Our website has reached another milestone. We have launched our Alpha version to a selected group of people. This Alpha has taken longer than we expected, but, we think we have a website that we can build on in the future. We hope to have the next major release in the end of the summer or early fall.

I am sure all of you heard about the earthquake in China. We have been keeping tabs on the relief & recovery efforts in China. At this point, Jolkona Foundation is trying to assess the situation on the ground, before committing ourselves to any undertaking. The needs are wide ranging – from needing immediate relief material to recupertaing from “loss of a generation” as most of those killed are children. If you would like to contribute something at this moment, we encourage you to do that through Red Cross or Mercy Corps.

We are also in touch with one of our partners – Machik – who has operations in the Sichuan province. They are trying to establish how best they can contribute to the relief efforts. As the details emerge from their investigation, we will be sure to post updates on our blog here. You can see the latest update from Machik here.

As Asia faces two very challenging humanitarian crisis, our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Myanmar and China. We will continue to diligently monitor the situation. Finally, we encourage you to help out in any way that you can.

A quick update from us is that we are working hard on the first version of our website. We hope to have the private alpha available later this month to selected few followed by a beta later this summer. As we try hard to finish up the website, we have not been able to keep the blog up-to-date. However, I do want to take few minutes to talk about Cyclone Nargis that recently struck Myanmar.

We had a few people ask us whether we will be organizing another fundraising campaign similar to the one we organized after Cyclone Sidr in Bangladesh. You can read about that effort here. We are humbled by the trust people have in us to execute small, but effective relief operations. However, at this point we do not think we will be undertaking any relief efforts in Myanmar. The main reasons are:

  • Governments around the world are having a hard time getting into Myanmar. We do not think we will be able to talk our way into Myanmar.
  • Bangladesh presented a unique opportunity for us since we had many connections on the ground, which helped us coordinate and execute the relief operation with low-overhead. Such a personal network does not exist for us in Myanmar.
  • When we carried out our efforts in Bangladesh, we were not yet approved for our tax-exempt status in the USA. Now that we have been approved, we have to be more careful with our actions. At the end of the day, relief efforts do not align perfectly with our mission.
  • We are already spread thin trying to get our v1 website running – which is our main mission. It would not be prudent for us to take on projects that take us away from that immediate goal.

Therefore, we believe this is not the best time for us to initiate relief efforts in Myanmar.

We are delighted to see that people want to help. Here are some suggestions on how you can help out:

  • Firstly, keep abreast of the latest situation. If you can’t provide donations, you can help greatly by spreading the right information.
  • You can give to World Food Programme as they seem to be the ones with the most significant presence at this time in Myanmar. You can do this from here.
  • Here is a list of other organizations that are trying to respond to the disaster.

Please let us know if you have any comments/questions.

Ellison Research, a marketing firm that specializes in non-profits, recently published results from a survey where it found that more than 62% of Americans believe that non-profit organizations are generally spending too much on overhead costs. The survey also shows that there is a big gap between what the public thinks is acceptable as overhead costs and what they think the non-profits actually spend. You can read more about the survey here.

This survey further validates the assumption that Jolkona Foundation is based on: that the public is frustrated by high overhead costs in non-profits. We founded Jolkona Foundation because we are dedicated to making sure that every project-specific donation by our donors go directly to the projects.

While Jolkona Foundation does have some small amounts of overhead costs, such as Paypal fees, website hosting, etc, we plan to cover those expenses from other sponsorships and grants. Additionally, all organizations that we will work with are committed to having low overhead costs so that donors know exactly how their money is being spent.

We have tried talking to PayPal about removing these fees to reduce our costs, but, they have not yet agreed to our requests. However, it is well known that PayPal doesn’t charge fees for so we are hoping that we can engage PayPal to give Jolkona a similar agreement as well. Nevertheless, in the meantime Jolkona Foundation is still committed to delivering on our promise of sending 100% of project-specific donations to the actual projects that will use the donations for a direct, tangible, impact that you can see!

I recently had the opportunity to present the Jolkona message at a Fundraiser that the South Asian Student Association (SASA) at the University of Washington held on Friday, January 11, 2008. The event was coordinated by the efforts of a student at UW, Semonti Hossain who is on the Board of SASA in order to raise money and awareness of the recent tragic cyclone in Bangladesh. She is an amazing leader who took ownership and helped coordinate the event. She also spearheaded fundraising efforts of the Bangladeshi Student Association last year for the cyclone raising almost $800.

The fundraiser was a cultural movie night where all proceeds were donated to Jolkona Foundation for our cyclone relief efforts. Although the event was small, we were able to raise almost $100, but more importantly, we were able to raise awareness, enthusiasm, and support from the students at UW for Jolkona’s vision and for the aftermath of Cyclone Sidr.

Before the start of the movie, I was invited to give a brief presentation about Jolkona Foundation and concluded with a description of our cyclone relief efforts. We got very positive feedback from the students present during the event. We are excited to work with the student community at UW and hopefully, with students at universities around the nation to help spread the word about Jolkona in the grass-roots level!

We truly believe that Jolkona Foundation will only be a success with the help of people around the world that are truly committed to change and college students and young working professionals are at the core of our vision!

Jolkona Foundation’s first fundraiser is now in the history books. It was a successful Hot Chocolate and Dessert Fundraiser Social where we had the opportunity to talk about our work and highlight the recent work we did for the victims of the Cyclone in Bangladesh. We mainly used Facebook to spread the word about this fundraiser. We tried to reach out to our family and friends in the Los Angeles area.

We had a turn out of about 20 people and we were able to raise little over $1000 during the event!!! We are very encouraged by the turn out of mostly college students and young professionals and by the fact that we were able to raise $1000 from such a small crowd. We hope to take the Jolkona message on the road more often in the future with plans to hit up Seattle, the Bay Area, Boston, New York, and Washington D.C. in the near future.

Here are some photos from the fundraiser:

We at Jolkona Foundation want to wish all of you very happy holidays and a new year to come! We hope that you and your families have a wonderful and prosperous 2008!

We recently received some very exciting news – Jolkona Foundation has oficially been approved as a 501(c)3 organization. This means that going forward all of the donations that we receive from you will be eligible for tax-exemptions. Even more importantly – every donation we have received so far is also eligible for tax-exemptions now. 🙂 The 501(c)3 status will also allow us to be eligible for matching programs at various corporations.

We were expecting this approval to come around April or May of 2008. Of course it is very exciting that we have received the approval within 4 months of our application (usually it takes 8 – 10 months), but, it also means that our plans have to be adjusted too. For example, we were expecting to launch our website after getting the approval, but, now we are scrambling to get it launched as quickly as possible.

Again, we are very excited with the news and are looking forward to the challenges of the next few weeks.

We were able to raise about $3,000 in approximately 10 days. Here is a breakdown of Jolkona Foundation’s relief efforts:

  • We distributed 561 blankets to help the survivors cope with the winter.
  • We provided 460 loaves of bread and 300 packets of cheera and ghur.
  • We gave out thousands of water purifying tablets, as well as other medications.
  • More than 300 families (i.e. more than 1300 individuals) directly received some relief supplies.
  • We built 8 tubewells (also known as bore holes and waterwells) and hence, providing whole villages access to clean drinking water. These tubewells will have direct long term effects on the villages.

We had initially set a target of raising $2,000. We are ecstatic to raise $3,000, but we are even more excited to see the impact that a mere $3,000 had on hundreds of families.

As we mentioned in the previous post, here are some pictures from our relief efforts –

We are really looking forward to bring more high-impact projects to our users and seeing the continued impact that our donors have around the world!

This past weekend I had the opportunity to go to Bangladesh to help with Jolkona Foundation’s relief efforts in Bangladesh. You might remember that we had a goal to raise $2000 to help with our relief efforts. We are extremely proud to say that we were able to actually collect over $2500 with the help of all of our supporters!!! I will post more details soon about the exact amounts we collected and what sort of impact we were able to make with that.

I wanted to write a brief post about my overall experience – probably the most inspirational day of my life. After driving for 8 hours from Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh we finally reached a remote village near the coast of Bangladesh which had been devastated by the cyclone. It had been 3 weeks since the cyclone struck and even after 3 weeks of incessant cleanup work, one could still see plenty of fallen trees everywhere. These trees that were completely uprooted, are proof of the cyclone’s power of destruction. Once we got to the village itself we spoke with the locals and heard stories that completely astonished us. I remember talking to one guy who had about 10 to15 people in his family. I found out that he did not leave his home after the warnings and instead huddled in a corner of the house accepting death should it come. He mentioned that the closest cyclone shelter was over 1 Km away and that even if they were to survive and leave their home, they would have nothing since their whole life’s earnings was in that home. Aside from the many stories like that, 80% of the village’s rice fields have been wiped out, children are without any clothes and shoes (in winter) because the winds took everything, from the roofs on people’s homes to all of their belongings and on and on… No matter how much TV you watch, you never know the true damage until you visit the area yourself. After this visit, I am convinced that is true for any natural disaster!

We were able to give out a lot with all of the money that was donated, but it still was not enough at all. Every one of the 33 families in that village got something from us which they were all extremely grateful for. We even provided some relief materials to the surrounding areas as much as we could. As individuals picked up their relief goods, they were shocked and grateful for what they received. One of the most touching things that happened to me was the extreme generosity these people had despite having almost nothing. When we arrived to the village, amidst their chaos, one of the families had prepared lunch for us to thank us for our efforts. They had cooked up some really good chicken – a meal that was probably better than anything they had in 3 weeks. I am still in shock about the giving nature of people who have so little, but am excited to be able to provide the opportunity through Jolkona Foundation to allow those of us that do have money to give, to be able to do so in a meaningful way.

In an upcoming post, we will give details of all the items that we distributed and its impact. This was the 1st project for Jolkona Foundation and something we are very proud of. However, that excitement was overshadowed by how much more these people needed and how our efforts seemed so little compared to the destruction in that country.

Before I close out the blog, I really have to thank all the generosity shown by individuals who stepped up and donated to our drive. Your generosity really had profound impact on these people.

I have put up some of the photos from our visit on FlickR and you can get to them from this URL –

Although Jolkona Foundation is still patiently awaiting its 501(c)3 approval, we at Jolkona are not sitting around. Aside from our cyclone efforts, we are fundraising, building the website, and most importantly forging partnerships. We are excited and lucky to say that one of our partnerships is with an incredible non-profit called Machik that is doing AMAZING work in the rural villages of Tibet. This weekend I was fortunate enough to meet with the directors and supporters of Machik in Washington DC, at their first annual Donor/Partner Weekend retreat.

One of the many things Machik has done is to create the best primary school in a small Tibetan village called Chungba. Over the years, their school has outperformed the other schools in the area, and recently the local government decided that Machik’s primary school should be the model for all schools in the area. It was so inspiring to celebrate this huge milestone with Machik and its supporters and it really goes to show how ordinary people can truly accomplish extraordinary things with the help of just a few people who believe in making a difference.

What I really took back from this experience is that making an impact even in a small way can lead to huge changes for society, which Machik exemplifies through its one initial primary school that impacted only one village but that will now be scaled up to impact the entire region! This is exactly why we decided to start Jolkona Foundation, because we believe that making small meaningful changes that improve individual productivity, can eventually lead to HUGE changes in the world as they get scaled up. So without going into too much detail about my trip, we are VERY excited to be able to create something that will allow our users to do exactly that, make small impacts around the world that we hope will scale up in a way that will really change this world! We hope that you all believe that too and that you will help support us in our endeavors!

You can visit the Machik website to learn more about what they are doing. I definitely encourage you to do so, if you have time!

As you can see, we were able to help out a lot of people with only $300. We are so encouraged by that result, that we would like to make another trip with supplies on Dec. 6th.

Our target is to raise at least $2000 by Dec. 4th for this next trip!

Please tell your friends, families, colleagues, strangers, anyone to help out the cyclone victims, even if that is with a small amount!

You can give in two ways:

1. By sending a check to:
Jolkona Foundation
P.O. Box 2153
Kirkland, WA 98083
Please indicate on the check that this is for Bangladesh cyclone victims.

2. By clicking here to send money through PayPal
PayPal will deduct up to 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction� that we receive.

As Adnan mentioned, we just delivered some relief goods to the cyclone victims in Bangladesh. With a mere $300 collected in 2 days, we were able to:

  • Give out 50 blankets
  • Distribute 200 packaged meals
  • Distribute 60 bottles of water
  • Distribute 160 loafs of bread to children under the age of 14
  • Provide 5000 water purifying tablets which can purify 7,500 litres of water

You impacted the lives of more than 75 families affected by the cyclones!

We tried to identify the most effective ways to distribute these items. For example, we gave some of the purifying tablets to tea shops in local piers for boats and ferries. These shops are the usual gathering places for hundreds of people waiting for boats and supplies. We gave the tablets to these shops to make sure the public had clean water in their tea – a common drink in this part of the world.

We also tried to focus on making sure that these items were distributed to areas which have not yet received any attention from the larger relief efforts. Bigger relief organizations are focusing on areas labeled as medium- and high- remote areas. We went to Rongdhonu (means “rainbow” in Bangla) village which is labeled as low- remote area. All 22 families in Rongdhonu completely lost their homes in the cyclone, even though they have not received any help yet.

We (in fact, YOU) were able to provide some help to every family in that village.

I am pleased to say that at this very moment, our friends in Bangladesh is taking $300 worth of relief items to some of the cyclone hit areas in Bangladesh. It is a very emotional time for us, because this marks our first project. Naturally, we are very nervous at this point.

We are also very excited that some of our friends have come forward with the initial donations to make this trip possible. We hope to report back in couple of days about the results from this trip. We hope the results will spur more of you to support our efforts during this time of disaster.

As you may know, last Thursday Bangladesh was hit by a category 4 cyclone. It caused extensive damage across the southwestern part of the country. Here is a short rundown of the damage:

1. More than 3,000 people have already died. The death toll is expected to rise since thousands are still missing.
2. More than 3 million people have been displaced. Most of their homes have been destroyed.
3. The Sundarban forest, home to the endangered Royal Bengal Tiger and a World Heritage site, was badly hit.
4. Many parts of the region are still submerged under water making rescue efforts difficult and raising fears of outbreak of disease.
5. There is a huge shortage of food, medicine, and clean drinking water.

Few of you have asked us if Jolkona is going to do something in this situation. Jolkona Foundation is getting involved in two ways:

Immediate Donations
As a first step, we are asking for immediate monetary donations. $10, $50, $200… any amount that you can spare in this holiday season will go a long way to provide much needed medicine, food and drinking water. Consider these examples:

· $100 can provide food to 70 people for 1 day
· $0.14 can provide 10 water-purifying tablets. Each tablet can purify 2.5 liters of water
· $0.50 can pay for 5 liters of Orsaline (a common Oral Rehydration Salt in Bangladesh)

We have agreements with experienced resources on the ground ready to receive these donations, buy the appropriate items, and distribute the items to the victims. You can give in two ways:

1. By sending a check to:
Jolkona Foundation
P.O. Box 2153
Kirkland, WA 98083
Please indicate on the check that this is for Bangladesh cyclone victims.

2. By clicking here to send money through PayPal
PayPal will deduct up to 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction that we receive.

We will continuously provide updates on our efforts through this blog.

Long term rehabilitation
Once the initial problems have been addressed, the survivors face the daunting task of getting their life back to normalcy. Jolkona Foundation will help out in that area too. Staying true to our vision, we will identify high impact projects where you can contribute and see the proof of your donations at work. We will provide more details about the long term options in few weeks time. The focus right now is very much on getting people the immediate help.

Please consider helping out in this time of need – any amount you can give will go a long way. We would also be grateful if you can forward this message to your family, friends, colleagues, anyone!

At this moment, we are building up our website which is an integral part of our vision and awaiting the approval of our 501(c)3 status. Until we obtain that status, donations that we receive are not going to be tax-deductible.