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Calcutta Kids, the second Global Health project partner in this month’s Give Together program, provides medical treatment, fights malnutrition and analyzes data to battle India’s health problems before they become unmanageable. We recently spoke with Calcutta Kids founder Noah Levinson:

What is the inspiration behind your organization?

[The inspiration for Calcutta Kids] came the summer between high school and college when I volunteered with Mother Teresa’s Home for the Dying Destitutes in Kolkata. While deeply moved by Mother Teresa’s sole mission to give love to those who would otherwise die alone, I was unsettled by people dying of curable diseases. I wrestled with the question of whether more needed to be done.

The following summer, I returned to Kolkata and again worked at the Home. A young man, Sudip, was brought to the Home because he was dying of an infection on his head: a rusty nail had penetrated into the skull. I recognized Sudip from a program I had volunteered at the previous year. He was one of the kids still in line to receive treatment when medicines and bandages ran out. The following day Sudip died in my arms because of that untreated head injury. The pain and anguish I felt was excruciating…I then founded Calcutta Kids.

What’s the story behind your project?

To prevent more unnecessary deaths like Sudip’s, we started a mobile health clinic which drove around the streets of Kolkata providing medical treatment to street children. The basic premise behind this project was to prevent street kids from dying at the Home for the Dying Destitutes.  We collected treatment data and analyzed it regularly. Through this data we found out that while children were happy that they could be treated for their illnesses free of cost, they were coming back to the clinic again and again with the same illnesses. Basically the mobile health clinic was a band-aid solution to a larger problem. The larger problem was that most of these kids were malnourished as younger children and had weak immune systems and incomplete brain development. It was clear that if we really wanted to prevent people from ending up at the Home for the Dying Destitutes, we needed to work with children under the age of three. In addition to this, we needed to  help ensure that mothers give birth to healthy children with good birth weights and that malnutrition does not plague them and retard their development.  We therefore decided to start the Maternal and Young Child Health Initiative.

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Let’s say Give Together raises $250 for your project by the end of August. What’s our impact?

The adoption of a pregnant woman/child pair. With that money, Calcutta Kids provides: pregnancy counseling in the home once a month for the pregnant woman by a qualified Community Health Worker, a minimum of three antenatal check ups with our qualified female doctor for the pregnant woman, a minimum of 2 tetanus toxoid inoculations for the pregnant woman, and access to folic acid, iron, calcium and vitamin A to the pregnant woman and mother through lactation. In addition to this, the mother would receive daily access to a free clinic for the pregnant women and receive free medicines, access to a delivery savings scheme in which Calcutta Kids matches the patient party’s savings up to half the cost of a normal delivery ensuring that the child’s birth is facility-based, the required immunizations and micronutrients for the child, and monthly check-ups for child to monitor growth. If it is found that the child is not growing normally, the child will be invited to participate in the Calcutta Kids sponsored daily feeding program. The mother will also be provided with counseling in the home once a month and access to 24 hour emergency care for child at the local clinic.

In a nutshell, why should Give Together members choose your project this month?

If you care about pregnant women and young children, evidence-based interventions,  using effective and tested behavioral change communication to ensure lasting positive change, and believe that empowered community health workers can be change agents to improve their communities… then please join the Calcutta Kids family by supporting our work.

This is one post in our ongoing Partner Spotlight series. Throughout the month of August, you can sign up to join Give Together and choose Calcutta Kids or two other global health projects. Keep up with everything Jolkona by following us on FacebookTwitterPinterest and Instagram.

If you are between the ages of 15 and 24, log onto Facebook, update your Twitter, and post a selfie on your Instagram because today is International Youth Day #InternationalYouthDay #Celebrate #NoFilter. Every August 12 is International Youth day, a day meant to celebrate the accomplishments of the young people of the world. The UN chose this years theme to be “Youth Migration: Moving Development Forward.”

Benefits of Youth Migration

The Pew Research Center described Millennials as, “confident, self-expressive, liberal, and open to change.”  These characteristics, paired with relatively cheap transportation costs, make international travel a viable option for many young people who don’t have strong ties at home, or who are just adventurous in general. Many young people (th

Holding Hands Around the World 2

e majority being young women) migrate to another country to learn another language, to gain new experiences and to look  for work. The United World Project recently talked about youth migration stating, “They can provide financial as well as social remittances, including innovative ideas, practices, identities, and social capital.” Although it seems like both sides of the equation are equal and mutually beneficial, some young people who migrate aren’t always welcomed with open arms. (Photo by: UofL International Student & Scholar Services).

Risks of Migration

The same United World Project article described a number of risks that young migrants may face: “Pre-departure through in-transit, post-arrival and return and reintegration to their own society.” The article goes on to say that migrants are “often misguided and susceptible to abuse and exploitation.”  This is an unfortunate reality because some young migrants don’t know their rights, or didn’t do their research. “Information is power,” says Jo Rispoli of the International Organization for Migration. If someone is misinformed, it may cost them dearly, especially if they are far away from home.

What Should Be Done

The familiar picture of stick figures holding hands around a world is supposed to signify  camaraderie, tolerance, and a global community that stands together. However, this is not even remotely the case. Migrants being taken advantage and being misinformed about the place they are traveling to is the norm, and this is a big enough problem that the UN made it a topic for an international holiday. Migrants should read up-to-date guidebooks and always do their research on places and jobs they have accepted.  Doing this could mean the difference between a positive life changing experience, or a very dark one.

Here at Jolkona, we are all about positive life changing experiences, and give you the opportunity to change someone’s life. This month is Global Health month, and through our Give-Together campaign, your micro donations can make a real impact on a global scale. Check out this month’s projects here, and donate!

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

 

It’s been a few months since we trekked through West Africa, so it is time for our favorite tradition: the reunion. We have been doing this ever since our first expedition in 2010. An evening of re-creating local dishes we had on our journey, accompanied by stories of our favorite local heroes we’ve met along the way.

Suejin and Timothee cooking up briques and oeuf cocotte:

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Adnan made an epic fufu — only a full day of cooking time! It was the dish that we featured in all of our brochures when we were forming the team, yet we only had one chance to eat it during the trip… but the power was out and the fufu could not be made.

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Punit and I made one of our favorite dishes: jollof rice. The first time we ate it was made by our home cook, Pearl, and we were blown away. We ordered it frequently after, but it was never as good as Pearl’s.

Maggi cubes (the magic ingredient to give jollof that kick of flavor):

maggi cubes

Tomato, onion, hot pepper goodness all blended up. Then add rice.

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Team effort:

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Jollof Rice Recipe

adapted from Africanbite

4 generous portions

  • 2 cups long grain rice (eg Basmati)
  • 4 large tomatoes
  • 1 fresh habanero chilli pepper (it’s gonna be spicy!)
  • 1 large red onion
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 70 grams of tomato paste
  • 1/2 yellow sweet pepper, diced
  • 1/2 red sweet pepper, diced
  • A handful of fresh green beans
  • 2 small Maggi cubes
  • Vegetable oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Peel the onion and cut in half, and put in a pot together with the tomatoes, garlic cloves and fresh chilli pepper. Bring to a boil and cook until the skin of the tomatoes starts peeling.

Put the boiled tomatoes and other vegetables in a mixer with a little of the hot water from the pot and mix until you have a smooth sauce.

Pour the mixture into a large pot, add the tomato paste, chilli flakes, Maggi cubes and some more of the hot water from the first pot and bring to a boil. Then turn down the heat.

Add rice. Cook until the rice is done. You might have to add some more water, depending on what kind of rice you use.

You can steam the diced red/yellow peppers and the green beans. I always pan fry them quickly to get more flavor. Add to the pot once the rice is done cooking.

It’s ready to serve, enjoy!

Join the next expedition

Very soon Team Jolkona will prepare for our next expedition: Bangladesh and Burma this December. If you’re interested in learning more about the expedition and to see if you are a good match for our travel team, please email expedition@jolkona.org.

You can read all the posts from the Jolkona Team expedition in West Africa here.  

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

Whenever a Miss America contestant is asked a question about how she would change the world if she wins the crown, her answer will sound something like, “I will try to attain world peace, end poverty, improve health worldwide, and teach little children how to read.”  As overly ambitious and cliché this answer is, the world has made strides in the area of global health with the help of vaccines.

Needle by Dr. Shepard

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are twenty eight Vaccine-Preventable Diseases that have vaccines fighting against them including:  Hepatitis A and B, Measles, Lyme Disease, and the H1N1 Flu (Swine Flu) and many more. These vaccines have prevented the spread of disease, and improved the quality of life of all who have been vaccinated. However, vaccinations aren’t always readily available, and when supply is short, the consequences could be disastrous.

It was reported just earlier this month that a measles epidemic hit Pakistan, and this epidemic has already claimed 500 children’s lives (the full article can be read here). Measles is preventable with a vaccine, but not all have access to said vaccine. Dr. Zahid, Medical Superintendent of Mayo Hospital (one of the many hospitals seeing many of the patients with measles) said, “About 80 percent of patients were not vaccinated.”  The power of vaccinations is incredible, and their importance shouldn’t be underestimated. More vaccines could have saved 500 children.

This past month at Jolkona was education month, and we are grateful for the generosity of our readers.  I would like to officially announce that Jolkona will focus on the topic of global health for the month of August. Global health is an issue that many in our office feel passionate about, so dedicating three projects to improving global health was a no-brainer. Please stay tuned for more information coming soon.

By partnering with Jolkona, you get to choose how you impact the world. Join our Give Together program today!

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

In my last blog (it can be read here), I talked about how one study claimed that the current education programs training teachers were not adequately preparing teachers for their classroom. Teachers are being taught outdated methods, and consequently, their students aren’t learning as well as they could be.  I would like to discuss one more issue that is just as important as teacher training, and that is access to educational tools. I have written about the Technology Access Foundation (TAF) before, and I very much believe in their vision: get the necessary tools to the low income students who can’t afford them. The most important tool that every student needs in our modern classrooms is a laptop.

Laptop

 

I’m a blogger, meaning that I’m on my computer a good 16 hours a day. I must type my stories out, research, input my work into WordPress, and keep up to date about everything in the nonprofit world.  I then go home and use my computer for entertainment purposes: Netflix, Facebook, Twitter, and the list goes on. While I was a student (I just graduated from the University of Washington) all of my readings and essays had to be accessed and turned in online. A computer is no longer a luxury item, but an irreplaceable educational tool.

 

 

Why Laptops Are a Necessary Tool In the Classroom

1. If one doesn’t have a laptop, one is confined to a space where a computer can be accessed.

During my senior of college, I bought a new laptop because I had been using the same PC for six years (pictured above), and it was time for an upgrade. Within three weeks of buying the laptop, the hard drive crashed, and I was forced to go to the library to do my homework.  This meant that I couldn’t go to a coffee shop and do homework with my classmates. It also meant that I had to show up early to the library to make sure I got a computer, and had to fight off others who tried to use it when I stepped away to use the bathroom. Finally, being confined to one space always impeded my creative flow. I didn’t realize moving locations was a luxury until I couldn’t do it anymore.

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2. Not having constant access to the Internet.

I will admit that I may be an Internet addict. About 4 months ago, the power went out of my apartment, and being forcibly unplugged was not a fun experience. Not having a constant Internet connection means that you are not updated on everything that is happening around you.  Not being in the know means you are behind, and that is never good. One never knows when breaking news will hit, when your professor will cancel class, or when two of your friends become Facebook official. Information is power.

(Photo credit: The Australian)

3. The simplest tasks become harder.

I remember writing one of my first research papers in the third grade about birds, and having to check out one of the Encyclopedia Britannica’s books to take home and read. Carrying around an encyclopedia was annoying, and it hurt my back. In addition to this, I don’t miss writing out all of my essays by hand. Typing is easier. Laptops make research, writing, reading, communication, collaboration, and presentations easier. I couldn’t imagine my education without one.

Here at Jolkona, we realize the importance of laptops and technology, and have made it easy for you to support organizations like TAF in their efforts to provide students with the appropriate educational tools. You can read about our other projects we are supporting here, and can donate to these causes here.

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

Let’s start off this post with a cartoon:

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This cartoon brilliantly illustrates two points about the American Educational System:

1) Treating every student the same does not create an equal playing field,

and

2) bridging the Opportunity Gap doesn’t require a change from students, but a change from the educational system itself.

The Penguin and the Fish

Expecting a penguin and a fish to climb a tree is just as a preposterous as thinking that treating every child the same creates equal opportunity. Fun fact: it doesn’t, it actually does the opposite. Treating every student the same doesn’t factor in the amount of Cultural Capital every child brings into the classroom. Bluntly stated, if you don’t help the children who are already behind, you are subscribing to a front row seat to their failure. Students who aren’t given the extra help they need will most likely fall behind, while their counterparts will succeed because they can keep up with the material that is being taught. Treating every student the same will only reinforce the already unequal education practices the U.S. already has in place.

What Needs to Change?

On that grim note, there is hope. In order for real change to occur in our biased and unequal education system, change needs to come from the top. The educational institution itself must change in order for all students to have the same opportunities as their neighbor.  Although I fully recognize that what I’m stating is much easier said than done, if America wants to truly offer the American dream to every American, our educational institution has to change.

If you want to help students who are behind in school both in the U.S. and abroad, check out these two projects:  TAF (Technology Access Foundation) is helping close the digital divide for students who don’t have access to computers and the internet. If you want to help globally, check out our project that is helping students in India get an education they deserve. If you want to support any other of Jolkona’s projects, check out Give Together.

 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.

After two mind-opening weeks in West Africa, four of us from Team Jolkona headed north for some reflection and relaxation time in the Sahara desert.

We arrived hours too late to meet with our camels. Instead of sunset, it was moonlight as we rode into the sand dunes. The temperature plummeted dune after dune. The wind picked up and blew sand into our faces. Discomfort aside, we enjoyed our bumpy ride, the silence of the desert with just the sure steps of our camels, and the cloudless night sky filled with stars from one horizon to the other.

At night we stayed in a Berber tent with the “desert people,” as they call themselves. They poured us mint tea and taught us how to play their Moroccan drums.

One of the “features” of our trips to edges of the world is being off the grid. Be it a tent in the Sahara or a rural village like Ouesse, Benin, we were forced to be disconnected from Facebook, emails and other sources of digital distraction. Staying off the grid in a modern metropolis nowadays is nearly impossible. Short of going to a digital detox camp, there is always a commute or a Starbucks line prompting us to glance down to our glass slabs. So, despite the inconvenience and, let’s admit, the foreign sensation, the digital detox during our trip was good for us. It forced us to be present, to absorb and interact with our environment instead of tuning it out. It has filled me with a great sense of wonder, what I’ve learned from the people I met, and what I’ve seen in every stop we made. Did I miss out on all this back home, in my kaleidoscopic neighborhood, while tuned out behind my glass slab?

As we left our sand dunes behind, I asked our guide Hassan, a desert nomad converted to travel guide, if he missed his prior life.

“You would not believe it. You all think wi-fi, Facebook and YouTube is the life. It is not the life.”

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 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.

Photo credit: AFP/Getty Images

Twisted. Mangled. Buried. Crushed. As the bodies seem to defy gravity, so too does the photo seem to defy belief.

The devastating collapse of an eight-story factory building in Savar, Bangladesh on April 24th rapidly made the headlines around the world. The death toll, just two weeks later, has risen to over 700. It has been the nation’s deadliest industrial disaster. The International attention it has drawn has focused not only on the tragic scale of loss of life, but also – and rightly so – on the appalling conditions that so many people in developing countries are constrained to work under.

Most appalling of all, of course, is because it is so often at the behest of us in the West with our infantile addiction to cheap prices, which we are so happily spoon fed by smug Multinationals.

Tragedy for the workers and their families

The first tragedy is the loss of life – immutable, irreversible, and harrowing. Families have lost their loved ones. Nothing will repair this.

The second tragedy is that most of those workers provided a living for their families. In all likelihood, for many families it would have been their only source of income. Those families have been plunged not only into heartbreaking tragedy, but also complete destitution.

The same, though, goes for many of the survivors, who have suffered life-altering injuries: brain damage, broken backs, crushed bones, and severed limbs. Many of these workers will never be able to work again.

Hope for the injured: prosthetic limbs

We have partnered for a long time with BRAC. We visited their Brace and Limb Center in Bangladesh during our Partner Visit trip to South East Asia in the summer of 2012. BRAC has been helping design, build, and fit prosthetic limbs for thousands of Bangladeshi people for many years.

To respond to the tragedy in Savar, we have partnered with BRAC to start a campaign to provide survivors of this terrible accident with an artificial limb.

A new limb for these workers can mean the difference between livelihood and destitution, between life and death – for an entire family.

For $220 you provide one limb for one victim of the Savar tragedy. You can also donate as little as $5. We have already raised over $4400, reshaping the lives of 20 victims. Help us reshape the lives of many more. Give today.

You can also help support the campaign by sharing about it on Facebook and Twitter.

When people talk about African safari, 99.99% of the time they are talking about the parks in Kenya and Tanzania or the ones in South Africa and Namibia. The remaining 0.01% of the time, people are talking about the 3rd park – Pendjari National Park which spans across Burkina Faso, Benin, and Niger.

Our Expedition’s last stop was Pendjari National Park. We spent about 36 hours at the park, including couple of game drives. It is clear why Pendjari doesn’t get as much love as the parks in eastern and southern Africa:

  1. Lack of diversity. Pendjari doesn’t have very diverse wildlife, unlike the safari in Kenya and Tanzania. That is a big initial hurdle that Pendjari has to overcome.
  2. Park services are not well developed. While the accommodations inside the park were great, the guide was below par, as was the vehicle we were using. We were delayed by more than an hour for our sunrise drive because our vehicle would not start.
  3. Animals are really difficult to spot. We were able to easily see elephants, buffaloes, hippos, and antelopes. However, the cats were to be really hard to find. Our guide didn’t seem very knowledgeable about locating the different animals. We did hear a lion growl, but the guide seemed unsure which direction we should head.
  4. Lack of coordination. One of the cool features in East Africa is that the different safari vehicles would communicate with each other if they spot a rear animal. This kind of communication was missing in Pendjari. While I appreciate the desire to provide an adventure feel in trying to find animals, Pendjari does need to make it easier to find the wildlife.

Pendjari might never become as big as the Serengeti or the Kruger National Park, but it has the potential of being lot more engaging than it is today. If the administrators of the park can address some of the issues I mentioned above, I believe Pendjari will be part of most West Africa tourist itineraries.

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.

Our West Africa trip started with a visit to Elmina Castle in Ghana, the largest and oldest surviving slave castle. In fact, Elmina Castle is older than America. It was really interesting hearing the different periods in the history of the castle.

Unless you are physically walking around the castle, you can’t grasp the extremity of the conditions slaves experienced in the castle for three to four months before being shipped to the New World. A thousand slaves were kept in the castle, four hundred of them women. The slave dungeons were long, dark, and stuffy, while the masters’ chambers had unimpeded views of the Atlantic Ocean. The women slaves were forced to mate with the officers and if they became pregnant, they were allowed to leave the castle. The mixed-race children would be trained to also become slave traders.

This castle represents the darkest chapters in human history. I can’t imagine humans treating other humans so badly for hundreds of years. One would think that we have learned from the experience, but we continue to mistreat others. Surely we no longer have slavery in most of the world, but we still don’t have equality among all. Bias (social, race, caste, gender) still exists in many parts of the world.

So, Elmina castle is not just a relic of the past. It represents injustices that continue around the world, and reminds us that we have a long way to go before we can claim to be equal.

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.

This whole week we’re celebrating National Volunteer Week! That means we’re celebrating our volunteers, who are absolutely integral to all we do, and without whom we can honestly say, we would be nowhere! So first and foremost, thank you Jolkona volunteers!

But, this week is also about encouraging others to volunteer. 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? Part of that encouragement is about awareness of how important volunteering truly is. So, we thought we’d kick this week off with some stats. This infographic is staggering, and will help you understand just how essential volunteers are.

Are you interested in volunteering for Jolkona? Email as at contact@jolkona.org.

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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!

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