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At Jolkona, we pride ourselves on being adventurous: always innovating to provide you with compelling philanthropic experiences. Although a few of these bold bets may fail, we believe such life-changing ideas are always worth trying – and these ideas are what makes me proud to be a part of this organization.

Seven months ago, we launched one of the first subscription-based monthly philanthropy platforms: Give Together, a bold bet that we weren’t sure would resonate with our donors or the market. Since then, this giving community has funded 16 different projects in four continents, ranging from life-changing surgeries for children in Bolivia to snow leopard conservation in Nepal.

In the meantime, monthly subscription services continue to grow in popularity for commercial enterprises like Netflix, Birchbox and Dollar Shave Club.  By bringing this model to the nonprofit sector, Give Together appeals to donors who want to give smaller amounts on a monthly basis (instead of coming up with a lump sum every year), while also learning about different kinds of projects and organizations that would not otherwise be on their radar. Our members have enjoyed the donation and educational components of our pilot program, but requested an easier way to participate in the selection process and engage as a community.

What’s new for 2014?

Keeping with Jolkona’s inventive spirit and taking our member feedback into account, we focused on how we could improve the Give Together program for 2014. We wanted to create bigger impacts, provide more community engagement, and further increase transparency around how we sourced our projects. So, starting this January, we have launched the new iteration of Give Together. Rather than fund three small projects each month, our community will give one larger grant to a single project, chosen from among our vetted partners. We believe that by pooling our resources together, the community can create bigger impacts on our world. We’ve also introduced Facebook connectivity with a private group for our members to view and discuss the project proposals applying for our monthly $1,000 grant. And as our community grows, so does the amount that we can give every month.

We’re excited to build off of our success in 2014 and continue to refine the monthly giving model. Whether you’re looking for new causes to support or want to take a more active role in grant-making, Give Together is an adventurous way to start the new year.

Join the discussion and change the world. Give Together .

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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!

Keep up with everything Jolkona by following us on FacebookTwitterPinterest and Instagram.

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.

Keep up with everything Jolkona by following us on FacebookTwitterPinterest and Instagram.

Written and Illustrated by Suejin Kim

Visiting Schools with Empower Playgrounds

After a beautiful canoe ride to an island, we walked into a beautiful school campus. It had only two sounds, children playing and birds, and had an open space with trees and flowers. Along with Isaac, a founder of Empower Playgrounds, we were welcomed with fresh coconut water by a school dean and staff members.

Playing Time

To understand classroom dynamics and to break the ice, Nancy led a spaghetti activity, which is creating a tower with given spaghetti and a marshmallow in 15 minutes. Students got excited and created some interesting shapes! After, we asked the kids draw anything on napkin size piece of fabric. They drew many daily life objects, such as a soccer ball.

 

Empower Playground

In the school’s playground, kids were playing with the Empower Playgrounds supported equipment. They were excited to see us and play with us. Isaac explained that while kids play, the equipment charges lanterns that kid can borrow for after school hours to study. In places like this, where there is no electricity, this is the only source of energy. Isaac mentioned that the performance of students went up after they introduced the equipment.

Empower Playgrouds has currently installed its play equipment in 32 schools and is aiming to install it in up to 40 schools this year. However, the equipment cost about $10,000 dollars to install. The money is donated by variety of NGOs and private donors. Energizer, the battery company, donates customized lanterns. In terms of business, this seems more of an interim solution before electricity infrastructure get fully built in Ghana. For small rural towns, the interim period might last decades.

No matter what, they are doing an amazing work in villages with no electricity, so kids can study longer, saving them from hours long house chores. What a cool idea this is, from a design perspective alone! It’s the Ghanaian way of “Study hard, Play hard.”

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.

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.

It’s a hot sunny day in Accra, Ghana. Most of the time, we kept the AC going in our rented van. But, we were driving by the coast and had the windows down to get a nice breeze. It was a beautiful sandy beach with tall palm trees and perfect waves hitting the shore. We drove by several fishermen reeling in the nets to see their latest catch, a common sight here, and a contrast to the resorts we’re normally used to on such prime real estate. All of the sudden, the foulest of smells fills the car. The smell was coming from the outside, but the fishermen and others around us seem indifferent. “We’re almost there,” says our driver. Right across the beach we see our destination, Waste Enterprisers.

Palm tree on the beach

Fishermen pulling their latest catch

Timothy Wade, the Chief Operating Officer of Waste Enterprisers was waiting to greet us. He was, like most of our group, from Seattle and even owned a condo in Capitol Hill. Two years prior, he moved to Accra after he partnered with Ashley Murray to start this unique company geared towards creating renewable energy products.

Tim told us we were in an area ironically named “Lavender Hill.” This is the site of Accra’s current waste disposal solution: dump it in the ocean. Yes, that’s right! Hundreds of trucks a day collect waste from the various tanks across the city and come to Lavender Hill to dispose of it. This directly feeds into the ocean without any processing. That’s several hundred tons of waste, daily, dumped into the same waters that fishermen are hauling fish out of less than a kilometer (right) down the road. What is not fed into the ocean via dump trucks is inevitably deposited through the sewage system, which also runs off into the ocean through a channel near Lavender Hill. Tim mentioned how dire the situation here was, and that the damage could even be seen on satellite maps, where murky brown water is visible around the coast of Accra. That pristine beachfront was not at all as it seemed.

 Dump truck unloading right into the water at Lavender Hill

The lagoon that all the sewage gets dumped into which after the bridge is the ocean. Also you can see fishing boats at the farther end used to catch fish from this area

Waste Enterprisers is trying to build a company that helps the city improve its sanitation practices. Tim walked us through their pilot waste processing facility that is geared towards turning human waste into a source of energy. Essentially, they are able to take waste and turn it into solid fuel, with limited water byproducts that can be filtered and safely dumped away. The fuel can safely replace coal and other eco-fuels, such as wood pellets in industrial generators, and is comparable in energy per ton. The details of the process and their plant are on their website and definitely is an interesting read. Currently, their pilot program can produce approximately 2 tons of fuel from a handful of trucks, and they are still working out some of the kinks. Once in full force, they will be able to take about 100 truckloads of waste and generate upwards of 65 tons of fuel daily!

Tim, explaining the process of extracting the solid waste energy.

This is where the dump trucks should ideally be dumping. The reservoir that feeds into Waste Enterprisers process.

The first part of the process, de-watering, where the solid waste is separated from the liquid.

These are the drying beds. Temperature control is important to get the most energy out of the fuel.

In addition to the innovative process they use, what’s unique is their business model. Waste treatment facilities are expensive to operate and the governments don’t have the budget to sustain the operations. Right beside the facility that we were at was an older plant to process waste that was abandoned a few years after it was built since the money ran out. What does Waste Enterprisers solution cost to run then? Not very much. They make their money selling the fuel, and what they ask the local government for is some land for the processing facility and redirecting trucks from the Lavender Hill dumping site to their facility so that they can get the primary raw material needed for the process: human waste. Waste Enterprisers takes it from there, making deals with local and international businesses to replace their coal burning operations with the new fuel.

While still a for-profit organization, Waste Enterprisers delivers on social innovation on so many levels, from cleaning up the city through better waste processing, to helping create fuel alternatives to coal. They are even looking at partnering with organizations like Unilever, looking at bringing sanitation to households that can’t afford the regular channels for waste disposals. This partnership enables them to get the materials they need, while at the same time supporting even more of the community.

We’d like to thank Tim and Waste Enterprisers for making the time to educate the Jolkona team about their mission.

Keepin’ it regular for social good!

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!

Global health has never been more important. In our increasingly globalized society, where one can travel to the other side of the world in mere hours, improving quality and access to health not only benefits others but also ourselves. New medical breakthroughs protect millions of people from debilitating diseases and prevent even more from contracting them. But without access to these services, millions fall between the cracks.

In my own experience, access to health services is a major concern in all parts of the world. The United States, despite its status as a Western industrialized country, has significant problems providing healthcare to its own population. Over 50 million people are uninsured and cannot effectively access services without making a large financial commitment. I currently work at a hospital clinic and every day I face situations where patients feel overwhelmed by skyrocketing medical bills. Some of our cancer patients in particular must significantly downsize their lives to afford care. These problems similarly plague the Indian healthcare system, where hospital accessibility and quality varies with socioeconomic status. My father once fell ill during a visit and though his every need was met promptly, it was expensive and likely more than most Indians could afford.

Jolkona’s GiveHealth Campaign, connects people to many amazing projects that aim to close this gap. I helped support women health workers in Peru run by our partner, Awamaki, which provide health services to people in the remotest regions of the country. During my travels in South American with fellow Jolkona volunteers last winter, I observed first-hand how difficult life can be in rural areas. Through this organization, many villagers can gain access to medication and educational opportunities to improve their lives. Make sure to check out what other remarkable projects you can support and this month only, DOUBLE your impact!

You can also support women health workers in Peru by attending the #S4SC event this Thursday July 26th @ 6pm and choosing to donate your ticket fee of $10 to the Awamaki project.

Stay in touch with Jolkona and the impact your donations are making on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

 

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 office manager intern and mayor of Jolkona HQ on Foursquare, Daljit Singh.

On Monday afternoon I had the opportunity to volunteer at Global Washingtons How Girls Can Save the World event. Thanks to a generous donation from Microsoft all 500+ guests were able to attend without any cost. The afternoon had two speakers, Geena Davis of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, and Chris Grumm of Chris Grumm Consulting Group; as well as a moderator, former CEO of the Women’s Funding Network and moderator, Andrea Taylor of Microsoft.

The talks were a fascinating confluence of women in media and women in economics, portraying where these worlds intersect and, although vastly diverse, how they are at times inter-dependable. Extremely memorable was Geena Davis’s constant emphasizing of the word feminist. She stressed that we were not be afraid of it as all it means is to believe in equal rights for women.

The event was incredibly engaging and a number of questions were asked at the end. It was refreshing to see young girls (maybe 12 or 13 years old) asking such difficult but pertinent questions. One girl, who was in middle school, asked how she could engage in conversation with her friends about women empowerment and hyper-sexualization. This question and many others were enlighteningly answered by both Geena and Chris.

Some quotes from the evening:

Chris Grumm: “We need system change to help women/girls. Celebrate all success but be five steps ahead.”
Chris Grumm: “The difference between the women of the Global South and the Global North – women in the North are already empowered and the women of the South need more help with empowerment and business opportunities.”

Geena Davis: “Female characters in G-rated movies wear the same revealing clothes as female characters in R-rated movies.”
Geena Davis: “We’re due for a resurgence of the women’s movement!”

Eye-opening statistics that were mentioned:

  • 80% of the media consumed worldwide comes from the United States. This is the message we’re exporting.
  • If we add women to media at the rate of the last 20 years, it will take 700 years to meet parity. 500 years for congress.
  • Teenage girls’ #1 ambition is “reality TV star”.
  • There is typically 1 woman for every 3 males in TV/movies/media.
  • Research shows the more hours of TV a girl watches, the fewer options she imagines for her life.

Follow #girlssavetheworld on Twitter and you can take a look at the conversation we all had. Tom Paulson at KPLU also wrote a excellent summary of the evening on his blog, Humanosphere.

With our current matching campaign, Give to Girls (#Give2Girls) we can all make a difference and help empower the next generation of women leaders.

Empower women the world over here.

 

Note from the editor: Post is written by Jordan Belmonte while in Bolivia.

Visiting the Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos (NPH) Home in Bolivia, I was reminded of the importance of community and the special bond of a family.  Pequenos Hermanos means Our Little Brothers and Sisters. It is a home that supports 102 orphaned or abandoned children and teenagers. NPH is founded on the four pillars of unconditional love, work, responsibility and service to the community.

The NPH home, staff and children surprised me at every moment.  NPH Bolivia faces many challenges—funding, government regulations (government restrictions will not allow NPH to show any photos of the children, making fundraising difficult)–even the weekly grocery shopping is a challenge due to the need for special tax receipts. Despite all the practical difficulties with operating a home for over 100 children, Jolkona sat down and asked the program’s national director, Jose Luis, about the biggest challenges they faced at NPH Bolivia. He said, without hesitation, that the greatest challenge was always to make the children feel loved and that everyone at NPH is really their family.

Continuous focus on creating a safe space filled with unconditional love for these children is truly inspiring.  In addition to basic housing, food, and education the NPH home ensures that the children are taken care spiritually and emotionally. One of the NPH programs, which Jolkona supports, helps sponsor the children’s emotional well-being by providing personal and group counseling services. Many of the children have seen the death of their family members or have come from physically or sexually abusive homes. They are placed with NPH by Bolivia’s child protective services.  The psychologists at NPH help the children understand by moving past these experiences, providing weekly individual counseling services so that the children can live normal and healthy lives. The counselors also host group sessions on conflict resolution, values, sexual education, and positive behavioral skills.

When I think of the term “orphanage,” many words and associations come to mind. NPH surprised me and defied all these associations with its responsible children, dedicated staff and supportive programs.  It proved its namesake as a ‘home’ by truly providing a household environment for Bolivia’s must vulnerable children, and ensuring that despite their tragedies, their lives were once again filled with the support and comfort of family.

Note from the editor: this post was written by Jolkona volunteer Zanoon Nissar, sent all the way from Manuas, Brazil.

Our second partner visit in Brazil was in Manaus, the largest city in the province of Amazon. After driving through the poorer regions of the city, we came to ADCAM, a multi-faceted school with apprenticeship, college, high school and youth programs. When we arrived, we couldn’t believe how beautiful the campus looked compared with the rest of Manaus. There were well kept gardens, acres of land, and happy students walking through the halls. This was clearly a special place in the city and we were about to find out why.

We first spent some time with students from the vocational program. They were between the ages of 14-17 and were part of an electronics repair program. Since there are a lot of electronics factories in Manaus, the demand for skilled repair workers is high and pays well. These students are very busy, spending 4 hours a week in an placed internship (generally at one of the local factories), attend ADCAM one day a week, and go to  regular school as well. The program opens the children’s eyes to their potential, and many end up using the money they save from their internships to go to college.

What impressed me most about ADCAM was both the passion of its director, as well as the way it has grown and developed around the needs of the Manaus community. Their director was an Iranian woman who had immigrated to Manaus over 25 years ago. She didn’t speak any Portguese at the time, was pregnant and yet had a goal of opening a small daycare. She overcame hurdle after hurdle to grow the daycare into a school, and then an apprenticeship program, and finally a college. Now, over 5,000 students attend the school every year. If you ask their founder how she made this possible, she references her belief in love, faith and God.

It will be fascinating to see where ADCAM will be in 5 years. As the Olympics and World Cup approach, there will be a boom in tourism and hospitality. In the past, ADCAM has grown to fit the needs of its community, and I anticipate that this will be no exception. The biggest potential investment here would be in the teaching of English. Another area that ADCAM will need to explore will be the environment. Finding a fine balance between preserving the nation’s rainforests and expanding will be key.

To help support this amazing school, Jolkona is soon to be partnering with the Mona Foundation, a Seattle based non-profit.  The Mona foundation funds vocational and primary school scholarships for ADCAM. Please support ADCAM here.

 

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