteers during our 2012 expedition to Rio, Brazil.

Zanoon with other Jolkona volunteers during our 2012 expedition to Rio, Brazil.

Zanoon Nissar leads various giving initiatives at Google. Since 2010, she has volunteered with Jolkona, and has spent six weeks traveling/blogging through South America & South East Asia as part of their Expeditions.

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A self-professed tech geek, I’m routinely amazed at the power I hold in my hands: smartphones, tablets, laptops, the latest new gadget. A shocking statistic from the United Nations made headlines last year: more people now have access to cell phones than to toilets. Increasingly, our world is run by technology and the people who know how to wield it.

That’s why Jolkona’s Give to Girls project to support homeless women by teaching technology and life skills resonates with me. Housing and homelessness — especially in the Seattle area — are pressing issues, as rent and property values rise higher than low-skills workers can afford.  In my experience, there is no single narrative for homeless women and no negative stereotype that holds true. There are many paths to homelessness: foreclosure, domestic abuse, layoffs, medical expenses. However these women got there, their energy and time is now focused on day-to-day survival.

But what if you could help put the power back in the hands of women who are experiencing homelessness?  What if you could take the focus away from short-term survival and give women the ability to build marketable skills, allowing them to look to their futures?

I support women’s projects like this because I believe in empowering women to dream, plan, and achieve. I believe that women with technology can change the world.  Technology is the foundation of many careers and jobs.  It is access to information and resources. It is having a platform to voice one’s opinion and engage with other people. Technology is power.

I invite you to join me in supporting the Jubilee Women’s Center, or one of the other partners in Jolkona’s Give to Girls campaign this month.

Genevieve Venable works in communications and community outreach for Seattle University’s Center for Service and Community Engagement.  She is currently pursuing a Master of Public Administration degree.  

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Through its events and campaigns, Jolkona has created a vibrant, fun and energetic community of Gen Y’s that not only give their money, but also their time and hearts. As a Jolkona supporter and someone who is passionate about teaching women the power of financial independence, I’m excited to partner with Jolkona to launch a special event on Feb. 20: Ignite Your Radiance. This evening will bring women together to share the message that health, wealth and community are all interdependent and essential to success, with proceeds going to support Jolkona operations.

Many of us spend the majority of our time and energy thinking about our health or finances, and often times, can feel isolated. Yet finances tend to be taboo topics for women — not something typically discussed in social circles.

Without wealth, health is compromised; without health, there is no wealth. Community, when robust, strengthens both health and wealth. Put all three together, and you have a powerful foundation that can propel your life, career and business to the next level. By incorporating each of these pieces together, we can fully be empowered to be of service to others.

Women are natural connectors, and thrive with an encouraging and supportive community. On Thursday, Feb. 20, you’ll have the opportunity to connect with like-minded women, and hear from a group of amazing speakers from different backgrounds: Jolkona’s CEO Nadia Mahmud; Jamie Silverstein, a yoga studio owner and former U.S. Olympian; Melody Biringer, a successful author and entrepreneur; and Dianne Juhl, a financial coach with an impressive personal story. In a TED Talks-style format, each will share her experience of how achieving a balance between wealth, health, and community has helped her thrive. Men and women alike who attend can learn from these stories, be inspired and expand their social and business networks.

Will you be one of them?

To learn more and attend this event, please visit: https://igniteyourradiance.eventbrite.com

Guest post by Michelle Wong, a Jolkona donor.

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Guest post by Natacha Danon, a Seattleite who is studying political science and sociology at Bates College. She submitted this shortly after arriving in Morocco for a semester abroad.

While preparing to study abroad in North Africa and spending the last few weeks interning at Jolkona, I’ve been considering global connections. My Jolkona work has enabled me to travel (virtually) around the world and explore the innovative and remarkable work people are doing – from providing prenatal care to mothers in Palestine to increasing educational services for disabled schoolchildren in Nepal.

Natacha Danon in Chellah 2In Morocco, I will be learning Arabic and studying Moroccan literature and history – but the real learning, I suspect, will occur outside the classroom in the heart of Rabat, a city where Europeans mingle with Arabs from North Africa and the Middle East. The richness and diversity of the country is encapsulated by Darija, a dialect that combines Arabic, Tamazight (Berber), French, and Spanish. It is also reflected in a site I visited today — Chellah, which features beautiful gardens, Roman ruins, an ancient mosque built by the Arabs when they first arrived in North Africa, and royal tombs. This was a breathtaking display of the many cultures and people that have inhabited Morocco over the millenia.

In between seeing some ancient sites and modern malls, I’ve already enjoyed good food and company. My host family welcomed me with a relaxing late lunch – chicken couscous with raisins and chickpeas – and we watched the soccer game on TV. My new father (“baba”), mother, two sisters, and brother speak French (“alhamdullilah”) to me, but Darija amongst themselves. I’m hoping to learn this language soon, perhaps from the Arabic-dubbed Indian and Turkish soap operas the mother, daughters and I watched all Saturday afternoon! The value placed on hospitality and family are two things that will stay with me.

I’m excited about this opportunity. But at the same time, through my work at Jolkona and the countless hours spent navigating the website, it’s comforting to know that when I’m back in America, even if I take a desk job after graduating college, I can maintain my global connections. I won’t need to go halfway across the world to fulfill my desire to understand and impact people beyond the confines of my insular world. Besides, the cost of my plane ticket is enough to provide hundreds of books for Burmese kindergartners or agricultural training for dozens of women farmers in Sudan. I can continue to expand my horizons and make a global impact from my computer in the comfort of my own home.

And so can you.

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This post is written by Natacha Danon, a political science and sociology student at Bates College.

In 2013, I fulfilled my New Year’s resolution to give more of my time and money to help others. Through Jolkona, I researched several great causes — giving books to a kindergarten class in Burma, providing prenatal care for poor women in India, funding social services for exploited children in Benin, training homeless American women for the workplace — before deciding to contribute to helping Seattle children improve their math and science skills.

As someone who values education and appreciates the opportunity to attend college, I find it difficult to see friends and classmates grappling with the financial burden of steep loans or postponing their plans for higher education.

Technology Access Foundation

By contributing to Jolkona’s Give Direct project for the Technology Access Foundation, I can do something to help bridge these glaring inequalities. TAF provides educational support, particularly in math and science, to underserved elementary and high school students in Seattle. For example, a $30 contribution pays for a set of headphones to be used in one of their Techstart classes, to help bridge the technology and educational divide for children from low-income families. TAF’s mission is to provide educational opportunities and instills an appreciation for learning — things I was fortunate enough to grow up with because of my parents.

Jolkona carefully evaluates and selects organizations that are sustainable and effective, so I am confident that my contributions get to the right people and have a direct, tangible impact.

Educational Empowerment

In 2014, I plan to support Educational Empowerment, an organization that buys and distributes books to classrooms in Myanmar (Burma), where libraries are virtually non-existent due to years of isolation and political instability. My donation helps buy and deliver locally produced books to help Burmese children learn to read and love learning — a crucial impact  in a country where one-third do not attend school and 70 percent of those who do end up dropping out before high school.

You can also make a New Year’s resolution to support more philanthropy,  and use Jolkona.org to find an issue (education, global health, poverty alleviation, agriculture and food, women and girls), a region, and a specific project that inspires you. Donations are welcomed in any amount, starting at just $5. Whether you’re a college student like me, or already established in your career, every gift counts. After all, “Jolkona” means a drop of water in Bengali – each donation, pooled together with mine and others, collectively creates a large impact.

Happy New Year!

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This post is written by Natacha Danon, a political science and sociology student at Bates College. She is pleased to volunteer with Jolkona before she leaves for Morocco, where she will study abroad next semester.

In the chaos of long lines, last-minute preparations, and family gatherings, the natural disaster that struck the Philippines just last month began to slip from my mind. But while buying the last of my Christmas gifts – and  watching people flood the mall again days later to shop the sales – I was suddenly struck by the irreconcilable contrast between these two worlds. The only commonality was the element of long lines – long lines of impatient customers at Macy’s, long lines of Filipinos awaiting scarce water, food and medical supplies. An image of consumerism and abundance; an image of scarcity and deprivation.

In this state of cognitive dissonance, I tried to take solace in the fact that I had done what I could. A few weeks earlier, my family members emailed back and forth to make individual pledges and pool our contributions for Peace Winds America, the Seattle-based nonprofit that Jolkona has partnered with for this year’s Standing With the Philippines holiday campaign. Remarkably, 100 percent of our donations go towards food, water, shelter, counseling and other needed services for the survivors of Typhoon Haiyan (known there as Typhoon Yolanda).

But our individual contributions aren’t enough; 11 million people are struggling to recover from this unprecedented disaster. So, please consider spreading the spirit of giving beyond your own family, by providing survivors in the Philippines with a glimmer of hope for the new upcoming year. Spread the word and give together with Jolkona and Peace Winds America in the spirit of this holiday season today.

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Written by Lena Alfi

After a long, scenic drive heading east along the coast of Ghana, our van pulled into a quaint village called Anloga. Positioned alongside a main road, the shops and homes of Anloga are only a five-minute walk from the ocean. As a result, our first whiff of Anloga air was consumed by the smell of dried fish. We arrived at the Lumana house where we were greeted by Eric. He is the Country Director of Lumana in Ghana, and graciously hosted us. Lumana is an organization founded in Seattle that provides financial services and small loans to Ghanaians living in poverty.

The Lumana house is in the center of town and easily accessible to every street shop, food stands and local bank. After dinner at a nearby restaurant (which consisted of chicken and jolof – a delicious tomato based rice dish), we rested up in our mosquito tents and prepared for the following day to meet Lumana loan recipients.

Women fishmongers

We started off the next day by squeezing into a local shuttle (Ghanaians don’t waste any space – there are always seem to be 3 people per seat), and driving up the coast to a farm. There we met our first clients of the day. George and Joseph are brothers who own a few acres of land and mostly farm peppers and tomatoes. They have quickly become some of the most successful farmers in the area and have used Lumana loans to build up their product. Their plans for expansion include farming carrots and onions, which will require pipes for irrigation. Lumana is working on fundraising about 2000 USD to support this. Aside from their farming business, the brothers have come up with some very entrepreneurial and socially conscious ideas, including a fish farm, a hostel, and scholarship money to support schooling for their employees. As we walked through their fields, we were amazed at how different some fruit can look without all the hormones and preservatives we tend to use in the US!

After leaving the farm, we walked to the beach to find Dashi, a local fishmonger who spends hours in the sun waiting for fishermen to reel in their fish nets so she can buy, dry and sell fish in the market. Dashi is one of many fishmongers who are women, and they all surround the beach daily to negotiate fish prices. As the sun was blazing in the middle of the day, we were all amazed at how effortlessly these women endured the heat to make a profit of under $10. We could barely last 20 minutes!

 

Monica, SueJin, Lena and Nancy with Christie and her staff

After recuperating from the heat, we headed down the street from the Lumana house to visit Christie, a tailor who, with Lumana loans, opened a shop where she currently employs 7 young tailors and is one of the most successful tailors in the town. Aside from being extremely sweet, welcoming, and thankful to Lumana’s services, we were most impressed with how beautiful her shop was! She is an inspiring success story of how far a small loan can go – beginning with one tailor and resulting in a business with young women employees and a large clientele.

We visited another male tailor with similar success before heading to Senna and Appalonia’s home. Senna is a successful businessman who built upon Anloga’s many tomato farms. He started a cannery that purchases malformed or old tomatoes that would be otherwise wasted from surrounding farmers, and purees and cans them. Senna has built an impressive clientele of customers from all across West Africa, who he sells canned tomato puree to, and has quickly become the most popular and successful businessman in town. He has benefited from Lumana loans by purchasing equipment, buckets and jars for his business.

Appalonia with a bottle of tomato puree

We had a wonderful experience in Anloga. Thank you to Eric, who was an amazing host who lined up inspirational clients for us to meet. Thank you to Anloga for welcoming us so warmly, and sharing your stories with us! Our time with Lumana was eye opening to the power of “small small” (as Ghanaians often say) loans to make big, sustainable change.

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.

Editors Note: This post was written by the one and only Chi Do!

I grew up in Vietnam, where I witnessed first-hand the inequalities of the health care delivery system in third world countries. Access to medical care was only for the more privileged, smaller sector of the population. If you were poor and lived hundred miles from the city, disease would almost be a death sentence. My childhood dream was cultivated from this knowledge. I wanted to become a medical doctor who would bridge that gap, bringing health care to the poorest of the poor, and to the most remote areas of the country.

That childhood dream took a back seat when my family immigrated to America and as I worked hard to build up a new life, aiming for the American dream. In 2006, the University of Washington, my alma mater, started a new tradition called the Common Book, in which every first-year has to read the same book prior to attending their first college quarter. The first book, “Mountains Beyond Mountains: the Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World” by Tracy Kidder captured my heart. It reminded me of that childhood dream I once had – the dream to bring health access to all. I started seeking for opportunities to get involved and found the Jolkona Foundation. The idea that a small donation makes a large impact speaks so much to me. Everybody can be a philanthropist. Everybody can help make life better for another person, whether they are right next to you, or half the world away.

A couple months ago, I was in Dhaka, Bangladesh, in the middle of the largest urban slum in the country. There was a small building nestled in the corner, away from all the noises of daily life. It served as the slum’s clinic sponsored by Distressed Children & Infants International (DCI). While we were there, a middle-aged woman came in carrying an infant on her arms while a young girl walked shyly behind her. I came to find out the baby was born to this young girl, who was barely 17 years old. She was married when she was 13. The older woman was the baby’s grandma. They came to seek medical care for the baby boy who had a common cold. Hearing their story, my heart flew to them. Many young girls in developing countries today have never had the opportunity for education, never known anything else beyond the 4×4 wall of their family house in the slum, and have often entered motherhood and faced too many maternal health problems at such a young age.

I am proud to be volunteering for Jolkona, to spread the word, to cultivate philanthropy within my social circles, and to lend a helping hand. I do all this with the hope that more young girls and women around the world are given the health care and educational opportunities they deserve. I urge every one of you to do the same, to seek the passion that speaks to your heart. And if it is to share or to serve the underprivileged, join us!

During the month of July, your donation to any Global Health project will be matched. Consider donating to the slum clinic in Dhaka that I mentioned above. With $50, you can provide medical supplies for the whole clinic or cover the cost of a general practitioner, both for an entire week. For the majority of people living in the slum, this is the only place they can go for medical care. In addition, join us tonight at Maker’s Space, where Socializing for Social Change is hosting an event benefiting Jolkona. To attend, you must make a $10 donation to one of three health-related projects!

Inspired? Find more Jolkona on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Read more about Jolkona’s visit to the DCI Clinic here!

Note from the Editor: This post was written by Jolkona volunteer Chi Do.

In Bangkok, on a very hot and humid June day, the Jolkona team got the opportunity to visit a vocational school run by Thai Action Committee for Democracy in Burma (TACDB). Greeting us were many students dressed in white shirts and dark pants. They were there to attend 2-hour classes held every Sunday, studying subjects such as English, Thai, or computer skills. They all seemed to take these weekend classes very seriously. For many of them, this is the only education they are able to find. The majority of them have not graduated from high school and currently hold full time entry-level jobs at factories or in sales. Students can attend more than one class depends upon their financial resources.

TACDB was founded in February of 2003. Its mission aims to support the Burmese refugees and immigrants who come to Thailand from the poorest and most war-ridden areas of Burma.

Today, besides providing education and vocational training for these Burmese young adults, this non-profit organization also supports Burmese immigrants with legal assistance in labor unions. They strive to break down the language barriers for these workers, improve their awareness of their legal rights, and organize democracy campaigns to signify their presence in the Thai community.

We asked Myint Wai, the Director of TACDB, what they currently need the most. He responded without hesitation – financial support. It is easy to see that the school is running way over capacity. Thailand’s law dictates that there should be no more than 500 students in this size of facility, yet they are enrolling close to 850 students on a regular basis. There are 45-60 students in each class. And there are only 10 computers that are functioning and being used for teaching. All of the teachers volunteer their time. They receive nothing besides a minimal travel stipend to get to and from the school.

To further understand the impacts this school provides, we interviewed a couple students.

Ngelay-Bright has been attending English class for the past 5 years. She works full time as a sales clerk. She emphasized to us that she is saving money to continue learning at the school, because she believes advancing her language skills (both English and Thai) and computer skills will significantly improve her earnings. She wishes to one day finish high school and attend university.

Aung Naing is a fairly new student at the school. He has only been learning English for about 5 months, but he had no problem communicating with us. He said that he is thankful to have found out about the school and started studying there. It is impressive how much education, commitment, and determination can work to make a difference in the lives of these young people.

Investing in education is undoubtedly the best way to improve the lives of the Burmese refugees and immigrants in Thailand. Personally, it touched me a great deal to be able to relate their story to my own, when my family first migrated to the United States. Without the educational opportunity available to me, I wouldn’t have been able to finish college, obtain a good job, adapt and establish my life in a foreign land. I am passionate to campaign for the support the “TACDB” school needs most. Let me break it down:

  • With 350 Thai bahts (11 US dollars), we can send one student to one class for 3 months.
  • With 250 Thai bahts (8 US dollars), we can support the travel expenses for one volunteer teacher a week.
  • With 10 donations of 1000 Thai bahts (32 US dollars), we can pay the facility fees for 1 month.

In any amount possible, I hope you consider supporting the TACDB, or at least learn more about their work.

We will keep updating you on the SE Asia Trip during Global Health Month! Keep following us on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Note from the Editor: this post was written by our brilliant Jolkona volunteer, Zanoon Nissar.

I’d travelled through India many times before, and so I felt pretty at ease when I arrived in Bangladesh.  As we roamed the streets amidst the buzzing rickshaws, overflowing gutters and oily food carts, it felt very much like the childhood trips we’d make to Kerala. This time around, though, I was going to experience this part of the world through very a different lens than which my upper-middle class background had provided.

The Kalyanpur Pora Basti slum is one of Dhaka’s largest, housing over 20,000 people of the 30 million people living under the poverty line in Bangladesh. One of Jolkona’s earliest partners is Distressed Children and Infants (DCI) – an organization committed to providing basic necessities such as food, shelter and education to disadvantaged children around the world. Romel Nasher, the Executive Director of DCI and his warm staff greeted us at their headquarters, and took us to two of their projects – their free health clinic and their girls orphanage.

Our first stop was the DCI health clinic, which offers preventative and curative healthcare including basic immunizations, health check ups for pregnant women, and health education. Although Dhaka has many modern clinics, the poor cannot even access their doors. The existing health support for them is minimal. The health clinic serviced over 3100 patients last year, with a staff of just 6 doctors, 3 social workers and a few staff working 5 days per week. The number of patients this small clinic receives in a day is a real indication of the need for these kinds of facilities in the slums of Dhaka.

The clinic was located in a corner of the slum, close to a sea of parked rickshaws (Dhaka is the rickshaw capital of the world, and many slum residents make their living as drivers). As we walked towards the simple concrete building, we were greeted by dozens of children. Some were shy, others were curious about our multi-ethnic group of volunteers, and others were bashfully waiting to take our picture. The smiles and joy emanating from the children – many without shoes and with ribs sticking out of their malnourished bodies – struck me.

The children followed us to the doors of the DCI health clinic, a building that is well known in the area since it’s the only free health clinic accessible to the 20,000 residents. One of the staff members showed us an enormous, worn out book that was crammed with names of their patients and vaccination information. Forget about technology or computer access here – this book with rows of handwritten information was the key to patient management.

We then had a chance to meet one of the 6 doctors. Dr. Majid, like the other staff doctors, splits his time between a government hospital and the DCI health clinic. When we asked him why he decided to spend time at a slum clinic, he replied “the people at the hospital say thank you when I help them, but at this clinic in the slums I feel like they are giving me blessings. That’s how grateful the people are here for this free clinic.” Dr. Majid explained that over 80% of the slum children are malnourished and that the most common types of medicines he administers are for fever, anti-diarrheal and pre-natal shots. In an attempt to help prevent such problem,  the clinic provides 5 pre-natal care and educational check-ups for mothers prior to birth.

Outside the window, we began to hear children’s voices and soon a dozen or so were at the window, mischievously peering in at us. We went outside and were immediately surrounded by children, excited to tour their neighborhood with us. We walked through the narrow dirt streets amongst the noise of rickshaws and motorcycles. Men played caroms, a local game similar to billiards. We got to examine the creative ways in which slum residents made their living –  through small food stalls of poori and fried goods, and others worked on sewing machines, mending and making clothes for a living.

Where were the women residents of the slums, I wondered? It wasn’t until we entered the “units” that we peered down an extremely narrow pathway filled with rows of homes that we saw them in action. The women were busy cooking fish in clay pots outside their homes, tending to children, drying their clothes or watching TV on a small refurbished model. They smiled as we walked through their unit, and one kind young women in a green salvar kameez invited us to see her home. The woman smiled at us and asked us to sit on the bed, which also served as her couch, in this dark, hot room with a small fan blowing in the corner. She lived in this room with her husband, 2 children and also her sister and mom. It was at this moment, as I sat on the bed  –  in this home that was smaller than bedroom back in California  – that I was truly hit by the magnitude of poverty here. I held back tears as the woman kept thanking us for visiting her in her house — didn’t she know that it was our honor?

At the very end of each “unit” is a space of 3 toilet rooms that are shared by the residents. Slum residents don’t have access to water in their homes, so water pumping stations throughout the complex are extremely important. We watched as young, muscular boys clambered over each other, laughing and pumping fresh water into buckets. It’s essential for the residents to get their water from these pumps rather than the polluted waters that surround the slum. We were happy to learn that DCI’s health clinic also spends time raising awareness about hygiene and sanitation in order to reduce common waterborne diseases in the slum area.

My favorite part of the afternoon with DCI and the slum residents was when we got back to the health clinic after our tour. The children had followed us back to the clinic, and right before we re-entered the building, we felt the beginnings of rain. While the group of us volunteers were quick to get inside the building, shrieking and laughter ensued from the kids. As one of the DCI staff explained, it hadn’t rained in the area for over 3 weeks. Our trip had corresponded with some good fortune for the community. Though I resisted at first, I soon joined a group of kids in the rain, slipping, sliding, jumping, even shampooing their hair! They played with us without a care in the world. I felt deep moved and inspired by their resilience and courage.

What DCI is providing for the children and residents of the slums is basic access to the healthcare, both preventative and curative. As a result of the work of this small, dedicated staff, over 3100 residents have received treatment, 48 pregnant mothers have received prenatal care, and 110 patients were referred to specialized hospitals for support. I’m so impressed by their work and proud to call them a Jolkona partner.

We’ve launched a campaign to support DCI’s health clinic. Visit our campaign page for the DCI Health Clinic here to donate and learn more about how you can make a difference by providing medical supplies to Bangladeshi kids.

Please keep up with us on our blog, Facebook and Twitter as we share Team Southeast Asia’s experiences!

 

Note from the Editor: This post was written from Cambodia by Jolkona volunteer Krishnaja Gutta.

“Whatever little we have, we share it with love,” said Mrs. Prom Kimchheng as she led us into the little orphanage in the town of Battambang, Cambodia.  And yes there was plenty of love – so much that we were overwhelmed with the affection they showered on us during our visit. I’d say they have figured how to look at the glass half full and celebrate what they have there. The picture of this organization would not be complete without a description of the surrounding story, so let me start from the beginning…

I had been corresponding with Mrs. Kimchheng for a few weeks regarding our visit and have always been greated with excitement and warmth in her notes. When we landed in the Siem Reap airport, I saw a lady holding up the Jolkona sign and I instantly knew that was her. She was truly a picture of affection and warmth, full of life and modesty. The only time in our entire trip when she hesitated was when we asked her about the Cambodian Genocide – her eyes glistened with sadness of the memory before she lightly brushed off the topic . “It’s the past,” she said. No one would know she was a founding director of this organization even after talking to her for a few minutes. But make no mistake, she is deeply passionate about her work with Komar Rikreay (Happy Children). We drove through the picturesque, postcard worthy country side of Cambodia passing by lush, green rice fields, coconut and banana trees, and small villages.

At the orphanage with Mrs Prom Kimchheng

We were welcomed with a delicious Khmer lunch along with the children when we reached the organization. The children around us were bursting with excitement, giggling as they gulped down their meager lunch of rice, vegetables and dried pork in broth. Over lunch we met with the counselor and staff and we talked about the organization and the work they were doing. As we walked around after lunch, we saw the kids running around with make up on, dressed in colorful clothes. We decided to go in and help the children dress-up… or so we thought. Really, we were in for a special treat: the children were dressing up to perform for us. What followed was a true pleasure to watch – beautiful children danced, acted and sang for us and we joined the revelry learning some new dances and doing our own dance routine. We then spent time with the kids taking their pictures and making photo frames for them. It was one happy but hot afternoon!

Komar Rikreay was founded in 1994 for sheltering orphans and trafficked children. The organization was later extended to house various activities for children in the community who could not afford school, allowing them to play and learn vocational skills like tailoring, make-up, and English. The shelters were built with wood and were very minimally furnished. When the staff said that they were excited because they only recently got electricity, it struck me how basic their needs still are.

The children varied from ages of 3-16. Joyous and playful those these children were, almost all came from places of extreme trauma. Some of them were removed from appallingly abusive families, some were rescued from human trafficking , some were orphaned, others abandoned because they were mentally challenged. The counselor told us how the organization tries to help the children recover from their tragic pasts, teaching them their rights, giving them training and life skills so they can venture out in the world and live a life they fully deserve, as well as providing a place of safety for them.

Komar Rikreay also helps some of the children to start their own business through micro-financing. We met one such family. Four siblings had come to the organization a few years ago and when the eldest of them wanted to start a hair salon, the organization helped with a loan to rent a place. Now the family is self-dependent and have moved one step further away from their abusive past. It was an incredibly joyful and moving story to hear first hand.

Many of the children at the orphanage dream of such a second go at life. A few dollars can go such a long way in helping them achieve that, whether by getting them to school, or purchasing a uniform and other school supplies, or helping the them with loans.

We at Jolkona were delighted to witness the fabulous cause the organization is working towards and more importantly how they live life by truly seeing the glass as half full and enjoying everything they have with love – and oh what love! We hope to partner with them soon and help them raise many more children in this safe and protected environment, and we hope you will join with us in doing so.

Please keep up with us here on our blog, Facebook and Twitter as we share Team Southeast Asia’s experiences!

 

Note from the Editor: this post, fresh from Bangladesh, is written by Jolkona volunteer Melinda Moseler.

It’s not every day you get to meet someone who is getting a new lease on life having just received a prosthetic leg just a week ago.

Meet Pratik. His positive energy is contagious and his story is profoundly humbling.

A seemingly simple fall on a bridge turned into an alarming diagnoses of cancer in his leg. After copious of costly visits to India over the course of three years, he was only to be ill informed about treatments and – shockingly – netted out in having to have his leg amputated above the knee.

Fortunately, through referrals and a network of doctors, he was put in touch with Dr. Ehsanul Haque, the Medical Officer from BRAC Brace & Limb Center (BLBC). Dr. Haque handled every detail for Pratik, such as arranging travel, accommodation on site while away from home for several weeks, physical therapy, etc. There there took all the appropriate measurements, prepped the molds and the shape casts, built the limb, and fitted it. It’s one of the only facilities of its kind in Bangladesh.

Pratik was given a second chance.

Pratik’s new leg. Photo credit: Sergio Paolantonio

After all that he had been through his spirit was in a great place. He is looking forward to so much in life now that he has a prosthetic limb and is quickly regaining the ability to walk again. He can’t wait to see his parents and be greeted by his students once returning to his village after his stay at BLBC.

We were all deeply touched with his profoundly positive attitude and his ability to overcome something so drastic. I really walked away feeling like I’d learned a lesson in accepting life and its gifts – good with the bad – in whatever form they come. I am forever thankful for getting the opportunity to meet Pratik , Dr. Ehsanul Haque and the rest of the BRAC Brace & Limb Center staff and for being able view the extraordinary work they are doing for the disabled patients in Dhaka.

10% of all patients in need are funded through Jolkona’s Partnership with BLBC. Because of donors like you, patients like Pratik can receive care from BRAC Brace & Limb Center.

We’ve launched two campaigns that support projects we’re visiting during our trip. Visit our campaign page for the Brace & Limb Center here to donate and learn more about how you can make a difference by funding up to 4 supporting braces.

Please keep up with us on our blog, Facebook and Twitter as we share Team Southeast Asia’s experiences! Also be sure to follow NadiaAdnan, and Melinda on Twitter as they’re posting some great live updates.
 

Note from the Editor: this post was written by the Jolkona

 

This month six Jolkona volunteers, including co-founders Nadia Khawaja Mahmud and Adnan Mahmud, are traveling to Bangladesh, Cambodia and Thailand to spend time visiting our partner organizations in Southeast Asia. Jolkona’s mission has always been to connect our donors to global philanthropic opportunities and show donors the impact of their donation, whether it’s a photo, video or a card. During this trip, we intend to capture the spirit of our mission. Our goal is to experience face-to-face the impact of Jolkona’s partners, and share our stories back with our donors and friends in the most effective way. Visiting our partners is also an invaluable part of evolving our giving platform. On top of that, we’re planning on experiencing the culture, food and having some fun along the way!

Past trips to Africa and South America have been key in developing closer relationships with our partners and directly experiencing the impact we’re making on the ground, as well as helping tell those stories to our donors.

Southeast Asia (Bangladesh specifically) is where our work first started. Three years later, we’ve scaled to over 110 projects around the globe, and 28 specifically in SE Asia. During our trip, we’ll be visiting:

  • Bangladesh – DCI, BRAC limb center
  • Thailand – Rockefeller Center, Thai Action Committee
  • Camdodia – 1. KMR, Tean Thor, FEDA Cambodia

Two new campaigns

To build excitement and garner support for the partner projects, we’re launching two campaigns. Both support projects that we will be visiting during our trip. Help raise funds for these great projects!

1. Provide a Supporting Brace & Rehabilitation in Bangladesh:

Our first partner visit in Bangladesh will be our partner BRAC at their Limb and Brace Fitting Centre (BLBC). Their primary goal is increasing the independence of physically disabled persons by enhancing their ability to participate in daily life, social and economic activities. BRAC supports the disabled population with rehabilitation aids and services using appropriate technology. Our goal through your donation is to provide a total of 4 braces for those in need. Donate to our campaign here.

2. Provide Medical Supplies to Bangladeshi Kids:

Our second visit will be with another of OUR inspirational partners in Bangladesh — Distressed Children & Infants. Through your donation, you can provide medication to help alleviate preventable illnesses related to lack of proper sanitation and water among impoverished children in Bangladesh. Make a donation here.

When you contribute the full amount to either projects, you will receive a proof of impact for your donation. You can also give different amounts, starting at $5, though you will not receive a proof for a partial gift.

We’re so excited to be doing this! Please keep up with us on our blog, Facebook and Twitter as we share Team Southeast Asia’s experiences! Also be sure to follow Nadia, Adnan and Melinda on Twitter as they’re posting some great live updates.

Gratefully,

Nadia, Adnan, Chi, Krishnaja, Melinda & Zanoon

The Jolkona SE Asia Team

Please Note: This trip is a 100% funded by the volunteers who have graciously given of their own time and money. No funds from Jolkona have been used to sponsor any portion of this trip.

Note from the Editor: this post was written by Muneezeh Kabir. She is a recent graduate of The University of Texas at Austin where she earned degrees in English Honors and Women’s and Gender Studies. In college she spent several years tackling feminist issues, including chairing the Orange Jackets’ university-wide “Week of Women,” working as student staff in the UT Gender & Sexuality Center, and serving as Director of the Women’s Resource Agency. She currently lives in Houston, TX where she works in Accenture’s management consulting practice.

 

It’s hard to think that I’ve ever thought of myself as either an activist or philanthropist. I spent much of my time in college advocating for the women’s and LGBT communities in all the usual ways—organizing panels, participating in rallies, even producing “The Vagina Monologues” one year. I majored in Women’s & Gender Studies, led the campus’s most ambitious women leaders in an initiative to improve access to feminine hygiene products across campus, and attended all the feminist lectures offered.

I think I did it because after spending my childhood watching men behave discriminatingly towards my mother in the Middle East, reading about the plight of women in Afghanistan and Iran in high school, and experiencing my own fair share of new age, social media sexism in college, it only made sense. So when a student parent approached me on campus with horrifying narratives of insensitive faculties and outrageous policies, this too only made sense to pursue.

It began as a small group—two graduate students and myself. I had introduced the first student parent to the President of the Graduate Students Assembly who, to our surprise, said he had already been working on advocating for policy changes himself. We spent weeks seeking out more student parents and suddenly stumbled upon what seemed like an underground community of folks who were too tired from studying, grading papers, and working side jobs to make ends meet to share their issues with anyone.

And I listened to their stories.

I listened to the way the nurses on campus had mistreated them, the way so few buildings had comfort rooms or changing tables, the way the university daycare was unaffordable and had a year-long waiting list, the way academic advisors spoke to them as though they instead needed to speak to Services for Students with Disabilities. Young parenthood, I learned, was hard, and young parenthood in academia was even harder. Even the simplest of things, like library access, was restricted to mothers on maternity leave who needed materials to continue their dissertation work because of their so-called “inactive” student status.

Change came slowly. Our group grew. And once we compiled a comprehensive list of grievances and identified numerous achievable goals, we began to make our asks around campus. We asked for improved bus routes that would no longer force moms to walk up a hill with their baby and their books just to reach the daycare, we asked for student parents to have an administrative resource to help them navigate through the university bureaucracy, and we asked for discounted breast pumps to be sold at the university pharmacy.

We were successful in achieving most of these things. When I was elected Student Body Vice President, my Executive Board and I cut our stipends and used the money to create a need and merit-based scholarship fund for students who exemplified our campaign narrative of “Together Students Can.” We organized it in a way such that each of us could choose a student who best exemplified our own interpretations of the adage.

When I saw one applicant in particular, I knew immediately of his hardship. He was a bright international student from Korea with a family, and he was making a profound academic impact while struggling to make ends meet. I count few moments more precious than the one when I was able to hand him a $1000 check and he told me he couldn’t express how much it also meant to his wife and son.

And on my first Mother’s Day as an alumna, I’m thinking about them—the incredible student mothers and parents I met throughout my college career. I realize now even my small-scale organizing had a profound impact on the lives of people whose courage in the face of adversity remains, in my mind, unparalleled. And I realize now how easily all of us can make an impact.

Jolkona is the epitome of making our small drops add up to create a ripple of change. And as you celebrate this Mother’s Day with your loved ones, I ask that you look carefully at what you can do. Perhaps you can elevate Haitian women from “poorest of poor,” provide healthcare for Nepalese women, or prevent postpartum depression for mothers in Japan.

We no longer need to fear the overwhelming inability to impart positive global change—the answer is now at our fingertips.

On Mother’s Day, find and give to one of over 15 projects which supports mothers and their infants the world over by going to our projects page and filtering your search by selecting “Improve Maternal Health” or “Reduce Child Mortality”.

Or give one of our Mother’s Day gift cards to a Mother you love – you choose the amount and the recipient, they choose the project, they see the impact. Click here or on the image below:



 

 

 

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