Alicia Holmes has the distinction of being our first Give Together member who was completely new to Jolkona. Not only had she never donated through before, but she doesn’t know anyone affiliated with us, she’s never attended one of our events, and she lives all the way across the country…

We couldn’t wait to hear her story!

Age:  30

Occupation:  Senior advisor for a healthcare and pharmacy innovation company

Location:  Massachusetts

How did you hear about Jolkona, and what made you want to contribute?

I saw an article [on LinkedIn] that described Jolkona’s philosophy and contribution model. The type of projects that Jolkona was targeting — small scale, material impact, varying causes — resonated with me. I like knowing that I didn’t just contribute X dollars to a particular city or country; I know that I helped purchase books for a local school or provide job-training for young women.
Jolkona strikes me as fresh and innovative. I was floored when I received an email from an actual person, Nicole, after signing up for Give Together online. No “do not reply — distribution only” emails. Real people who care about their work and the causes they support are the people behind this organization.

How did you hear about Give Together, and what inspired you to join?

After reading about the company, I learned more about Give Together on Jolkona’s website. It’s a practical, results driven program where you’re actually engaged in the act of giving and can witness the collective result as more people join the cause. It isn’t just an anonymous donation on a website.

How would you define “philanthropist?”

I think the term philanthropist sounds so formal that most people wouldn’t describe themselves as such, unless you actually are Bill or Melinda Gates. But in my mind, philanthrophy only requires that you look outside of yourself, your situation, and try to make a positive impact on humanity. There are many more philathropists walking around this world than we think.

What other causes do you support, and what kind of causes would you like to support in the future?

Veterans organizations have always been important to my family, as I come from a long line of service men and women. My father is a former Marine and Vietnam veteran, and in their retirement, my parents have started a non-profit to provide respite for soldiers and their families. I guess I take a lot of cues from them.
Healthcare (especially nutrition and prevention) and education are at the top of my list as well. Those are just a few areas where you can do more than relieve an immediate need. You can support the development of skills that will be useful for a lifetime (and hopefully passed on to later generations). Small contributions are magnified in that way.

What would you say to encourage others to donate to projects through Jolkona or elsewhere?

If you want to make an impact, if you want to know where and how your dollars are being used to help others and make the world a little more liveable, this is where you start.

Thanks Alicia!

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When Jolkona’s Give Together monthly philanthropy program launched this summer, we never expected that one of our most enthusiastic members would be participating from 8,000 miles away! Meet Andrew Varvel, in his own words:

Andrew Varvel

Age: 25

Occupation:  Studio technical director for a television station

Location: Sydney, Australia

How did you hear about Jolkona, and what made you want to contribute?

After giving for a number of years through child sponsorship, I became disheartened by the lack of transparency and the increasing marketing budgets of the charities. I began researching charities and giving online and after a few weeks, I discovered Jolkona as an organisation where I could be certain my ‘small’ donation would have a guaranteed impact.

Jolkona is a highly innovative charity that has changed the way I think about giving and supporting ‘good causes.’ They have a fantastic team and a great set of values – I’m excited to see Jolkona celebrate its fifth birthday and I look forward to what amazing things they can achieve over the next five years.

How did you hear about Give Together and what inspired you to join?

I have been supporting for Jolkona for just over a year and I was contacted about the new Give Together program. I was keen to support the new initiative and pre-committing a monthly amount to donate whilst still having some freedom to choose what projects to donate to.

How would you define “philanthropist?”

A philanthropist is simply someone who gives a damn and generously donates money and time to support good causes. I think it’s important to remember that anyone can be a philanthropist — it doesn’t matter how little or how much you donate, you can still make a positive impact on others in this world. It’s easy to feel that a small donation doesn’t make a difference in a world where governments and generous wealthy individuals donate hundreds of millions of dollars to worthy causes — but through places like Jolkona, you can be assured your donation does have impact.

For example, through Give Direct, for just $200 dollars you can provide a personalised prosthetic leg to a land mine victim in Burma. It’s pretty cool to think about how much better that person’s life will be once they have a prosthetic. Things like that excite me and encourage me. You can even have a real impact for $20 or less.

What other causes do you support, and what kind of causes would you like to support in the future?

I currently only support causes through Jolkona, but I’m particularly passionate about health & education projects. Health projects are exciting as they can have an immediate impact on an individual or community that can literally save their lives in some cases. I also love supporting educational causes as I think that education is a key driver for unlocking a country’s economic growth.

What would you say to encourage others to donate to projects through Jolkona or elsewhere?

Charity isn’t about how much you donate each year. It’s about what impact you want to have on the world. What do you care about? What do you want to make better? Your money will have a different amount of impact depending on the charity you choose.

When you donate through Jolkona, you’ll know your generous donation will be spent wisely, you’ll know the impact of your donation and you’ll be part of a strong community making the world better one small donation at a time.

Anything else you’d like to share about yourself?

We need some more Jolkona donors in Australia! Get on board!

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While observing Ramadan last month, Asim Khan, 36, decided to contribute his zakat – Muslim charitable giving – to Jolkona’s Give Direct projects in Afghanistan and Bangladesh. Welcome to the Jolkona community, Asim, and tell us a little about yourself!


Occupation:  CEO, Event Blossom

Location: North Tustin, CA

Hobbies: Weight training, surfing, basketball

Volunteering: President of NAASER – charitable organization that gives relief to the needy in Bhopal, India; former president of the Islamic Center of Irvine.

Skills: Public speaking, persuasion, competitiveness, impersonating Keanu Reeves…

How did you hear about these Jolkona projects?

My brother went to UCLA with [Jolkona CEO] Nadia, and we have mutual friends. I have always thought it was fantastic that she and Adnan have dedicated so much of their lives to giving back to those that need it.  I try to do what I can in my capacity, and have always admired those that help others. The idea of being able to directly change people’s lives by way of micro-financing really caught my eye. I carefully pick organizations that I choose to contribute to, and am happy to be in a position to help… the little I can. In some parts of the world, even small donations from here can make a big impact.

What’s  your impression of Jolkona?

It is amazing to see how far Jolkona has come in such a short time. The level of professionalism, and the amount they are able to accomplish is a bounty to the many that they affect. I guess I fit one of their core values, they have inspired a young professional like me to become a better philanthropist and provided me with an avenue to do so.

How would you define “philanthropist?”

It’s embarrassing to me to be referred to as a philanthropist… but if I must answer, I’d say “someone that has more than he needs and gives to those that need it more than him.”  But it’s more than transactional. Giving is something more innate, more spiritual. A favorite quote of mine from Rumi that has become my personal mantra is, “When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.”

What other causes do you support?

Event Blossom was set up from the get-go to give a percentage of profits back to causes that are in need. In the past year, our charitable donations have ranged from Hurricane Sandy relief, to sponsoring orphans around the globe. One of our favorite projects in the past few years has been setting up a Banana Cultivation Project in Sri Lanka. The profits from this project provide regular income that directly supports a local orphanage which houses, educates, and creates opportunity for orphans.  Here are a few pics of the project breaking ground:

What would you say to encourage others to become philanthropists?

Not everyone is dealt the same hand when it comes to life. You may have earned it, or you may have been born with it, but I’m fairly certain a good amount of has attributed to any successes you have had. By giving back by donating, you are really doing the least you can do.  There isn’t really hard work involved with giving, the hard work is wrestling the money out of your hands.
But money isn’t everything. Happiness is. And there is no greater joy that you can get out of life than helping others.
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Here at Jolkona, we like to reflect upon good deeds that are done each and every day. No matter the price or the size of the deed, it contributes as a larger consciousness of positivity in our world. Sometimes the good deed is sprung upon us within seconds, such as lifting someone up who’s tripped on the ground. Other moments are thoughtful and methodically carried out, like those who donate their time and a smiling face to soup kitchens all across the globe. For most of us, giving is more than a good deed; it changes you. It reflects upon you as a change that transforms who you are into who you’ve become. Being a part of the Jolkona family speaks to a larger purpose for each and every one of us. We become united under the community of philanthropy.


Sumaira Arastu

Today we are giving a big thank-you to Sumaira Arastu, long standing Jolkona enthusiast and donor. She generously shared her thoughts about giving and why Jolkona is meaningful for her and her life:


What was your first impression of the Jolkona foundation?

Well, I learned about Jolkona when it was still a seedling in the womb. Nadia, the co-founder, and I had gone to college together and she told me about the idea of creating an organization where students and young professionals can contribute in a meaningful way even in a limited financial capacity. The idea of a small act having a larger impact seemed very appealing to me.

Which Jolkona projects have you donated to that stand out?

I believe that health is a foundation to success, without health our education, wealth, and interests cannot be enjoyed. This is why the projects that focus on helping people gain access to health care or focus on preventative care are most appealing to me.
What do you enjoy about giving to Jolkona projects?
I really like the transparency of Jolkona. It is great to be able to track every single penny. Also, I identify with Jolkona’s mission, so it’s rewarding to be able to be part of something that helps realize my ideals.

If you had to describe Jolkona in 4 words, what would you say?

Vital, Innovative, Effective, and Ambitious

How would you describe philanthropy?

Philanthropy to me is about feeling alive. It allows us to build connections with people through any resource we can share. This makes us feel like we are part of something larger and more meaningful. To live for yourself is utterly lonely and you miss out on a feeling of community. I think that part of evolving as a society and as humans requires us to support one another and share our resources so that all of us can realize our potential. This ultimately benefits everyone, even if it means a small sacrifice in the short term.

What are your hobbies? Do you participate other community projects or events in your spare time?

I do. I enjoy volunteering with youth programs so when I can, I volunteer with a program called “Up and Running Again,” which is a group that works with inner city high school and elementary students to train for a half marathon with the idea that such training will allow them to set goals for themselves in all parts of their lives and know that they can achieve them. I also volunteer for Junior Achievement, a program geared to helping elementary students learn more about the business world, so that they can become inspired to contribute in a meaningful way to the development of their own communities.  Otherwise, my hobbies mostly consist of eating chocolate and drinking coffee :).


Giving is contagious. Share a small token of kindness to start a chain reaction of sharing and growing. Start here.
Tweet your first time donating with @Jolkona on Twitter, or share your story on our Facebook.


Allow me to introduce to you Andrew Abumoussa. As an accessibility engineer, Andrew is wired to notice things a little differently. What drives many of his passions as a software engineer, as an entrepreneur, and as a graduate student is the effect universal design has on entire populations. Having witnessed how many people lack the opportunities, resources or the apparatus to explore or grow their tools, Andrew’s committed to doing everything he can to level the playing fields. “Having a tool that allows me to see exactly what need is being served, and then receive a tangible confirmation, well, that’s beautiful.” Andrew is the Director of Engineering for SimplyHome, where he has been featured on Extreme Makeover:Home Edition, and he’s a member of the University of Rochester’s Human-Computer Interaction group. And now he is part of the new generation of philanthropists donating through Jolkona. Here, in his words, is what he has to say about his Jolkona experience.

Among the projects you support through Jolkona, which are particularly meaningful to you?
For me it was the BRAC USA project. I could not believe that the cost of a prosthetic limb for someone in Bangladesh was so low. Professionally, as an engineer, I work with people and I know how small changes in software or hardware have the potential to enable a person to complete a given task or goal. Personally, having been raised for a part of my life in Egypt, I’ve seen the devastation that not having a limb has on a person’s ability to participate in society. So, providing a person with an entire limb to empower them with something so basic was the reason I gave Jolkona a try in the first place.

What do you like most about donating through Jolkona?
I remember spending a week looking through all the avenues and organizations through which I could donate. I mean, one day after work, I literally spent about 5 hours sifting through all the sites, reading statistics, benefits, etc. But there seemed to be an entire industry around the concept of philanthropy and that really bothered me. Between all the nebulous descriptions and bureaucracy, the whole experience of giving continued to remain less than rewarding, almost habitual and mindless.

Discovering Jolkona changed all of that. The mystery behind the path of your money is removed. I was able to choose exactly what I funded, and when Jolkona sent me my first email, I was floored to see the speed of execution and the results and value of my donation. The honesty, simplicity, and accountability of Jolkona’s concept is why I’m in love with their experience.

What would you like others to know about Jolkona?
Two things. As a developer, I’ve been taught to adapt systems to people’s tastes and habits rather than having users adapt to a system. With that being said, Jolkona is the system most adept to my preferences in giving. The ability to pinpoint which cause you want to support, as well as deciding what level of commitment, really allows for anyone to give to what they feel passionate about.

Second, it’s addicting! Jolkona does an amazing job of curating the data and presenting it to you so that you can follow and watch the impacts that you choose to have. It’s genius, really, and keeps me coming back to give. And in the end, that’s what it’s all about, right?


Be like Andrew, and join the new generation philanthropists changing the world – and seeing the change – one donation at time. Start here.


As I write this, our Good Deeds campaign is 95% complete with $250 left to until we reach our goal of $5,000! The best thing about this campaign is meeting all of the donors who have given ˜good deeds” through this campaign.

On Monday, you met Kiran, a recent college graduate who is making around the world through her donations. On Tuesday, you met Sheri, a wife and a mother who donates to honor the memory of loved ones lost. And today, I’d like to introduce you to Donna O’Neill, a seasoned PR professional at Waggener Edstrom who is making a difference by supporting local projects.

Donna O'Neill

Meet Donna O’Neill of Seattle, WA

Donna O’Neill is a 25-year veteran of public relations and corporate communications and currently leads the Microsoft Health Solutions Group PR team at Waggener Edstrom, one of the largest global independent communications firms in the world and Jolkona’s partner in this campaign. Before joining Waggener Edstrom, Donna spent ten years in the financial services industry working in public relations, investor relations and corporate communications with the Wall Street investment firm Kidder, Peabody and Co. as well as financial services company KeyCorp.

Donna graduated with honors from the University of Rochester in upstate New York, where she majored in English. She also spent a semester in the south of France in Aix-en-Provence studying French and art history. Aside from work, the Albany, NY, native enjoys music, yoga and the outdoors, and spending time with her husband, son and two daughters. She also volunteers at Eastlake Community Church where she keeps the toddlers busy so their parents can take a break and focus on their faith. 🙂

1. Why did you give?

There were several aspects of this effort that caught my attention and made me want to help. First, Jolkona’s philosophy that all giving has an impact and that you don’t have to be wealthy or have lots of free time to volunteer to make an impact. Every gift, no matter how large or small, could still help make a difference. And being a busy working mom with three kids, I don’t have as much time right now to give back as I would like.

Second, I got to decide which project I wanted to support. It was exciting to review the great variety of programs to see which one resonated most with me.

Third, learning of a nonprofit that uses technology to facilitate low-cost, high-impact giving to social causes was a natural fit since I also work in technology and appreciate the benefits it enables.

Fourth, I loved the fact that for the first time, I would truly see how my gift helped real people so I can be part of the experience and see how it supports worthwhile programs.

2. Did knowing that your donation would be matched motivate you to give during this campaign?

Yes, and that was certainly a factor in making this opportunity more interesting — I wanted to help Waggener Edstrom and Jolkona meet their giving goal, but I would have donated anyway.

3. Which project did you give to?

I chose the project that teaches business skills to low-income people in Seattle. Prior to lending out microloans to low-income families, Washington Community Alliance for Self-Help (CASH) provides supportive community business training and capital to help people with limited financial resources gain self-sufficiency through small business ownership. By supporting Washington CASH, we can help improve the economic conditions of Seattle’s lower income population. And with how difficult this economy has been over the last few years, our help is sorely needed.

Want to make a difference?

Waggener Edstrom Good Deeds Campaign on Jolkona

Donate to any project on Jolkona today and our partner, Waggener Edstrom, will match your donation, dollar-for-dollar, until we reach our goal of $5,000. (Which will probably happen today!) For every gift made during our Good Deeds campaign, you will receive two proofs of impact – one for the donation you make and the second proof for the donation Waggener Edstrom matches.

Let’s give!

Interested in sharing your story as a featured donor on our blog? Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, or send a good ol’ fashioned email to

Yesterday, we introduced you to Kiran Beg, a woman who donated to Jolkona as part of the Good Deeds campaign. Today, I would like to introduce you to Sheri Khan, a Jolkona donor who, in the art of full disclosure, happens to be my aunt. She donates for a very powerful reason, which I’ll let her share herself.

Meet Sheri Khan of Chicago, IL

Sheri Khan is a wife and “beta” mom who is raising three kids in the great city of Chicago, Illinois and blogs at One Beta Mom. She generally donates to support global projects because she believes that the small amounts she’s able to give can have a greater and lasting impact than giving the same amount locally.

Sheri Khan and family

Sheri with her husband Omer, and their chlidren Noah, Sofia, and Zane.

1. Why did you give to Jolkona?

I gave both in honor of my good friend Elizabeth and her daughter, Nora. Nora’s birthday is nearing, and, sadly, she passed away a few years ago. As someone who has also lost a child, I know there is no gift or card or any magic words that one can say to diminish the grief. For me there is no better way to tell someone that you are thinking of them than with a donation in their honor. The small amount that I am able to give both has lasting impact and honors the life of someone I love.

For those of us who are blessed enough to be able to give, we have an obligation to do so whether with money and time or both. Most of us do not need anything more than we already have when many of humanity is suffering.  Although my past two donations have been in honor of people I love dearly and have lost, I have made a pledge to no longer give material birthday or holiday gifts. Instead, my gift will be a dedication to a worthwhile and deserving project.

2. Did knowing that your donation would be matched motivate you to give during this campaign?

It is extra incentive that my donation goes even further, however, if the match was not offered, I still would have given.

3. Which project did you give to?

For this dedication, I carefully selected the Ignite Girls’ Leadership in Pakistan project for several reasons. Because Elizabeth and I have lost daughters, giving to a project that is aimed toward empowering girls and women is important. Knowing the current harsh conditions which the majority of Pakistani girls’ experience helped me select this project. In the past and in honor of my own daughter, Sofia, I’ve chosen the Adopt a Mother in India project. Through my small donations to both of these projects and with my future donations, the spirits of our daughters carry forth.

When words aren’t enough

Loss is hard. Sympathy and condolences never seem to come out right. Let someone know that you’re thinking of them by dedicating a gift in their name. Whether it’s to honor the memory of someone you have lost or to let someone in your life today know that they have made a difference in your life. Every time you make a donation, you have the option to dedicate that gift to someone else by entering in his or her name and email address.

When you dedicate a gift, the recipient will be notified and the proof of impact will go to that person – showing them how the gift you made in their honor is improving someone else’s life.

Waggener Edstrom Good Deeds Campaign on JolkonaPlus, when you make a gift to any project on Jolkona through Monday, October 24th and our partner, Waggener Edstrom, will match your donation, dollar-for-dollar, up to $5,000. And for every gift made during Good Deeds, you will receive two proofs of impact – one for the donation you make and the second proof for the donation Waggener Edstrom matches.

Interested in sharing your story as a featured donor on our blog? Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, or send a good ol’ fashioned email to

One of the best things about working for Jolkona is I get to interact with our donors online, in real time, and share their excitement about making a difference. When we launch a campaign like Good Deeds, the level of engagement spikes and new connections are made and am reminded of how important our donors are on a inter-personal level.

Today, I want to introduce you to one our all star donors and will introduce you to another one next week. All of our donors are amazing, typically it their awesomeness doesn’t start or stop with supporting global development projects through Jolkona or by helping us kick the Good Deeds campaign. It comes from a place of wanting to make a difference and it’s a core part of  who they are.

Please allow me to introduce you to, Kiran, our first Good Deeds donor!

Jolkona donor Kiran Beg Meet Kiran Beg of Seattle, WA

Kiran graduated from the University of Washington in 2010 from the Human-Centered Design and Engineering program and now works at Boeing as a Publications Specialist. She loves to play tennis, watch movies, and spend time with her family.

When she’s not donating to Jolkona, she likes to support causes that promote public health and empowerment, around the world. She also loves traveling to different countries. Recently, she visited Pakistan, which opened her eyes to what poverty really is, motivating her to become an active donor in helping people around the world.

1.Why do you give to Jolkona?

Jolkona displays their projects really well, with a story behind each one. When I found out that donations were being matched, I browsed through the different projects. Each and every one of them opens your eyes to the unfortunate situations around the world. The stories are really powerful and brought to me a sense of thankfulness and gratitude for what I have. With that, I was very happy to help and give whole-heartedly to those that are less fortunate around the world.

2. Did knowing that your donation would be matched motivate you to give during this campaign?

Yes, knowing that my donation would be matched did motivate me to give.

3. Which project did you give to?

I gave to the ‘Assist Safe Houses for Women in Iraq‘ project. I came across this project and after reading the story behind it, I was in shock about how unfair these women were being treated. It really opened my eyes and makes me feel good that I can help these mistreated women.

What to make a difference?

After Kiran made her donation on Tuesday and shared it on Twitter, Waggener Edstrom saw that she made a donation and made an additional on-the-spot $25 donation to Jolkona in her honor.

Kiran's donation to #WEGoodDeeds and match on Twitter

Want to be a part of this campaign? Donate to any project on Jolkona through Monday, October 24th and our partner, Waggener Edstrom, will match your donation, dollar-for-dollar, up to $5,000. And for every gift made during Good Deeds, you will receive two proofs of impact – one for the donation you make and the second proof for the donation Waggener Edstrom matches.

Let’s give!

Interested in sharing your story as a featured donor on our blog? Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, or send a good ol’ fashioned email to