Blog

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 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 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.

Maheen with the children at Distressed Children International clinics

About three weeks ago, I walked into a room with a bench on one side and a desk on the other. There was another room in the back with a curtain partition for privacy. There was a doctor on the other side consulting with a patient I walked back into the waiting room, there was a mother there that had come in with her baby. The baby was strangely silent, and the mother was mentioning that her child had a constant fever and she didn’t know what was wrong. This “room” that I had walked into was one of DCI’s (Distressed Children & Infants International) clinics in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The clinic cares for and provides medical supplies and prescriptions to those cannot afford it and have nowhere else to go.

What led me to this clinic in Bangladesh was the Jolkona campaign I was a part of called the 12 Days of Giving. I decided to promote a health related project in Bangladesh and chose to support the DCI sponsored clinic, as public health is an interest of mine. I had never raised funds for anything prior to this experience nor had I promoted any type of project before! To be perfectly honest, I was attempting to pick whichever project I thought would be easily marketable so I would have a remote chance of fulfilling the looming $1,000 target goal. Not until I had a chance to visit the clinic and an orphanage also sponsored by DCI, and actually see those that were positively affected by the money raised, did I realize what $1,000 in Bangladesh really means.

Think about the anxiety that you feel when you’re sick for a couple of days and don’t know what is wrong. Not fun, huh? Now multiply this feeling times 100 to emphasize what toll that it takes on those “living” on the streets of Dhaka. The grave impact is felt not only because they do they not know what’s wrong with them when they’re sick, they know that they absolutely cannot walk into a hospital and get help, and whatever they have will probably only get worse.

Maheen with the children at Distressed Children International clinics

There are 450,000 children who live on the streets of Bangladesh and 30,000 die everyday due to circumstances of poverty. Through the DCI orphanage and with very little money, about 20 of these children are taken off the streets and are provided with healthcare, a good education, food, and shelter. With $10, a baby is provided with doctor care and relief. As demonstrated by the patients and kids at the DCI projects, a couple of dollars does not mean much to us here, but can most likely save a life and provide a child with a chance of having chance to enjoy a view of what life without poverty could really be…a reality.

I will never think about this project, these children, or $1,000 the same way again.

Maheen Aman is the Campus Outreach Lead for Jolkona and is extremely passionate about global health and development. She recently went on a global adventure that took her to Bangladesh and Turkey. This is a snapshot of one of her adventures.

GET INVOLVED!