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I’m not trying to be flashy with my headline, I truly believe that today’s teachers aren’t adequately prepared for their future classrooms; and The National Council on Teacher Quality feels the same way.

Classroom

The NCTQ assessed the quality of a number of educational programs around the nation, and the results weren’t great:

“Through an exhaustive and unprecedented examination of how these schools operate, the review finds they have become an industry of mediocrity, churning out first-year teachers with classroom management skills and content knowledge inadequate to thrive in classrooms” (The full Seattle Times article about the NCTQ report can be read here).

These were hard words to swallow for educational programs involved. American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten quickly responded to the NCTQ’s accusations by stating that the review was a “gimmick,” and further stated, “it would be more productive to focus on developing a consistent, systemic approach to lifting the teaching profession instead of resorting to attention-grabbing consumer alerts based on incomplete standards.” Although Weingarten agrees that teachers could always be more prepared, she believes that the level of scrutiny the educational programs received was unwarranted.  (Photo by Canadian2006)

What’s The Truth?

The NCTQ discovered two disturbing facts in their research:

  • *3-out-of-4 teacher training programs do not train potential educators how to teach reading based on the latest research. Instead, future teachers are left to develop their own methods.
  • *Only 7 percent of programs ensure student teachers are partnered with effective classroom teachers. Most often, a student teacher is placed into a classroom where a teacher is willing to have them, regardless of experience.

If I signed up for a computer programming class at my university and saw that the computers were still running Windows 98, I would demand my tuition money back because Windows 98 is out of date. This is exactly what is happening in some educational schools. Teachers are being taught strategies that are outdated, and therefore not as effective as they could be. Teaching old strategies should never be in a lesson plan.  Similarly, not pairing up student teachers (or even first year teachers) with a proven teacher leads to improper training and higher rates of first year teachers burning out. The NCTQ stated that, “A vast majority of teacher preparation programs do not give aspiring teachers adequate return on their investment of time and tuition dollars.”

 Making the Top TenTeacher and Sudents

I want to make clear what I’m claiming in this piece: I’m not saying that all teachers are bad teachers; what I’m saying is that teachers aren’t being trained as well as they could be, and students are suffering from it. In the world rankings of education, America doesn’t even make the top ten. It is time to invest into our teachers, because not doing so will put the nail in the coffin of our make our already failing system. However, this is just one study’s opinion. If your experiences tell you differently, please write in the comments below why you agree or disagree with this study. Every experience matters in educational studies.  (Photo by connectedclass)

What Jolkona is Doing for Education

Since its education month at Jolkona, we have spot lighted three educational themed projects that need your support. The three projects are highlighted here, and include empowering women to become better teachers and getting technology to students who don’t have access to it. If you want to support these projects, please visit our Give Together page, and donate.

You can keep up with everything Jolkona by following us on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram.

 

*The full Seattle Times article can be found here.

Sugata Mitra in February of this year gave a powerful TED Talk explaining that building a school in the cloud is not only a plausible option, but an option that could potentially make access to education a problem of the past. 

sugata-mitra-

Mitra started his TED Talk by sharing a story about how many wealthier parents in India bragged about their sons and daughters great computer skills. Parents believing their children are the best at everything is nothing new, but Mitra wouldn’t have been surprised if these children had a high computer IQ. Through their parents, these children had opportunity and access to a great education. However, Mitra wanted to know if these children of wealthy parents were actually brilliant, or if given the opportunity, could children with no access to any computers or wealth could be just as great. To test his theory, he put a computer in a hole in the wall 300 miles inland from his office, and then told children they could use the computer.  The results will surprise you.

A number of children stared at the computer, and began to teach other how to browse the Internet. This may sound trivial, but these children didn’t speak English. In order to even begin to use the computer, they had to learn English. After two months of using the computer, Mitra returned to the computer, and the children asked him, “Can you bring a better mouse and faster processor please?”  Mitra installed another computer under a tree, and even more children learned how to browse, improved their English, and most were computer literate within months of having access to a computer.

Mitra’s obvious next step was to find teachers to help these low-income students. However, finding teachers to volunteer their time over a webcam to very young children proved difficult. Mitra overcame this obstacle by employing grandmothers. This may sound strange, but any good grandmother knows the best way to encourage a child is to ask questions: “How did you do that? How did you get to this screen? Can you explain to me what you did?” The grandmothers also gave words of encouragement: “I could never do that at your age. You are really smart. You learn so quickly!”  This encouragement and interaction with the grandmothers only boosted the childrens computer literacy intelligence.

computer in wall

 A New Approach

Seeing such great success has caused Mitra to look at our education system in a new way:

“My [Mitra] wish is to help design the future of learning by supporting children all over the world to tap into their innate sense of wonder and work together. Help me build the School in the Cloud, a learning lab in India, where children can embark on intellectual adventures by engaging and connecting with information and mentoring online. I also invite you, wherever you are, to create your own miniature child-driven learning environments and share your discoveries.”

Building a school in the cloud will give more students all around the world access and the opportunity to a great education (you can watch the entire TED Talk here).

It is education month here at Jolkona, and we have three featured projects that need your help. A donation to our Give Together campaign will do one of three things: help close the technological gap in the U.S. through the Technology Access Foundation (TAF), provide play-powered lanterns for rural students in Ghana, or help support women teachers in Burmese. Donate today!

 You can keep up with everything Jolkona by following us on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram.

 

 

Today is re-launch day at Jolkona, and we are ecstatic to share our new website and new program Give Together.  If you don’t know already, Give Together is our new giving campaign that encourages you and your friends to “give together.”

Let’s Give Together

Give Together is a program that connects you and your friends to trusted organizations and projects that you can support.  The best way you can support the organizations and projects that you love is to subscribe to a monthly donation. These monthly donations start at just 10 dollars, and Jolkona will send you updates on how exactly your donation has made a difference. With these updates, we hope you will share with your community how your small donation has made a difference, encouraging others to donate as well. If you want learn more about Give Together, please read the details here.

Give Together’s new campaign will not affect any of the current projects going on in our project list. If a monthly donation isn’t an option for you, a one time micro-donation to one of our over 50 projects are still a great way to help those in need. Whether that is donating money to help provide meals for a rural High School in Ecuador, or donating to help get  Education to Girls in Liberia, any donation will have lasting effects. Donate today!

Want to Party?

Jolkona will be having a launch party, celebrating the coming of “Give Together.” We are throwing this party with our close friends at Socializing for Social Change, at the South Lake Union Discovery Center on June 21st. Tickets are $15 pre-purchased, or $20 at the door. You can check out the official Facebook page, and  follow the event on Twitter, #GiveTogether. Make sure to look at the new layout of our website!

If you want to learn more about Jolkona, please feel free to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

This week we are so thrilled to celebrate National Volunteer Week because volunteers are so important to us at Jolkona. A volunteer is a person who voluntarily offers himself or herself for a service or undertaking and someone who offers a service willingly without pay (Dictionary.com, 2013)

In 2011, it’s estimated that almost 8.1 billion hours were spent volunteering which equates to every single American volunteering for an entire day without sleeping! Furthermore, within each age group the Millenials (ages 16-33) and Generation X (ages 33-45) contributed over 50% of the annual volunteerism.

What does this all mean to Jolkona? We are a small organization that is powered by numerous volunteers and interns. Thanks to the dedication of others’ generosity and love for volunteerism, Jolkona has completed many amazing projects, such as building a new website, launching a new giving program, implementing fantastic blog posts and social media campaigns, visiting partner projects around the world, endless fundraising and social event planning and execution and much, much more. We are so thankful for our volunteers! And one volunteer in particular that we wanted to feature this month is Chi Do.

 

Chi has been with Jolkona for the last few years now helping out in various aspects. Chi started helping out on the events team and also on the partner management team where she helped create and conduct a survey with some of our non-profit partners to help us improve our features for them. In addition to running an array of fundraising campaigns for Jolkona partners over the years, she also organized a huge Jolkona event at Microsoft last year that raised over $7,000. Chi came up with the idea and took initiative to host the “Night of Fashion and Giving”, a multi-faceted event including overseeing over 20 volunteer models, compiling numerous cultural and ethnic outfits from around the world and organizing donated food for over 100 guests. She has also traveled with the Jolkona team on 2 international trips to visit partners and volunteer, and is always eager to do more! This year Chi is heading up our events committee and we’re confident that she’ll help build a stronger, more engaged community of supporters of Jolkona in Seattle.

Recently on a sign up sheet for 2013 Jolkona activities, when asked “What would you like to do for Jolkona?” Chi wrote “Anything and Everything :)” This sums up Chi’s passion for Jolkona and volunteerism.

Here’s what some other people at Jolkona had to say about Chi:

“Chi is among one of the most caring and compassionate people I’ve met, which makes for a great volunteer and friend. One of the things I love most about Chi is that she not only enjoys having a good time, but she is very organized and committed to her responsibilities. She is a great volunteer because she makes volunteering fun and is always willing to help out with anything, from tabling at an event, to organizing volunteers and more. I am so grateful to have Chi as part of the Jolkona team and helping to grow our community this year through our new events strategy.” -Nadia Mahmud

“Chi has contributed to various events – Fashion Show, multiple Giving Campaigns, and is currently the director of the events team. She has amazing passion for Jolkona and we have always been able to count on her to get things done on time! She is a big reason for our successful fashion show at the giving campaign at Microsoft in 2012. Working with Chi and knowing her over the past 3+ years has been an incredible experience. We are glad to have her as part of Jolkona!” -Pavan Potaraju

“Chi put together a great fashion show for the Microsoft Giving Campaign. She was meticulous with detail and kept us excited and energized the whole way through. She is also an awesome chef and always made incredible food at our events. We also bonded through a flight delay disaster at Peru at a Jolkona trip years ago. Chi is very dedicated volunteer and we are so lucky to have her on the team!” -Nancy Xu

Thank you, Chi for all the work, effort, and time you have given to Jolkona!

Do you take time to help others on a regular basis? Do you give your time and resources to another cause in need? Are you sharing volunteer opportunities with others in your network? Are you interested in volunteering for Jolkona? Email as at contact@jolkona.org.

You can also help spread the word by liking us on Facebook, and by following us on Twitter,  Pinterest, and Instagram.

The debates over the 2014 Federal Budget have been at the center of domestic politics lately, especially with the sequestration of last month. The biggest question, of course, is what are politicians willing to cut, and the itemized charitable giving deduction is on the table to be reduced. The non-profit sector has responded with a coalition of some of the most prominent charities in the U.S. to call for the current rate to be maintained, and argue that charitable giving should not be held in the company of mortgage deductions as a potential tax loophole. Some in the non-profit community, such as Rick Cohen of the NonProft Quarterly argue that other budget cuts – those that impact essential services that alleviate poverty should be more central than the charitable giving deduction.

Reducing the charitable giving deduction would largely effect those in the highest tax brackets, those who make over $200,000 a year, and itemize their deductions. Most donors, at least those that make smaller donations, are unlikely to be effected. This is good news for Jolkona and our donors, as our partners are mostly international, and rely on micro-donations. The non-profits that will be most effected are those that not only rely on large donations from wealthy donors, but also those that provide domestic services, especially the ones that focus on poverty.

Cohen argues that additional budget cuts from agencies that provide services for people in need are perhaps are more concerning than the charitable deduction issue, at least by themselves. The budget cuts would mean that non-profits that provide similar services as the reduced agencies would have to shoulder significantly more of the demand, which has increased significantly in the last decade. While he has a good point that the charitable deduction argument has pushed attention away from the issues surrounding budget cuts, the coalition of non-profits states that the problems are interconnected. If the itemized charitable giving deduction is reduced, then it could be less of an incentive for large donors to give. The non-profit sector could see the loss of $9 billion in donations, meaning that non-profits, which are already shouldering an increased burden from the budget cuts, would be additionally impacted.

If the reduction to the itemized charitable giving deduction passes with the 2014 budget, the non-profit sector may have to reconceive how they get their donations, and the kinds of donors they reach out to. There is some fear in the non-profit community that without the actions of major donors, fewer people at all income levels would give. With a giving culture that emphasizes the small contributions of many, as opposed to the large contributions of a few wealthy donors, the impacts of these budget cuts maybe wouldn’t sound so dire. Here at Jolkona, we have already made an international impact with that philosophy, believing that $15 can easily change someone’s life.

However, changing an entire culture of charitable giving takes time, and there are people in need much sooner. With the potential of budget cuts, some non-profits may need all the help they can get. You can make a difference today, and help an under-empowered person here in the US. With a donation of as little as $25 through the Jubilee Women’s center, you can support a homeless woman, and help her find employment and independence. Or, through the Technology Access Foundation of Seattle, you can donate as little as $30 to support the technology education of an underserved youth, preparing them for a career in science, math or engineering.

It is difficult to predict how extreme the effects will be if reductions on charitable giving deductions comes to pass. However, you don’t have to wait until a crisis to make a difference. Even those that aren’t wealthy, and can’t make massive donations can have a truly meaningful impact.

You can also help spread the word by liking us on Facebook, and by following us on Twitter,  Pinterest, and Instagram

April 5th marked the 1000 day mark until December 31, 2015, the target date for the UN Millennium Development Goals, and according to reports, they are having a decidedly noticeable impact. These eight goals, approved by the U.N and almost two dozen partner organizations, intend to help millions of people facing extreme poverty, poor sanitation and inequality, and are the most widely accepted way that non-profits, including Jolkona, meaningfully measure their impact. John Podesta, (currently on a U.N Panel for post 2015 development) writing for Foreign Policy Magazine, discusses the immense progress that has been made in advancing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) since their inception at the beginning of the new century, but also describes the huge amount of progress that still needs to be made.

What are the MDGs?

The MDGs address the needs of the world’s poor with a broad set of goals that focus on impacts.

  • Eradicate extreme hunger and poverty
  • Achieve universal primary education
  • Promote gender equality and empower women
  • Reduce child mortality
  • Improve maternal health
  • Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and other diseases
  • Ensure environmental sustainability
  • Develop a global partnership for development.

These goals provide context for the effects from the Jolkona community and our partners, and we can see the impacts growing every day.

How successful have they been?

However, these impacts are not only limited to micro-donations. According to Podesta, the MDGs have been undeniably successful on an international level. In addition, they are considered the most successful global push to fight poverty.

  • Extreme poverty has been reduced by half in 20 years.
  • Millions of girls have the opportunity to go to school
  • Child mortality has been significantly reduced
  • Major global efforts to fight diseases like HIV, TB, and Malaria.*

*U.N. Millenium Development Goals factsheet

Mr. Podesta discusses, however, that there are still important areas where success, though in progress, is still a distant prospect, such as places where maternal and child mortality are significantly higher than other places in the world. Child mortality has been halved globally, but is currently more concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, with 82% of deaths. Similarly, maternal mortality has also been nearly halved, but is still 15% higher in developing nations. While the millions more girls have access to education, women still face significant discrimination.

As the target date for the MDGs draws closer, the lessons about ending global poverty in a rapidly changing world are as important as the current success in understanding how we can continue to change the world beyond 2015. According to Mr. Podesta, the “changing distribution of global poverty…means that development is moving away from traditional relationships between ‘donor’ and ‘recipient’ countries.” Perhaps the biggest lesson of the MDGs is that the relationship between goals like social equality and inclusion, sustainability, and economic growth is as important as each goal individually. In the same way, the relations between government agencies, the private sector, NGOs and philanthropies for addressing global issues are integral for moving forward.

What can you do?

The MDGs have been so successful through innovation, and that is what will continue the trend of making an impact on global issues. On a smaller scale, Jolkona works to transform philanthropy and the giving experience in conjunction with the Millennium Development Goals. Our community has made a significant impact, and will continue to make an impact until December 31st 2015. As Podesta discusses, it is important to look even farther ahead, and maintain momentum for the next 1000 days and beyond.  You can do your part by donating to a cause and making an impact on the Millenium Development Goals yourself.

You can also help spread the word by liking us on Facebook, and by following us on Twitter,  Pinterest, and Instagram.

Last month, Jolkona held its third annual Give2Girls Campaign, in honor of International Women’s Day, and Women’s History month. We partnered with the Seattle International Foundation (SIF), with the goal of empowering, educating, and improving the lives of girls and women all over the world. Throughout March, SIF matched each donation to one of the 30+ projects that impacted women, up to $250 per donation. This was amazingly successful, and the campaign was fully funded, making over $5000 in just around three weeks!

The Give2Girls campaign had a truly global impact, affecting the lives of women all over the world. From $100 in Haiti, to $600 here in the U.S, to over $1600 in Nepal, each dollar helped to improve health and sanitation, and education. Here are some of the impacts that your generosity accomplished:

  • 1 emergency blood transfusion provided in Palestine
  • 2 technology classes provided in United States
  • 9 girls received education support in Nepal
  • 4 weeks of food provided in Afghanistan
  • 4 women saved from honor killing in Iraq
  • 16 months of oral contraceptives provided in Nepal
  • 10 health kits provided in Somalia
  • 30 books provided in Myanmar
  • 40 people sponsored to a workshop in Kenya
  • 7 women received education in Afghanistan
  • 2 pre-natal examinations provided in Nepal
  • 2 hygiene kits provided in Haiti
  • 2 life-skill classes sponsored in United States
  • 2 “safe birth” kits provided in Palestine
  • 2 stoves provided in Costa Rica
  • 16 girls received school supplies in Liberia
  • 2 weeks of stipend provided in United States
  • 12 girls rescued from servitude in Nepal
  • 2 jobs created in India
  • 2 postpartum classes provided in Japan
  • 2 children received dental care in Bolivia
  • 2 business literacy classes provided in Ghana
  • 6 school girls received uniforms in Liberia
  • 100 students received learning materials in Myanmar
  • 4 women received bio-intensive farming training in Kenya
  • 1 emergency medical kit provided in Palestine
  • 2 uniforms provided in Nepal

We also featured interesting projects and organizations that made supporting and empowering women the center of their work.

  • We featured MADRE, an organization that addresses the immediate needs of women in crisis. In conjunction with Give2Girls, 2 safe birth kits, and 1 emergency medical kit were provided in Palestine, and 4 women in Iraq were saved from honor killing.
  • We also featured the Bo M. Karlsson Foundation’s project of funding higher education for women in Nepal. Last month, 9 Nepali girls received educational support.
  • In addition, we talked about iLEAP’s International Fellowship Program, which brings women grassroots leaders to Seattle for leadership training. 2 weeks of stipend were provided through Give2Girls.

Even though March is over, you can still take the opportunity to donate to a project that supports women. Small donations can have a huge impact in the lives of women and on their communities, as they tend to reinvest 90% of the funding they receive. Through Lumana, you can fund a woman entrepreneur in Ghana with working capital, with a donation of $120 , or you can donate $50 dollars to provide a woman in Nicaragua with a bag of seeds, so she can feed her family . It is never too late to empower woman, as many face adversity every day.

The 3rd Annual Give2Girls Campaign was quickly and successfully funded through your support, enthusiasm, and generosity. With your help, Give2Girls 2014 can be just as successful. Thank You!

You can also help spread the word by liking us on Facebook, and by following us on Twitter, and Pinterest.

Sunday, April 7th is World Health Day, celebrating the anniversary of the foundation of the World Health Organization in 1948. It is a day to bring attention to the significant global health issues that impact people all over the world, and a day to donate to a project through Jolkona, that will improve the health of individuals, and of a community.

This year’s theme of World Health Day is cardiovascular disease (CVD), and high blood pressure.  CVD (including high blood pressure, stroke, heart failure) is the leading causes of death and disability world wide, representing 30% of global deaths (17.3 million people). In fact, as cause of death, it is far more common in developed countries than it is in undeveloped countries. So this year, in honor of World Health Day, we are asking you to think locally by taking action to reduce your own risk for CVD, whilst also acting globally by working to alleviate health concerns that under-empowered people face, such as malnutrition and poor sanitation.

You can be sure to lower your risk of CVD and other related non-communicable diseases by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Here are some key ways to protect heart health.

  • Avoid excessive tobacco use, physical inactivity, and an unhealthy diet.
  • 30 minutes of physical activity every day of the week.
  • Eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables, as well as limiting the amount of salt to less than a teaspoon a day.

Find out more about CVD at the WHO

While you take steps to improve your health, remember that CVD is a global epidemic, and disproportionately affects the developing world.

  • 80% of people who die from non-communicable diseases live in low or middle-income countries.
  • Low birth weight, folate deficiency, infections and poor nutrition are risk factors for non-communicable diseases that significantly impact people in developing countries.
  • People in developing countries are usually unable to access the resources needed to effectively diagnose and treat their disease.
  • The lifestyle changes associates with industrialization and urbanization, such as a sedentary lifestyle, and increased alcohol and tobacco use increase the risk of CVD in developing countries.
  • Premature deaths due to CVD reduce the GDP of low and middle-income countries by as much as 6.8%, resulting in a heavy burden on rapid economic development*

*Statistics taken from WHO’s CVD Factsheet

While maintaining a healthy heart is certainly important, you can also impact global health by donating to a project that benefits under-empowered communities who face pressing health crises due to malnutrition or disease.

  • Donate $100 through the Mali Health Organizing Project to provide a year of high-impact health care for 10 people living in slum neighborhoods in Mali. Your donation enrolls families in a comprehensive healthcare program through a local clinic. The program provides home visits to prevent, diagnose, and treat diseases quickly and effectively, educating communities about healthcare, and reducing child mortality.
  • Donate $40 through Friends of Orphans, to provide a month’s worth of fresh seasonal produce for an orphan in Mexico. The children receive a balanced diet, which aids in physical development, and prevent micronutrient deficiencies.
  • Donate $260 through the Pardada Pardadi Educational Society to build a hygienic and environmentally friendly toilet in the poorest parts of rural India. This allows people, especially women, to perform bodily functions in safety and privacy, while reducing contact with waste, which causes 80% of preventable disease in rural communities.

Spend April 7th making the world a little bit healthier. Make changes to your lifestyle to prevent cardiovascular disease, and lengthen your life, and reach out to a community that faces a pressing health crisis. Think locally and act globally on World Health Day.

Spread awareness about global health via social media: like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and re-pin our pins on Pinterest.

 

Nadia and I first met Wiclif at a conference in Mexico in 2010. He had arrived a full day late because he didn’t have the right visas – it was his first time flying. Then, in December, Nadia and I had a chance to spend a day with Wiclif getting to know his organization, Kito. Since then, we have developed a great friendship – I have talked about Wiclif in many talks and in 2012, Kito was added as a Jolkona partner. Kito teaches street kids life and entrepreneurial skills through a focused training program. The kids learn about business by running a social enterprise where they produce custom branded shopping bags for local stores. They learn everything from marketing to sales to finance.

I had a chance to visit with Wiclif in Nairobi this week and I was able to meet some of his newest students. They are still working in the Kwangware slum out of the same two rooms as we saw them 2 years ago. Now, they are selling 1,000 bags a month and just last year, for the first time, three of their graduates have started college.

Wiclif’s goal is to get to 4,000 bags. We spent a good portion of my visit brainstorming how they can get to that goal. Armed with a budget of only $25,000, it is amazing how much of an impact such small organizations can have in their local community.

I encourage you to support Kito’s work through Jolkona here.

You can follow all the latest blog posts from our Jolkona Team in West Africa here.  

Find out more about Jolkona by liking us on Facebook, and by following us on Twitter and Pinterest.

For the past 3 years, Jolkona volunteers have traveled to different parts of the world visiting our amazing partners and getting a deep understanding of how their work is having a lasting impact in the local communities. I am sure I speak for our volunteers when I say that these trips have been life-changing. Whether it is learning about a teacher who has taught in a Rio favela for 27 straight years, or learning about a family supporting an entire village in Kenya, or understanding the difficulty Myanmar refugees face in Thailand, these first hand experiences have really helped us appreciate the impact our partners are having on the ground, amongst some difficult circumstances.

First public trip: West Africa

Over the last 3 years, we have learned about how to design a successful trip that engages the participants through deep interactions with our partners on the ground. This year we are opening up our trip to the public for the first time. We are heading to West Africa in early April. We will be visiting 4 countries – Ghana, Togo, Benin, and Burkina Faso – and the trip will take exactly 2 weeks. We will be visiting 4 partner organizations and learning about everything from large scale urban waste processing to education in remote villages to microfinance and small business investments. I will be joined by these 5 folks on the trip:

Sue Jin Kim

I am currently living in San Francisco, working as an interaction designer for Amazon(Lab 126). I lived in Masan (my hometown in South Korea), Seoul, New York, Chicago and Seattle previously. I spent five years in Seattle working for Xbox, living in Capitol hill, drinking a lot of coffee, eating pho and listening music.

I have background in design research, design strategy and interaction design. I love travel- the latest trip I took was to Colombia last December by myself. That hat was an amazing time. I love new experiences, learning about new cultures and meeting people. It constantly challenges my perception about how things should be.

This trip will be an amazing opportunity for me as I’m deeply interested in topics like women and education; however, I haven’t participated deeply in these areas, other than going to women’s conferences.

Lena Alfi

Right now, I am spending few months traveling the world before starting my graduate school in the fall. Previously, I worked as a Development Coordinator at an international health and humanitarian aid non-profit, Project Concern International (PCI). I mostly work on the business development side (proposal writing) for a women’s economic empowerment program in 16 countries.

I was born and raised in Los Angeles, and my parents are from Egypt and Syria. I speak Arabic and little bit of Spanish and I enjoy hiking and yoga.

This trip sounds like a great opportunity to learn about the innovative ways people have generated resources for themselves, and to immerse into a new culture and part of the world I’ve never been to. As I’m starting graduate school in the fall in International Development, I would love to bring a new and fresh perspective about West Africa.

Monica Mendoza

Never underestimate the power of social media. I was introduced to Jolkona via Twitter when they mentioned a project in the country of my birth, Bolivia. I am now volunteering with Jolkona to apply my marketing experience to the work Jolkona is doing. Professionally, I love the audience engagement aspect of marketing and I am excited to help Jolkona seek out individuals who want to make a difference. I have wanted to visit Africa for quite some time and I am excited for the opportunity to see first hand how the mix of contributions and passion is having a positive impact.

Punit Java

I am passionate about finding new ways to connect people with technology to enrich their lives. I have several years of experience building mobile and embedded products with Microsoft, Amazon and through my own private ventures. I have a Bachelors degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Waterloo. I have been volunteering with Jolkona to help with technology strategy including building the web and mobile experiences.

This trip is a great opportunity for me to observe social innovation and technology in developing nations, and hopefully figure out a way to make an impact.

Nancy Xu

I’ve been working with Jolkona for 3 years on various creative endeavors like the Hulu commercial, event posters, and at the moment the website redesign. I’ve loved volunteering, social and community work since I was 11, but it was really the first Jolkona trip 3 years ago that changed my life. I’m looking forward to another life changing journey to see the amazing innovations, this time in West Africa.

A big part of these trips is the discussions and reflections that go on outside of the partner visits. I am thrilled about the background and experiences the individuals in this group bring to this trip. It will be exciting to see how each of us personalize the experiences over the two weeks and what these experiences mean for each of us. We will be blogging from the trip continuously and so check back often with the Jolkona blog to see our latest updates

Join a future expedition

We are going to be opening up our future trips to the public as well. We are planning expeditions to Central America, East Africa, and Southeast Asia in the next 12 – 18 months. Spots are limited and if you wanted to stay informed about upcoming expeditions, please send email to expedition@jolkona.org

Last week, as part of our Give2Girls campaign and Women’s History Month, Jolkona attended Women Hold Up Half The Sky, a SHE Talks Soiree from ChickChat. The focus of the event was to bring awareness to issues facing women and girls all over the world, featuring non-profits that work with girls in India, Ethiopia, Nepal and Haiti.

ChickChat is a marketing research company that works on increasing the market power of women as consumers. As women make the vast majority of purchasing decisions in the US, ChickChat uses focus groups of women to give real feedback to major companies, as to what their biggest consumer demographic really wants. With their SHE Talks Soiree, Women Hold Up Half The Sky, they bring economically empowered women in contact with non-profits and philanthropy projects, like Jolkona, that work to empower women in developing countries across the world.

As part of their market research, where ChickChat connects female consumers with producers, they also work to connect their members with charities, and donation opportunities. That is the central reason behind Women Hold Up Half The Sky, which promotes local non-profits founded by women seeking to help women. While Jolkona is promoting Give2Girls, other great non-profits were featured as well.

  • “1 in 10 children in Haiti lives in an orphanage”. Haiti Baby: Haiti Babi makes hip baby products that empower and employ Haitian moms to provide and care for their families.
  • “75%+ of India lives on half a $1 a day or less!” Upaya Social Ventures: is building the businesses that will create jobs and improve the quality of life for families living in extreme poverty in India. Upaya is a partner of Jolkona, with great opportunities to donate.
  • Maiti Nepal, whose mission is to prevent, rescue and rehabilitate Nepalese women and girls from sex trafficking. It’s estimated that 5,000+ Nepali girls are sex trafficked each year; with another 20,000+ currently working in brothels in India.
  • Crooked Trails is a Seattle-based non-profit that leads small group trips to developing countries

The event was a fantastic opportunity for Jolkona to connect with new people, promote our partners, and recruit new volunteers. ChickChat’s Half the Sky Soiree was an evening of learning, inspiration and recognizing the unlimited potential of the ‘power of one’. All of the presenters made us feel proud to be a woman! It was truly inspirational!

Be a part of the Give2Girls movement by helping to spread the word by liking us on Facebook, and by following us on Twitter (#give2girls), and Pinterest.

 

Is a leader strongest on her own, or as part of a global community? Can you yourself produce the greatest good by sending information and resources one way, or is there much more to be gained through collaboration, and partnership? As you invest in providing training and vital networking to a woman already changing her local community, what can you learn from such an inspiring person?

One of the central themes of the Give2Girls campaign is that investing in women makes an incredible difference, as, on average, they return 90% to their families, children, and community. There are so many projects that positively impact women throughout the world. iLEAP’s International Fellowship Program takes an innovative approach to that idea, by empowering local women, and giving them the tools they need to be local and global leaders.

The mission of iLEAP is to create global transformation through inspiring and engaging social leaders across the world. With a network of non-profits, business, universities, and other associations linking the US, Latin America, Asia, and Africa, their training programs aim to collaborate with leaders, create regional networks, and international partnerships. The programs emphasize hands on learning so participants can work directly with the leaders in their field. They connect people in a range of sectors, ranging from global health, and human rights to education and sustainable agriculture.

The Program

As part of the International Fellowship Program, 10 to 15 Women grassroots leaders from across Asia, Latin America, and Africa are selected from a highly competitive pool to come to Seattle, WA, and attend a rigorous and comprehensive 8-week leadership training program.

  • The training includes courses on topics like communication, technology and management.
  • Helps them to build a network of local businesses and NGOs and other development organizations in their area of interest.
  • Women learn about the interactions between NGOs, business and government agencies.
  • Whilst honing their skills through the program, the women also have the opportunity to become involved in Seattle’s community, and make personal connections.
  • They live with a home-stay family, attend events, and are sponsored by local organizations that work in the same area of interest so they can exchange ideas.

Why the program is important

Empowering women as leaders is vital to the UN Millennium Development goals of promoting gender equality, and encouraging global partnerships. Women bear the brunt of global poverty, due to gaps in income and education, as well as violence, and maternal mortality. Women leaders in developing countries are already taking steps to address these issues and lead the improvement in their communities. iLEAP’s fellowship provides these women with more in depth training and an international network of partners and mentors, so that they can continue their work more effectively, and with renewed inspiration.

The Give2Girls campaign is all about investing in girls and women, to create a better world tomorrow, and iLEAP’s International Fellowship Program is an incredible opportunity for determined and talented women grassroots leaders to network internationally, increase the impact of their work in their own communities, and become global citizens. Through amazing donations, Give2Girls has been fully funded, but a donation will still make an incredible difference. $100 provides the weekly stipend for a Fellow to stay in Seattle, and participate in the program. As a result, each graduate leaves with practical skills, and a global community of support. In turn, they contribute to sustainable social change.

You can also be a part of the Give2Girls movement by helping to spread the word by liking us on Facebook, and by following us on Twitter (#give2girls), and Pinterest

 

One of the first amazing science facts I learned as a child, was that approximately 70% of the human body is water. Of course, at that age, I thought about water in a much more simplistic way, something to drink when I was thirsty, or play in when I was hot. So, thinking about it as something that is both a universal need, and a commonality among all people never really occurred to me. In the face of pollution, and unequal distribution, finding a space to truly appreciate what water means, sometimes requires remembering that it is in the core of our beings. Tomorrow is UN World Water day, part of the Year of Water Cooperation, and an opportunity to make a difference, and donate to a project, like providing clean water in Kenya.

The Importance of Water Cooperation

We are more than just dependent on water for survival; water is who we are, and something that each and every one of us shares. From this perspective, water cooperation only makes sense. The most basic of human needs, the sustainability of our environment, and economic development, even gender equality is centered on water. For many who do not have quick access to water, the tasks of travelling long distances to collect water for daily use – often contaminated by livestock, and carrying disease, falls to the women of the community, limiting their participation in activities that generate income.

As the world’s population grows, so does the demand on water.

  • Millions of people already do not have access to clean water and sanitation
  • The majority of the fresh water resources are strained by irrigation and agricultural needs of providing food for the growing population.
  • The world’s diet is shifting towards products like starch and meat that require significantly more water to produce.
  • 90% of wastewater in the world pollutes freshwater, and productive cultural regions.

Despite all of these concerns, Water can be a tool to encourage international peace, and positive global development.

  • Almost half of the terrestrial surface of the earth is covered by river basins that cross political boundaries.
  • Groundwater, another important source of freshwater, also needs to be managed by regional cooperation.
  • Hundreds of international agreements have been made on the basis of water agreements.
  • 90 of these manage shared water in Africa alone.
  • Cooperation built around water allows for more efficient and sustainable use, as well as an easier flow of information, and better living conditions

Find out more about water cooperation from UN’s World Water Day

What can you do today?

In honor of both the UN World Water Day, as well as the current Give2Girls campaign, Jolkona supports MADRE’s project of providing clean water in Kenya. This works with indigenous communities in Kenya to provide clean water collection points, water tanks near villages and schools, as well as livestock watering troughs, which reduces contamination and erosion. The impacts of clean water contribute to the UN Millennium Development Goals, of reducing diseases like Malaria, and gender inequality, and increasing environmental sustainability.

This project is especially important to women in Kenya, considering the number of other human rights issues they face. With the help of easily accessible clean water, women will have the opportunity to participate in activities that would generate income and continue to improve their quality of life. In addition, the project would contribute to invigorating the community by consulting members through the implementation process, providing training in maintaining the water systems, as well as health and hygiene.

In recognition of tomorrow’s UN World Water Day, donate as little as $45 to the clean water project in Kenya. This project is also part of the Give2Girls campaign,  as clean water is vital to empowering women.  Even though Give2Girls has been fully funded, through amazing donations, you will still make a difference and save lives. You will be contributing not only to the health of a community, but also to a trend of international cooperation in pursuit of clean water.

Find out how you can get more involved in the UN World Water Day. 

You can also be a part of this movement by helping to spread the word by liking us on Facebook, and by following us on Twitter (#give2girls), and Pinterest.

 

We interviewed Awamaki, a partner that focuses helping women in Peru become economically sustainable through education and traditional crafts, as part of the Give2Girls campaign. They hope to educate the older girls of their weaving cooperatives to become future leaders through workshops that focus on skills like computer use, and to launch a Girls Leadership Program for 2014.

What’s the story behind Awamaki?

Awamaki was formed in early 2009, to support a cooperative of 10 women weavers from Patacancha, a rural Quechua community in Peru. Awamaki’s founders, Seattle native, Kennedy Leavens and Peru native, Miguel Galdo, worked together at Awamaki’s predecessor organization with the Patacancha weaving cooperative for two years. When that organization floundered and finally collapsed, Miguel and Kennedy formed Awamaki to continue their work with the weavers. Awamaki grew rapidly its first few years. We started a health project (now independent), ran an afterschool program, and tried on a number of other hats as well. Awamaki now concentrates its work in economic empowerment, education, skills development, and sustainable community tourism.

How did you become connected with Jolkona?

I had heard of Jolkona through the UW Evans School Public Affairs, so when Nadia emailed me asking for information, I offered to come down to the office. Face-to-face meetings are so rare when you work internationally and your funders, partners and donors are spread out all over the globe.

Can you tell us more about your project’s background and why it started?

Our women’s cooperative project started in the hands of another organization, CATCCO, nearly 10 years ago. The project’s founders saw that the Quechua weaving tradition was being lost, so they offered to buy weavings from high school aged girls in order to encourage them to continue to weave and also give them support for their studies. Since then, our focus has shifted from mostly textile tradition revitalization — though that is still an important aim — to economic development through women’s access to economic opportunities and income. We have created a number of other projects towards that aim, including knitting, sewing and spinning cooperatives, as well as a homestay family association and a Spanish teachers cooperative to work with the many volunteers and travelers that come through the town where we are based. All our projects come from a need identified by the community and an opportunity identified by our international volunteers and staff, who have the ideas and expertise necessary to connect marginalized community members with the opportunities afforded by the international tourism markets.

What kind of lasting change does the project hope to engender?

We aim to give women the skills and market access they need to directly improve their incomes. We believe that income in the hands of women is the most effective way to lift rural families and communities out of poverty. We hope to create cooperatives that are models of self-sufficiency and financial sustainability, allowing women to be empowered agents of change, investing in the health, education and well being of their families and their communities.

We also aim to create cooperative business models that respect and revitalize local traditions and ways of life.

 So say I make a contribution to the project, can you explain a little further the impact that is achieved?

Awamaki’s projects allow the women we work with to access economic opportunities and earn a significant income that they then invest in their families and communities.

Our donors and supporters play a crucial role in our work. As a successful social enterprise, 78% of our funding comes from earned program income–sales of fair trade products, income from our sustainable tourism program, and volunteer and service travel program donations. This income covers our core operating expenses entirely.

Since we are devoted to working with the most marginalized women and communities in the area, however, the success of our programs–and the improved income and well-being of our women–rests on the extensive administrative support, skills trainings and capacity-building workshops we provide to the 150 women and families with whom we work. We leverage 100% of donations to provide this support and to fund program start-up and expansion, such as organizing and training new cooperatives that become self-sustaining after our initial investment

 We love stories at Jolkona. Do you have a favorite impact story you can share?

Graciela is 17. She lives in the remote high Andean community of Patacancha. When she was 13, she became pregnant. Girls don’t usually finish school in Patacancha; girls who are mothers definitely don’t finish school. Graciela’s parents were upset by her early pregnancy, but they enrolled her in Awamaki’s weaving cooperative program, then just starting. Income from the Awamaki project allowed her to support the child while she and the child’s father — only barely older than Graciela — finished school. Last year, he graduated from high school, and they moved into a one-room adobe home that they built near her parent’s home. Graciela continues to support her young family with income from the Awamaki project. Though only 17, she is one of our most skilled weavers. Her son, Rolando, is a healthy, energetic four-year-old.

In a nutshell, why should someone give to this project?

Donations are the crucial link between the enterprise and the social part of what we do. We multiply your donation many times over by creating self-sustaining solutions to poverty.

Double your impact through the Give2Girls campaign, and donate to Awamaki today.

You can also be a part of the Give2Girls movement by helping to spread the word by liking us on Facebook, and by following us on Twitter (#give2girls), and Pinterest.

 

MADRE is a partner with many projects involved in the Give2Girls Campaign. Given the many essential services they provide for women internationally, as well as the many opportunities for donation, we wanted to feature their background and work. We interviewed them about their past work, and what they hope to accomplish.

What’s the story behind MADRE?

Almost thirty years ago, MADRE was created to meet the immediate needs of women and address the underlying causes of the crises they face. In 1983, at the height of a war in Nicaragua, women there extended an invitation to a small group of women in the United States to witness and discuss the atrocities committed by the U.S. funded, contra militia. What they saw horrified and angered them. They were shown entire communities – day care centers, schools, and hospitals – destroyed by bombs. Upon their return to the United States, the women, led by Founding Director Kathy Engel, began MADRE to aid the women and children of Nicaragua’s Atlantic coast. Grounded in the concrete work of collecting humanitarian aid for Nicaragua, MADRE offered ways for people to join together to demand alternatives to destructive policies, at home and abroad.

Although created to address this specific crisis, the leaders of MADRE recognized the necessity of focusing on the universality of women’s roles and oppression as a key to building lasting partnerships between women from different communities. To this day, they continue their commitment to international women’s rights and welfare, and have provided 30 million dollars-worth of material support to their sister organizations worldwide.

Today, MADRE works in partnership with grassroots women’s groups in Afghanistan, Colombia, Guatemala, Haiti, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Nicaragua, Palestine, Peru and Sudan to advance women’s human rights by meeting urgent needs in communities and build long-term solutions to the crises women face. They support three overarching program areas: Peace Building; Women’s Health/Combating Violence against Women; and Economic and Environmental Justice. They work towards a world in which all people enjoy the fullest range of individual and collective human rights; in which resources are shared equitably and sustainably; in which women participate effectively in all aspects of society; and in which all people have a meaningful say in policies that affect their lives.

So how did you become connected with Jolkona?

We came across Jolkona in a search for additional fundraising opportunities for our programs with women and families worldwide, and jumped at the chance to participate. Our partnership began in 2009. Now, we have eight active projects on Jolkona.

One of your projects is providing health kits to women and children in Gaza. Can you tell us a bit more about the project and how it’s going currently?

After the recent escalation of violence in Gaza, MADRE and our local Palestinian partner organization responded by bringing urgent medical care to injured civilians, particularly women and children. Thanks to donor support, MADRE was able to send two disbursements of funds to the Palestinian Medical Relief Society. In Gaza, PMRS operates four clinics, four mobile clinics, two physiotherapy centers, one assistive device center and individual relief services. During the recent escalation of violence in Gaza, all PMRS centers and teams were equipped to offer emergency health services and disburse medication. Their local positioning and knowhow allowed them to deliver emergency care to vulnerable neighborhoods in Gaza where the need is greatest. PMRS also held psychosocial support sessions for children traumatized by the recent violence. Sessions were held in schools and activities include therapeutic games and coloring.

What kind of lasting change does the project hope to engender?

The support of donors provides emergency medicines and supplies during this crisis, which has saved lives. Providing care now will better equip Palestinians to weather the crisis and rebuild their communities in the future.

To create lasting peace in the region, we need to demand an end to Israel’s blockade of Gaza, the occupation of Palestinian land, and safety from armed attacks for all people in the region. We’re committed to pushing the Obama administration for a human rights-based policy in the Middle East. But in times of crisis, the most urgent thing is to heal people’s suffering.

So say I give $10 to the project, can you explain a little further the impact that is achieved? 

During times of violence, your gift will bring urgent care to wounded and traumatized children and families in Gaza, who have no other source of help. Continued support of this project will better equip Palestinians to effectively manage crises as they arise and rebuild their communities in the future.

We love stories at Jolkona. Do you have a favorite impact story you can share?

In the wake of the most recent period of violence between Israel and Palestine, MADRE received a letter from our sister organization, K’inal Antsetik A.C. (Land of Women), in Chiapas, Mexico. They heard about our work in Gaza and decided to help in whatever way they could. Their letter expressed solidarity with women and their families affected by violence in Gaza. Remembering the support they had previously received from MADRE, the women of K’inal Antsetik A.C. offered words of kindness as well as money they had personally collected to aid us in our work. This embodies the spirit of MADRE – grassroots organizations from around the world coming together to ensure that that all women receive the resources they need to thrive in the most trying of circumstances.

In a nutshell, why should someone give to this project?

When you give to MADRE, you can be sure you’re making a concrete difference in the life of a woman who is struggling to build a better future for herself and her family. Whether you’re helping build a clinic, feed a child or deliver emergency aid after a disaster, you can feel confident that your gift will be used in a smart, efficient way. At MADRE, a full 88 cents of every dollar you give go towards our lifesaving programs with women and families.

Now is your chance to double your impact through the Give2Girls Campaign, and donate to MADRE’s project in Palestine.

You can also be a part of the Give2Girls movement by helping to spread the word by liking us on Facebook, and by following us on Twitter (#give2girls), and Pinterest.

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