How did we decide to start non-profit work?
I have been blessed with a lot in my life. I have been grateful for all that, but probably not grateful enough. That guilt has only increased over time. I kept telling myself that I should focus on my career right now and once I have reached a particular stage (I had no idea when that would be or what that would even look like), I can try to be philanthropic. Everyone seems to be doing that, so, it seemed like a reasonable plan. I was coasting with this plan until January this year.
I was at home (Bangladesh) in January of this year (2007). One day, I went to the grave of my grandfather. As I walked out of the cemetery, I saw a young father carry his dead toddler. As a Muslim, we bury the dead wrapped in a white cloth. Not only was the toddler not covered with any cloth, the father was alone in this situation. He had no family or friend to support him either. He was alone. His eyes were so cold that I felt chills like I have never felt before. I hastened my pace and left the cemetery as fast as I could.
Ever since, I have felt guilty about my actions that day. Why did I walk away? Would it have been too much for me to help him out? Would it have been too much for me to help him buy the cloth? I could have at least tried talking to him, right? Do I have to establish my career before helping out? As I reflected on the events of that day, I realized that I don’t have to wait to get started. People say it is better late than never. I started to believe that it is never too early to help out. So, what do I do? I don’t have millions of dollars. I am not really an expert at anything. I have a lot of interests: technology, music, travel, etc. How do I combine these disparate conditions into something sustainable? After a lot of thinking and consultations, the idea for Jolkona Foundation was born around April of this year. The foundation’s goal is to use small scale impacts to fight the socio-economic conditions impeding the individual productivity. The foundation will use technology to connect a donor with each impact. We did not get incorporated till July and we are still waiting for our 501c(3) approval. So, Jolkona Foundation itself is only 3 months old. 🙂
Personally, I continued to struggle with my involvement with the foundation. For the longest time, I tried to convince myself that I am not ready for this. I did not think I can take this on. I constantly worried about letting down a lot of people. I told myself that I was not ready for this kind of responsibility. What do I know about philanthropic work, anyways?! I have always maintained that the best way to know 99% of life is to try it. So, staying true to my word, I decided to stop asking questions and genuinely get involved with the foundation. It has meant a lot of sacrifices. But, looking back, it was the best decision I have ever made.
It is amazing how far an intentioncan get you. I have met many amazing people since then. I have seen lots of impactful work being done. Simply making the honest intention has allowed me to experience a beautiful side of humanity that I thought only existed in books and Hollywood movies.
Finishing up the story, Jolkona Foundation continues to receive huge support. There are many things that we would like to do in the near future. It is a matter of executing efficiently over the next few months in everything from fundraising to developing the website and from filling our Advisory Board to finding partner projects.
This is already a long entry. In the next entry, I will dwell into more details about the goals of the foundation.