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Our first five participants in Project Catalyst, Jolkona’s new accelerator for social entrepreneurs from developing countries, will come from Indonesia to Seattle in the next couple weeks. This 2-week intensive workshop will allow them to further hone their business plans, meet prospective investors and gain new insights. We can’t wait to welcome them to our offices on June 8!

Both of Dino’s projects, Claps and Vertesac, work toward raising awareness of climate change and natural disasters, and encouraging people to modify their behaviors to improve our shared environment. A mobile photo sharing app for pictures and videos of the “real” impact of climate change, Claps aims to document and educate civilians about natural disasters. Meanwhile, Vertesac is a smart shopping bag system designed to track consumer use of reusable bags and offer discounts to users. Vertesac aims to reduce the excessive use of plastic bags through these economic incentives.

Q: Outside of this project and work, what else do you do for fun in Indonesia? What other passions do you have?

I also write a series of books called Books of Light. I call the  genre of the book “Science Mythology” or “SciMyth.” Simply said, science mythology is a story based on scientific fact about some event or natural phenomenon. Imagine Terminator meets The Lord of the Rings. I also create game boards, and take pictures as photographer. My passions are technology, environment, and art. I like to think about the problems that we have in our society and the opportunities that our technology offer.

Dino Fitriza (3)Q: So, what inspired you to start this venture?

The idea of Vertesac started in October 2011. In my city, Bandung, Indonesia, like other big cities, there are big problems with excessive plastic bag usage. Campaigns that encourage people to stop using plastic bag or to pay for plastics or to use your own bag have risen  all over the world. But, I found out that, when consumers buy some products, they think about their own “economy” first, and “ecology” second. Customers will look for direct benefits or incentives such as a cheaper price, discount, bonus, etc. So, I thought why don’t we create a system where each time users bring reusable shopping bag, they will get direct economic incentives? And so, Vertesac was born.

Q: Tell us a story of a person who has benefited from your program.

I can divide the people who have benefitted from this program into three categories. The first one, of course, are people all around the world who will keep a healthy environment with the reduction of plastic bags in circulation. The second are the customers who get better prices and discounts and the stores also reduce the cost of plastic or paper bags. Lastly, are the people who produce our reusable bags. Through the project, we have also created jobs. Our bags are made in Cimareme Village in Bandung by local women.

Q: What is one obstacle you have faced in running the program? How did you overcome it?

Our main obstacle is that we’re short on cash. Sometimes we run out “Fuel of Cash” so we can’t produce more bags to expand our market and get more store connections at the levels we want. Some stores also want us to pay them to accept Vertesac program. We try to overcome this by bootstrapping, getting investment from family and friends and by winning some competitions for cash.

Q: What are you looking forward to when you come to the United States as a part of Project Catalyst?

We are looking for strategic partners that can help us with fundraising, so we can expand our impact on the market. We are also looking for mentors or investors that can bring Vertesac to the next level as a world class social venture.

We are very excited to have Dino Fitriza here in Seattle! If you are interested in helping these amazing entrepreneurs, Project Catalyst is recruiting for mentors, coaches and hosts! If you are available between June 8 and 22, please contact catalyst@jolkona.org.

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I’ve worked with several food-related nonprofits in the Seattle area, providing cooking classes, nutrition education and youth engagement for low-income and immigrant communities. Local farmers donated fresh fruits and vegetables for our programs; opening the produce box was a highlight every week. We embraced the challenge of cooking with garlic spears and sun chokes, varieties of mushrooms, and raabs, all unknown to our veggiephobic immigrant and refugee youths.

While naming new vegetables and sharing in the glee of tasting nectarines for the first time, we also learned that CSAs – community-supported agriculture – are great for the planet. If there’s a CSA program available in your area, sign up! Celebrate Earth Day (Monday, April 22), and start reaping these significant benefits:

  1. Eat fresh: Since everything is grown locally, you can count on getting fresh ripe produce that hasn’t been sitting inside a truck for days.
  2. Try something new: Each week, be surprised by a new fruit or vegetable, and experiment with it. My favorite item from 2013: garlic spears! (See recipe below.)
  3. Save the planet: The earth suffers when crops are grown en masse and flown around the world. By subscribing to a CSA, you encourage local farming and heritage variety crops. You may not get tomatoes in December, but you’ll get a dozen different varieties all summer long.

What’s a CSA?

CSA stands for community supported agriculture, and is a loosely organized group of customers and farmers who organize to sell “shares” of the farmers’ crops to the customers, who in turn subsidize the farmers, their operations, and often their families. Some CSAs ship directly to customer homes, but others allow you to pick up your share at a nearby collection point.

How much does it cost?

Depending on how large the CSA is or how many seasons you sign up for, you can expect to pay anywhere from $20-$50/week for a seasonal share. That means a typical June to November summer season may cost between $400 and $1,000. Some CSAs ask for the money upfront; others charge on a weekly basis.

Which is the best one?

If you live in the Seattle area and want the convenience of home delivery (at the cost of having a CSA that isn’t a 100% local), New Roots Organics is my favorite: you get a list a few days before the drop-off, and an opportunity to switch out the items you don’t want. Plus owner Carolyn is incredibly friendly and responsive!

Typical Late-Summer Box

  • Spinach – 1/3 lb
  • Arugula – 1/3 lb
  • Swiss Chard – 1 bunch
  • Turnips – 1 bunch
  • Radishes – 1 bunch
  • Storage onions – 1 lb
  • Lettuce – 1 head
  • Kale – 1 bunch
  • Carrots – 1 bunch
  • Sunchokes – 1 lb
  • Cabbage – 1 head
  • Garlic – 2 heads
  • Pumpkins – 1 ea

If you’re willing to pick up your box a few blocks or miles from home, the City of Seattle’s P-Patch and Oxbow Farms are also great.

Aparna’s Garlic Spear Pesto

  • Eight 10-inch-long garlic scapes/spears
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup shelled walnuts or pinenuts
  • Zest and juice of 1/2 a large lemon
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil(evoo)

Throw in all ingredients into a food processor, and pulse until they come together. Add salt and extra lemon juice/evoo for taste and consistency.

Use pesto in sandwiches, on pasta – everything is better with a garlicky twist!

Aparna Rae is an organizational and development consultant in Seattle’s nonprofit sector.

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The streets that pave our cities buzz a ceaseless din. Advertising bombards us with images teasing and confounding our wants and desires. Television, digital media and print media – their information cyclones inundate us with stories, facts, opinions, distortions and lies. Today’s global economic engine is a juggernaut with gale-force winds, flinging people from job to job and industry to industry. 21st century life operates in hyper-speed. Sometimes, one needs to apply pressure on the breaks and simply slow down.

The Human Spirit Compels Us

Here at Jolkona, we affirm the life-changing work being accomplished by our partners. We affirm the non-profit sector’s role throughout the world of helping create respectful, well-educated, creative and sustainable communities. We affirm the courageous, compassionate lives people compose for themselves out of an endlessly renewable resource: the human spirit, the will to live, the drive to make life worth living for all.

Affirmations aside, we recognize how easily individuals can become wrapped up in the pettiness of differences, the drama of conflict, and the chains of disillusionment. The following short film, We Are All One, succinctly and lucidly articulates an argument for life and the inherent kinship of all living things. Watch it below.

I won’t exhaust the contents of the film by breaking it down point by point – that would weaken the impact of its own presentation. Jolkona simply believes moments like these are critically important to allow for in our busy lives. Reflection is indicative of a curious, caring mind.

Connecting with your Environment

When it comes to philanthropic endeavors – or any meaningful undertakings for that matter – there exists the yin and yang of theory and praxis. Theory speaks to brainstorming, planning and strategic development. Praxis is defined by action; getting out there to complete tasks and accomplish goals. Theory without praxis is, ultimately, only words, only hypothetical conjecture. Praxis without theory may often turn out to be uninformed and unprepared. Both are essential characteristics to develop an open engagement with the world.

Reflection is equally important as the aforementioned qualities. Critical thinking breeds honesty, empowerment, and change. Life is not all sunshine and roses though – the narration confirms this fact time and again. The majestic footage captured in We All Are One is not intended to inspire surface-level, blind optimism about the future. Rather, it reminds us humans, who can become so distanced from the place we call home, that we are part and parcel of this world. There is no I without the other.

Building Bridges, Linking Lives

The ways in which we fortify ourselves from the earth in communication and conduct is illusionary and deceptive. We are not even merely stewards of this planet, here to establish goodwill and reverence for nature. As the classic Beatles song goes, “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.” If we as a community truly desire a future that is sustainable and inclusive, it begins with personal moments of reflection. From there, a process of dialogue and ‘theory’ building with neighbors, friends and communities. This is followed by the execution of dignified goals. At the beginning of this process is reflection on self – and therefore – the world.

Align yourself with like-minded individuals. Align yourself with family and friends who may possess different values than you. Align yourself with inspiring non-profits. Align yourself with community leaders and local activities. Align yourself with life-affirming ways of being that resonate with what you have seen in the film above.

Jolkona wants to share its passion with people across the globe that we are confident share so much in common. Our histories and aspirations are much the same. Follow the link to Jolkona’s project center to get an idea of environmental projects we are involved with. But the buck does not stop there; Jolkona’s coalition of partners is ever-blossoming.

Like Jolkona on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and check us out on Pinterest to keep up with all of our ongoing projects.

In 1969 an oil platform off the Californian coast of Santa Barbara blew out, unleashing a ghastly environmental nightmare. A nation stood appalled and watched as an entire ecosystem drowned in the toxic filth of crude oil. Out of the horror of its aftermath, and in an effort to bring a greater social consciousness of environment protection, Earth Day was born and first celebrated on April 22nd 1970.

42 years later the environmental issues that plague this planet rage ever louder, but so too does the crusading Earth Day. This Sunday, April 22nd, is Earth Day 2012.

What is it about?

The Earth Day Network connects with over 22,000 partners in 192 countries to broaden, diversify, and mobilize the environmental movement. On Sunday over 1 billion people will voice their love and appreciation for this planet whilst demanding for its protection. It is a campaign designed to provide people with the opportunity to unite in their call for a sustainable future, directing them toward quantifiable outcomes. One of those quantifiable outcomes is the Billion Acts of Green project. Yes, that’s one billion not one million.

A Billion Acts of Green

This mother of all projects encourages individuals, organizations, businesses and governments to support the campaign by performing environmental actions, such as biking to work, picking up garbage off the street, or planting a tree. The goal is to reach one billion actions by the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in June 2012. The accomplishment will be presented at the Rio +20 Conference to be used as a lever addressing the UN’s inaction and inspiring leaders to reach a global agreement.

What can I do?

Simple: pledge any act of green you can think of and let the people at Earth Day know here. At Jolkona we have 16 partners that are directly involved in environmental protection. With $5 your donation plants trees in countries from the Philippines, through India, Senegal, to Haiti. With $10 your donation teaches youth in Costa Rica about water conservation. With $24 your donation conserves rainforests in Tanzania. With $40 your donation builds a fuel efficient stove for a family in Nepal. With $100 your donation trains environmental youth advocates in Kenya.

Go to our projects page and select ‘Environment’ under the ‘Projects’ column to view all the appropriate projects. Join us and a billion others in the call and pledge to protect our planet Earth.

For more information, resources, and ideas go to the Earth Day website.

Follow and share the movement on Facebook and Twitter.

Tweet using the #earthday hashtag.

Earlier today we visited ADCAM in Manaus. Manaus is the 4th major economic zone in Brazil after Sao Paolo, Rio de Janeiro, and Minas Gerais. The factories of major companies Suzuki, Sony, and Nokia are driving the growth of Manaus. Favorable tax rates have attracted many companies to this region over the last 30 years. As companies set up their factories, the opportunity for labor positions surfaced. Many people from the surrounding regions migrated to Manaus in hopes for a job. However, they faced very difficult circumstances. Many of them didn’t get hired due to lack of experience or qualification. Those who did get jobs did not earn enough income to provide basic necessities to their families.

Non-profit organizations started springing up in Manaus to help support these workers and their families. One such organization is ADCAM. Since its inception in 1984, ADCAM has grown from a small daycare to an education entity. Spanning a high school, a college, and a vocational institute, the organization is providing education services to over 5,000 students every day. We had a chance to spend an entire day at ADCAM in Manaus. We spent time with some students, some of the teachers, and the founder. Many of the students had started working as early as 14 years of age, the legal age in Brazil. They receive vocational training at ADCAM which then can be used when they pursue their career.

One of the questions I had during this trip was to understand how the boom in industries over the last 30 years is affecting the environment thus, and the impact in the future. While both the teachers and founder acknowledged the challenge, I felt they did not provide a clear answer about how their program will specifically address this challenge. They also mentioned that they will start environmental training courses soon.

Over the last 30 years, ADCAM has responded to the needs of the Manaus community and growing number of factories. I am confident they will continue to evolve, preparing the next generation to answer the environment challenges I had hoped to gain insight into.

The future of Amazon might not be decided by board rooms in New York or London. Rather, if organizations like ADCAM expand, the future of Amazon may be determined in the classrooms in Manaus and other areas.

Want more on the South America trip? Adnan Mahmud and Nancy Xu are also blogging about their experiences with the team. Follow Adnan here. Follow Nancy here. Keep up to date with us also on Facebook.

Ensure environmental sustainability

As we near the end of our series on the United Nations Millennium Development Goals and how they relate to Jolkona, we look this week at environmental sustainability.

Targets

There are four targets the UN sets for achievement of goal 7:

  1. Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies
  2. Reduce biodiversity loss
  3. Halve, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation
  4. By 2020, to have achieved a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers

Expansive scope

With the exception of the first goal of eliminating extreme hunger and poverty, perhaps no other goal is as broad reaching as goal 7. Any one of the targets of goal 7 could likely be a goal unto themselves. Sustainable development and the preservation of rain forests has a huge impact on environment and economics of the developing world. And there are in fact hundreds of millions of people living in slum conditions around the world today. But the target we will focus on today is that of clean drinking water and sanitation.

Clean water

What makes clean water so important? Quite simply, water is life. While it varies somewhat, the average human can only survive three days without water. Because water is so vital to life, many people are forced to drink unclean water because that is all they have available. The problem is a host of horrible diseases–like Cholera and Hepatitis, for example–can be contracted through consumption of dirty or polluted water.

On top of the risk of disease, a huge economic drain is created when people (most often women and children) are forced to walk long distances to acquire water, whether it is clean or not. This travel time is time spent out of school or work. Some estimates place the economic cost, for Africa alone, at $28 BILLION dollars per year.

The good news is that many organizations are doing a great job of drilling wells and working on other clean water projects. The bad news is that even as there are many organizations working on this, it remains a huge issue for billions of people around the globe.

How you can help

Here are a list of Jolkona projects supporting goal 7:

  1. Plant trees in Ethiopia
  2. Provide clean water in Kenya
  3. Provide ceramic water filters in Kenya

For more information about the issue of access to clean water, check out Charity: Water’s great “Why water” page.

This post was written by Nancy Xu, a member of the Jolkona team. A few months ago, she traveled to Costa Rica and with Astha Gupta, another Jolkona volunteer. They visited a school that benefits from the water conservation program and this is what they learned.

It’s middle of the winter back home, but it sure is hot and humid here in San Jose, Costa Rica. Astha, Maryam and I are on our walk back from the market, and we see Aitor Llodio from Aliarse, already waiting promptly with a cab. We give each other a warm greeting and are on our way. Today, Aitor is taking us to visit a school that has benefited from the water conservation program. Since the school is located in a low-income community, Aitor asked us to pack minimally to avoid drawing attention to ourselves. We chat along as storefronts become less and less dense, as we pass by mountains that are ex-volcano craters, and through coffee farms where groups of young men are catching a break on the sidewalk.

Aitor has been intensely involved in the water conservation initiatives for the last couple of years. The concept of water conservation is not quite on the radar of its citizens, as reflected by the nation’s increasing consumption for water. Since the government is not steering the ship to make any improvements in this area, a number of grassroots efforts like Aliarse’s began in hope of making positive change. They have multiple approaches to address this issue. Today, Aitor is going to show us the education and the infrastructure improvement programs.

The School

We arrive at the school and it seems to be lunch break. The children walk past in their school uniforms, and stare with curious eyes. A few schoolboys are playing a game of foosball by the principal’s office. Some parents are sitting on the curb outside of the school, waiting. Since this school supports a lot of low income families, most of the parents are unemployed. The ones that are registered as employed tend to be street vendors selling scarves and bootlegged movies to tourists.

The principle gives us a tour around the school, and we are all amazed to learn that the school contains many age groups of children. To fit such a variety (and volume) of students into the school, each age group gets 3 hours of the day. This essentially turns the school into a “shift” system.

The Water Conservation Education Program

Now, onto the water conservation education program. This program is architected quite brilliantly. Each school year, Aliarse selects a few schools in the San Jose area to target. From each school, they choose 25 kids between the ages of 10 and 12. Since it is not possible to give an informative course to the entire school, they developed a system where children with the most influence were chosen, and it is up to them to spread the idea to the rest of the school. The 25 children will consist mostly of the smartest kids in school, but a few will be the trouble-makers. It is important to throw the trouble-makers into the mix because if the program can turn their attitude around, the sphere of influence grows further. And the selection of only 25 children gives the program prestige, and helps create excitement.

Classes are over at noon for the elementary school section

Classes are over at noon for the elementary school section

The program consists of 4 modules and runs once a week for 3 months. The first part is an interactive classroom session. The children are taught the value of water, and how our delicate ecosystem and its life forms are dependent upon it. The second part is a class field trip (and kids love this one!) where they visit a local water purifying plant. The plant manager takes them around the facility and explains each of the steps needed to treat the water before it comes out of the tap. The 3rd part of the module is very hands on. The children are taught plumbing basics, and are empowered to help the school report or solve problems such as leaky and rusty pipes. The last module is about ways to reduce unnecessary water usage. The reduction of black water is also one of importance, only 4% of the nation’s black water is treated today.

Overall, this education program has proven to be extremely effective and reduces 20% (and sometimes up to 50%!) of the target school’s water usage after program completion.

Fundamental Infrastructure Improvement

Self-timed tap installed in school to optimize consumption of water

Self-timed tap installed in school to optimize consumption of water

Aitor is also working on another initiative that has even greater impact to water conservation, but comes with a higher investment. This involves a complete upgrade of the school’s water distribution system to make it inherently non-wasteful. For example, the boys’ urinal is an entire wall where a curtain of water pours down constantly from top to drain. This is inherently wasteful. The upgrade consists of tearing down this setup, and to add standard urinals in its place. In their vision of future upgrades, they would like to install waterless urinals instead. Another installation is a self-timed tap. This is common in our public bathroom in North America, but not yet widespread in schoolyards of Costa Rica. Old leaky pipes are also torn out and replaced with the new. These infrastructure improvements achieve 70% reduction of water usage immediately after installation. This is huge.

The government does not have the ability to fund these activities today, which is why Aitor’s organization steps in again. This is a much larger under taking. For this particular school, it has taken 3 months, a crew of 5, and approx. $8K USD to complete, and every school is different.

Luckily, they have one big sponsor backing them up – Coca Cola. Coca Cola consumes 2L of water for each can of Coca Cola. As resources become scarce, trend setting companies are operating in a more socially conscious way. Coca Cola for example, strives to be water neutral. They invest in water conservation efforts across Costa Rica to balance their consumption of water. This is all great, but the funding is still limited and Aitorâ’s organization can only hit 3 to 4 schools each year.

As we drive off after our enlightening visit, Aitor points to the fields behind us.

“That’s where the drug lords from Columbia reside. We do not go there. We lose a lot of kids to that zone. They do not come back.”

Hmm, foreshadowing for the next problem to tackle in Costa Rica perhaps?

“The Red Cross went in there once after a stress call, and the gangsters shot at the rescue van. They do not go there anymore.”

…so we may not be ready to tackle this one just yet. For now, we are loving the water conservation program here in Costa Rica, the Aliarse group and the Amigos of Costa Rica, and really glad that Jolkona gets to be a part of these amazing initiatives.

About the author: Nancy Xu is a multimedia storyteller for Jolkona. She works on video games and gaming gadgets by day, and aspires to make postive social change by night. Nancy is also actively involved with the independent film community in Seattle. She screens and introduces films for local film festivals, and makes documentaries and feature films in the summer. Feel free to check out her personal website, here.

In June, we launched an awareness drive to increase the membership in our social networks. We had promised to plant a tree for every supporter in Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. At end of the drive, we gained enough supporters to plant 750 trees. Our supporters decided to plant the trees in India, Ethiopia, and Haiti.

At Jolkona Foundation, we are committed to showing impact for EVERY donation. We try to take that approach with all of our activities. So, we are excited to share videos from our partners – Trees for the Future – showing planting of moringa trees in India. Most of the videos show the planting of the trees while the last video shows moringa trees planted last year.

These videos serve as clear proof of the impact that our supporters had by simply following us on Twitter or becoming a Facebook fan or joining our LinkedIn group. Thank you for the support and we hope you will continue to have even more impact in other projects.

GET INVOLVED!