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If you go on an amazing trip and have a life-changing experience, but don’t share it on Facebook, did it really happen? This satirical story from The Onion says it all: 6-Day Visit To Rural African Village Completely Changes Woman’s Facebook Profile Picture

“I don’t think my profile photo will ever be the same, not after the experience of taking such incredible pictures with my arms around those small African children’s shoulders. Honestly, I can’t even imagine going back to my old Facebook photo of my roommate and I at an outdoor concert.”

If your Facebook photo could use a similar upgrade, check out Jolkona Expeditions. These small group trips take volunteers to visit our nonprofit partners fighting poverty in developing countries. Previous expeditions have gone to West Africa and South America; the next one is scheduled for March 16 to 30, visiting organizations in Kenya and Tanzania.

Jolkona Expeditions: Not only will they change your life, but they will definitely change your Facebook profile picture!

Keep up with everything Jolkona by following us on Facebook and Twitter.

Do you crave excitement, adventure, and the open road? Do you want to see Jolkona’s global partners in socially innovative action? If so, the first Jolkona Expedition of 2014 is just right for you!

This March, Jolkona will send a group to East Africa, to explore and see what inspires our nonprofit partners to do their work. By going on a Jolkona expedition, you take part in creating a global community of innovators, supporting high-impact organizations, and building a better world. Whether you’re new to Jolkona or a regular donor, this experience will be inspirational for all.

The expedition will be from March 16 to 30, visiting four organizations in Kenya and Tanzania. Afterwards, you are welcome to continue exploring on your own.  Check here for more information. If you sign up this month, you can take part in planning the trip and finalizing the itinerary. Be sure to do so soon, as spots are limited! If you have any questions you can contact expedition@jolkona.org.

For now, here is our projected itinerary:

We are excited to explore the world of social innovation with you. Sign on while spots are still available, and check out the expedition page for more updates!

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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

Note from the Editor: this post was written by the Jolkona

 

This month six Jolkona volunteers, including co-founders Nadia Khawaja Mahmud and Adnan Mahmud, are traveling to Bangladesh, Cambodia and Thailand to spend time visiting our partner organizations in Southeast Asia. Jolkona’s mission has always been to connect our donors to global philanthropic opportunities and show donors the impact of their donation, whether it’s a photo, video or a card. During this trip, we intend to capture the spirit of our mission. Our goal is to experience face-to-face the impact of Jolkona’s partners, and share our stories back with our donors and friends in the most effective way. Visiting our partners is also an invaluable part of evolving our giving platform. On top of that, we’re planning on experiencing the culture, food and having some fun along the way!

Past trips to Africa and South America have been key in developing closer relationships with our partners and directly experiencing the impact we’re making on the ground, as well as helping tell those stories to our donors.

Southeast Asia (Bangladesh specifically) is where our work first started. Three years later, we’ve scaled to over 110 projects around the globe, and 28 specifically in SE Asia. During our trip, we’ll be visiting:

  • Bangladesh – DCI, BRAC limb center
  • Thailand – Rockefeller Center, Thai Action Committee
  • Camdodia – 1. KMR, Tean Thor, FEDA Cambodia

Two new campaigns

To build excitement and garner support for the partner projects, we’re launching two campaigns. Both support projects that we will be visiting during our trip. Help raise funds for these great projects!

1. Provide a Supporting Brace & Rehabilitation in Bangladesh:

Our first partner visit in Bangladesh will be our partner BRAC at their Limb and Brace Fitting Centre (BLBC). Their primary goal is increasing the independence of physically disabled persons by enhancing their ability to participate in daily life, social and economic activities. BRAC supports the disabled population with rehabilitation aids and services using appropriate technology. Our goal through your donation is to provide a total of 4 braces for those in need. Donate to our campaign here.

2. Provide Medical Supplies to Bangladeshi Kids:

Our second visit will be with another of OUR inspirational partners in Bangladesh — Distressed Children & Infants. Through your donation, you can provide medication to help alleviate preventable illnesses related to lack of proper sanitation and water among impoverished children in Bangladesh. Make a donation here.

When you contribute the full amount to either projects, you will receive a proof of impact for your donation. You can also give different amounts, starting at $5, though you will not receive a proof for a partial gift.

We’re so excited to be doing this! Please keep up with us on our blog, Facebook and Twitter as we share Team Southeast Asia’s experiences! Also be sure to follow Nadia, Adnan and Melinda on Twitter as they’re posting some great live updates.

Gratefully,

Nadia, Adnan, Chi, Krishnaja, Melinda & Zanoon

The Jolkona SE Asia Team

Please Note: This trip is a 100% funded by the volunteers who have graciously given of their own time and money. No funds from Jolkona have been used to sponsor any portion of this trip.

Note from editor: Post written by Chi Do, a passionate Jolkona volunteer.

Nested in the foothill of the mountains leading to Machu Picchu is a small town called Ollantaytambo. We visited Awamaki, a non-profit grass roots organization that was revamped in 2009, yet its beginnings are decades old. Their mission is to provide support for highland communities, especially of benefit to the women and children who reside there.

Awamaki’s aesthetically decorated store brings weaving and knitting products to consumers. These materials and pieces come from communities deep in the mountainside, handmade by the local families. It is truly a family business with help from the wife, husband and their children. In this way, Awamaki provides business opportunities that strengthen the whole community. Awamaki has recently implemented a mobile clinic program which provides medical assistance in remote areas. This fulfills a great need, as horses are the only mode of transportation for these locations. Sustainable tourism is another interesting aspect of Awamaki. It makes perfect sense as Ollantaytambo is a town that relies heavily on tourism. It is a great idea for incorporating social enterprise in their strategies, as well as generating a stable source of funding for Awamaki’s programs.

What stuck out to me the most was the high number of volunteers Awamaki gets every year.  We met only 5 volunteers during their quieter season, but they can get up to 25 volunteers at peak time. Most are young adults from the United States; high school or college graduates, young professionals who look for a change in their career directions, or just wanting to learn about a different world than their own. We spoke to Amy, a current volunteer. She gave up a job offer right after college to volunteer with Awamaki for 6 months. She desired to pursue a passion of serving the underprivileged.  There was also Jon and Emily, a couple from Chicago who are spending the next 6 months contributing to the programs at Awamaki in any way they can. As I hear more stories from the volunteers, I feel proud. We are the young generation who think about others, who want to make a difference in this world, and who do something to keep that passion going.

Awamaki became a partner of Jolkona in late 2011. As I see it, this partnership has the potential to provide additional opportunities for volunteer exchange or connection with sustainable tourism.

Check out their work here and provide any support as you see fit.

Participate in our Jolkona campaign for Awamaki.

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Note from the editor: this post was written by the brilliant Nancy Xu, one of our dedicated Jolkona volunteers.

My hands run through the pasadizo, a rectangular weaving the Andean women wear across their back. The yarn, made of alpaca, feels soft; yet at the same time, the tight weaving lends it strength. The edges curve up slightly. I think about its creator – the hand which dyed each bundle of yarn, the colors of which are all natural, like carcass of beetle (red), or plant fungus (turquoise). I think about each individual weave being made, row by row, as patterns and designs emerge. It felt repetitive but meticulous. It felt overwhelming. It felt precious.

“They can tell who created each piece,” Kaitlyn says. “There is a distinct signature to each weave found in the patterns and in the choice of symbols.”

“Just like a painting,” I interpret; Kaitlyn nods.

Kaitlyn Bohlin is a program director at Awamaki, a group that aims to preserve the art of weaving in a sustainable manner. Based in the small town Ollantaytambo, Peru, a stop off place for trekkers en route to Machu Picchu, “awamaki” means weaving hands in Quechua, the language spoken by the inhabitants of the Andes mountains. While their store is located in Ollantaytambo, they work from the mountain villages of Patacancha and Parobamba. These villages are incredibly remote, located at very high-altitudes. At this time of the year, though, the road up is washed out by landslides. The next visit won’t be possible until the wet season passes.

A single piece of weaving can take a month to finish. This is because most weavers are women, who have to spend a significant amount of their time attending to family duties – cooking, feeding, making fires, or planting potatoes in the field. The Andean weaving is done with a back-strap loom. This is a portable device which the women can carry on their backs, allowing them to gather with other women, where they can work together and socialize. However, most of the weaving is still done at home, and it can be quite the family activity – the child may unwind the yarn, and the father help to stretch it across the loom.

Not until I am on my way back to North America do I learn that the Andean weavings are more than just paintings. Karen Lizarraga, who sits next to me as I’m flying out of Lima, is a professor at the University of Lima, and spent many years undertaking archeology projects in the ancient Andean culture of Ayacucho, not too far from Ollantaytambo.

“They are narratives,” Karen tells me.

So they are knowledge and stories, weaved onto pasadizos, belts and scarves. They narrate the ethics of the Andean people, their belief in mother earth, and medicinal knowledge about plants and healing. One particular piece that Karen studied told a story of feminine ethics; a story of resistance against the seduction of the mountain spirit, Wamani. She also told me about the unkunakuchka, a pervasive symbol found not only in weaving but on numerous Andean relics. It is a depiction of two birds conjoined at the mouth –  a symbol of nurturing, of motherly or fatherly love. For those who recognize it, their reaction is instinctual, and one that is full of meaning.

As the cabin lights on the plane are dimmed by the crew, I lean back into my seat and wonder how many more layers there are to unveil within this rich heritage of weaving. What other messages are hidden in the weaves, lost in translation as their storytellers pass away? For the fate of the art of weaving hangs perilously in the balance, caught between its ancient roots and an uncertain future. I’m encouraged, though, that organizations like Awamaki exist, actively preserving a dying art in a shrinking culture. And that there are archaeologists like Karen, who dedicate their lives in search of the missing layers of meaning, which would otherwise be lost in the passing of generations.

Find out more about Awamaki: awamaki.org & jolkona.org/projects/160

Participate in our Jolkona campaign for Awamaki here.

Read more about the narratives in the weaving by Karen Lizarraga here.

For other posts about Nancy’s trip with Jolkona to South America, see her tumblr profile. You can also keep up to date with us on Facebook.

 

Note from the editor: this post was written by Jolkona volunteer Zanoon Nissar, sent all the way from Manuas, Brazil.

Our second partner visit in Brazil was in Manaus, the largest city in the province of Amazon. After driving through the poorer regions of the city, we came to ADCAM, a multi-faceted school with apprenticeship, college, high school and youth programs. When we arrived, we couldn’t believe how beautiful the campus looked compared with the rest of Manaus. There were well kept gardens, acres of land, and happy students walking through the halls. This was clearly a special place in the city and we were about to find out why.

We first spent some time with students from the vocational program. They were between the ages of 14-17 and were part of an electronics repair program. Since there are a lot of electronics factories in Manaus, the demand for skilled repair workers is high and pays well. These students are very busy, spending 4 hours a week in an placed internship (generally at one of the local factories), attend ADCAM one day a week, and go to  regular school as well. The program opens the children’s eyes to their potential, and many end up using the money they save from their internships to go to college.

What impressed me most about ADCAM was both the passion of its director, as well as the way it has grown and developed around the needs of the Manaus community. Their director was an Iranian woman who had immigrated to Manaus over 25 years ago. She didn’t speak any Portguese at the time, was pregnant and yet had a goal of opening a small daycare. She overcame hurdle after hurdle to grow the daycare into a school, and then an apprenticeship program, and finally a college. Now, over 5,000 students attend the school every year. If you ask their founder how she made this possible, she references her belief in love, faith and God.

It will be fascinating to see where ADCAM will be in 5 years. As the Olympics and World Cup approach, there will be a boom in tourism and hospitality. In the past, ADCAM has grown to fit the needs of its community, and I anticipate that this will be no exception. The biggest potential investment here would be in the teaching of English. Another area that ADCAM will need to explore will be the environment. Finding a fine balance between preserving the nation’s rainforests and expanding will be key.

To help support this amazing school, Jolkona is soon to be partnering with the Mona Foundation, a Seattle based non-profit.  The Mona foundation funds vocational and primary school scholarships for ADCAM. Please support ADCAM here.

 

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