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My friends and I fell in love with Myanmar (Burma) before Hilary Clinton ever set foot in there. In the May of 2010, no one I knew had ever been. Back then, Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi was still under house arrest, and the military regime limited travelers’ access to certain parts of the country. Right on the heels of North Korea, it was the second most isolated country in the world.

Since the junta overthrew a democratic government in 1969, to the outside world, Myanmar became synonymous with systematic human rights violations, forced relocations, drug trafficking, and poverty. But what my friends and I found there were beautiful Buddhist temples and golden pagodas, as well as the most generous, most kind-hearted nation of people. Everywhere we went, the Burmese smiled at us, waved to us, shouted mingalaba! On a full day of trekking through the hills of Kalaw, two remote villages welcomed us into their wedding festivities, fed us steeped tea and lavish meals. On our way home, we stumbled upon a Nepalese ceremony, and the people offered us even more food, more drinks, more candies. Their children accompanied us halfway back to Kalaw, singing and dancing as they skipped beside us, chatting in Burmese, laughing.

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Team Stupa. May 2010.

Like most Burmese children, I later learned, most of these singing and laughing children had never touched a picture book. The educational system in Myanmar had been practically non-existent; the illiteracy rate among those over 15 and older stood at 2.5 million people in 2011. According to United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), 33% of school-aged children in Myanmar do not attend school and 70% of those who do are unable to finish at the primary level. Much of this is due to the lack of funds in barely maintained educational institutions, as well as the general poverty in the country that forces children out of schools at a young age in order to earn wages for their families.

In recent years, the junta has started handing over its power to a democratic system in non-bloody, non-violent reform, and willingly opened its doors to the outside world. As Burma embarks on such a historic transformation, the education of its children becomes more important than ever. Educational Empowerment provides Burmese children access to an educational environment in Myanmar that improves their future economic opportunities. Not only does EE provide books for children and develop community and monastic school libraries, it also aims to provide teachers with trainings and materials.

I would gladly support any organization working to build a democratic future for the brave, kind-hearted people of Myanmar. Through Give Direct to EE, we can play a part in ensuring children education and economic success at a critical time in the building of a free Myanmar! Give today! Every dollar matters!

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Image credit: Flickr

Did December sneak up on you, too? We couldn’t be more excited that it has– it’s a time for hot cocoa, good company, holiday parties and (best of all) giving selflessly. The mood shifts. We’re suddenly connecting with the people we pass on the street, exchanging a smile or a gentle “hello.” I remember holiday shopping as a child, looking to my Mom for a dollar or two to drop in the Salvation Army bucket. Even today, hearing those bells ring, raises a certain sense of comfort in my heart. It’s no wonder, then, that 67% of us get excited for this time of year, and 77% of us are choosing to contribute to nonprofits. Personally, I feel fortunate to be able to combine the two. Will you?
12 Days of Giving starts today! It’s a daily dose of philanthropy for the holidays: 12 different Jolkona teams have dedicated themselves to sharing the love and raising awareness on a certain campaign that speaks to them. We give each team their spotlight for a day, and offer you a chance to make a difference by donating. It’s like our humanitarian holiday wish list and an amazing opportunity to transform someone’s life– someone you may pass by on the street some day.

We all have a dream, a message, or a truth to share with the world. I wish to inspire you to challenge the statistics of holiday spending: $44 million dollars are spent during the holiday season in America– PER HOUR. What percentage of that would you like to see spent bringing a smile to someone or positively impacting a community without the comfortable privileges we enjoy? There are 12 days, 12 campaigns, 12 teams who are sharing their stories with Jolkona. Our goals can be met with your help and support. Get to know each team and the projects that they are passionate about. If one resonates with you, donate! If it doesn’t, share it with someone who may. Drop by drop, your generous contribution– amount is up to you– will create the ripple effect for sustainable, revolutionary change.

Our first team is unwrapping a very special project. Help orphaned or vulnerable Bolivian children by providing them with psychologists and support their psychological growth. Their goal? 72 months of care for these kids. Check out their video below, and get more information about the project here:

Join us.

Stay connected on Facebook, follow our tweets (#12daysgive), or check the blog to unwrap the 12 gifts we are sharing with you over the next 12 days.
The impact you can make is limitless. Here are four ways you can personally generate change and inspire others:

Start a campaign
Donate to one of the 12 Days of Giving campaigns
Give a Jolkona gift card
Your business and Jolkona

Japan is still suffering.

Image credit: kaspernybo on Flickr

Remembering Tohoku

Here at Jolkona, we’re reflecting on Tōhoku– Japan is still suffering. It has only been half a year since the 9.0 magnitude earthquake evolved into a devastating tsunami. Consuming cars, houses, and buildings in minutes, it resulted in more than 15,000 confirmed deaths and over 4,000 people missing. Efforts to bring support have generated recovery, and the reactions of Japanese natives away from home are inspiring.

Nurturing Hope

Ryo Ishikawa’s generous donations to relief efforts through the Master’s golf tournament in April, and the numerous disaster response teams have engendered hope for the Japanese people. Though the urgency of the horrific crisis has died down, there are still unresolved issues and complications.

Immediately following a disaster, many needs are funded after an analysis of the damage. This takes time and can stall the effects of your contribution or potentially negate any authenticity of your generous actions. This was depicted in many of the misconceptions that developed with the devastating earthquake in Haiti. The beginning of positive change is the rebuilding stage. We are excited to announce a new nonprofit partner who is introducing you to four new projects that fuel life-changing opportunities to help this process.

Welcome iLEAP, presenting transformative projects in Japan that support their currently challenging circumstances. iLEAP is a Seattle-based nonprofit that equips young entrepreneurs with training and educational knowledge, collaboration with global leaders. They send their equipped volunteers to inspire empowerment and give opportunities for growth to societies in need.

Support one, two, or all four projects through Jolkona:

Prevent Postpartum Depression for Mothers in Japan

Women who are giving birth after such a stressful chain of events are local heroes, bringing renewal and promise of a new generation to rebuild the world. Prevent emotionally painful postpartum depression among Japanese mothers by providing physical health through community fitness classes, for $50, or educational materials for $15.

Help Tsunami Affected Children Return to School

Onagawa Night School is providing education for children who have lost their homes, possessions, and families.
Philanthropic tip: Commute to work by bus for a month, and support three children as they attend night school in the Tsunami affected area for 60$.

Sponsor Young Fellows to Help Earthquake Victims

Young Fellows is a strong group of dedicated people who contribute community support to inspire confidence in those who are struggling. Philanthropic tip: Host a dinner party instead of going out, and donate $70 to sponsor a young fellow for an entire day in Japan.

Help Japanese Non-Profits Receive Tax Exempt Status

Giving is a chain that links eternally, inspiring the power of the human heart. Japanese non-profits require lengthy paperwork and certifications in order to gain tax-exempt status, which will often break the chain of any nonprofit. Your donation of $100 would bring one group to an educational event rich with experience to successfully begin their project.

Know Your Impact

With every donation you make through Jolkona, you will receive personalized feedback: a unique proof for the person or project that you have generously supported.

How do you wish to contribute? Can’t decide? Explore this flowchart to guide you:

Explore this flowchart!

Image by Mike Sturgeon, Graphic Design Jolkona Intern

To learn more about our projects for Japan relief, visit http://www.i4JAPAN.org

We receive special letters from our children in Uganda all the time – children who have been touched by our donors’ generosity.  One recent letter from Stella broke my heart – and I wanted to share it with you.  Stella is in her 7th year of primary school and she is the only child in her family receiving an education.  She spent a portion of her recent Spring Break with her mother and 3 siblings.  Stella shared these experiences about her time at home:

“I was so happy to see my dear mother.  I also got to see my brothers and sister. I felt so sad that my mother is only able to eat once a day.  The food costs are so high and my mother has no income.  I am worried about my brothers and sister, too.  They only have a little to eat and told me they were often hungry…Thank you for that good heart you have…I eat 3 meals a day and I am not hungry.  Our school motto is ‘Education for a bright future.’  So I promise you I will study hard so that I can one day help my family the way you have helped me.”

Stella’s experience with her beloved family is not an isolated story.  People all throughout Africa are eating just one meal a day – sometimes none at all!  Uganda has been experiencing record-high food prices and most recently dire food shortages.  We are on the ground doing all we can but the only way we can ensure our children continue to receive 3 nutritious meals a day is by receiving more resources immediately.

Over the last year, we have made tremendous strides in our sustainable food and water security program.  In fact, our children now enjoy twice-weekly meals with vegetables.  By the end of 2009, that amount will be increased to five meals per week with homegrown fruits and vegetables.

But right now, basic food requirements (the foods eaten daily by the children) remain a significant cost to us.  In some cases, we are paying 50-80% more than we were just a year ago.  Can you help us today with a donation of $25?  There is a serious food shortage in Uganda.  Your gift of $25 will feed 5 children for ONE WEEK! Just click on this badge to give now.

Children of Uganda serves nearly 600 children.  We provide each child education, shelter, clothing and food.  Our mission is to support and empower these vulnerable young people who (in most cases) have no parents or support system to care for them.

Providing them adequate and nutritious food is critical to help develop their young minds and bodies.  Can we count on your special gift today to help us meet the growing financial demand of food costs?  Your tax-deductible donation will go to work immediately and will have a life-saving impact on a vulnerable child just like Stella.

Your gift will also send a strong message of hope to our children – that even in these challenging times our dedicated friends and supporters have not forgotten them.

By making a contribution right away, you will help ensure that our children will not be hungry during this food crisis.

Thank you Jolkona Foundation for your extraordinary vision and for choosing Children of Uganda to be a part of your incredible work.  We are deeply grateful.

Kindest regards,
Pamela

Pamela Brannon
Executive Director
Children of Uganda
www.childrenofuganda.org

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