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

Let’s Give Together

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

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

Want to Party?

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

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

On December 14, 1954 the United Nations’ General Assembly suggested each country adopt a Universal Children’s Day, and today, November 20, is the day that is now recognized as such.

The day also marks the date the UN’s Assembly enacted the Declaration of the Rights of a Child and the Convention on the rights of the Child, the former in 1959 and the latter in 1989.

In recognition of this day, on which great accomplishments have been made for the world’s youth, we would like to highlight some of our projects that work to give back to kids everywhere, everyday.

Support the Cause

Help Families Fleeing from Famine in Somalia-Somalia is in a declared state of famine, due to the drought in the African Horn, which is the worst the nation has seen in 60 years. Those fighting famine are more prone to dehydration and the contraction of diseases; children are especially susceptible. With your donation of $50, our partner MADRE will provide 5 health kits to a family. Through your gift you will not only be supporting kids on this year’s Universal Children’s Day, but the families that help provide for them.

Support an Orphan in Kenya: More than one million children have been orphaned in Kenya due to high mortality rates from HIV/AIDS, leaving them without many basic necessities. Your $30 donation will provide one child with an outfit, and you will receive a photo of them wearing the clothes you gave. Any gift you decide to give will be provided to our partner, Global Roots, and to the Baraka Orphanage, which has successfully worked to find homes for over 1,800 orphans in the area.

Provide Maternal and Child Healthcare in Guatemala: With a high infant mortality rate, women in Guatemala are in need of assistance in the execution of healthy deliveries and infant care—the country’s infancy mortality rate is 33 per 1,000 live births, and is even higher in rural areas. With your gift of $166 you can provide a mother and child with one week and pre- and post-delivery care. Our partners program, Project Concern International’s (PCI) Casa Materna (Mother’s House), focuses on preventing disease, improving community health, and promoting sustainable development. Help us and PCI support children and mothers in Guatemala through this great opportunity.

Give an Overnight Experience to Underserved Youth in USA: Inspire our country’ youth to learn: by providing $30 to the Ron McNair Camp-In, you will give one child a partial scholarship to attend an overnight event at the Pacific Science Center, our partner who works together with Blacks in Science to host the event. The child you sponsor will receive the partial scholarship along with three meals during the event, and your donation will help cover the costs of the workshops, educators and supplies for the children.

A Global Gift

In support of both the UN’s Universal Children’s Day and its eight Millennium Development goals, we hope that you will help us celebrate this year’s Children’s Day by giving back to the youth of the world it celebrates. According to UNICEF, children directly benefit from at least 6 of the 8 of the UN’s Millennium Development goals, and are indirectly helped by the remaining two. Take a second to look at any of our projects, which address at least one of the goals in some way, and give back to our kids however you would like.

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

Social media and the Internet have made it incredibly easy to give gifts to friends and family members, as well as donate to charities. Soon, Internet users may be able to do both in one stop. Either way, it is clear that online giving is a medium that has shown much potential.

The Scoop

Facebook has recently launched a new test feature which allows users to make a donation on behalf of a family member or friend through the website. The Charitable Contributions section in its soon-to-come Gifts application helps facilitate online charitable donations for the nonprofits it partners with.

So far, 11 nonprofits are working with Facebook, including the American Red Cross, Blue Star Families, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Donorschoose.org, Girls Inc., Kiva, LIVESTRONG, Oxfam America, Rainn, St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, and Water.org. Donators can either choose which foundation they would like to donate funds to, or let the person on whose behalf they are donating decide.

The Facebook Gifts application is not yet available to all users, but is expanding to more users, according to the site.

To learn even more about Facebook Gifts and Charitable Contributions, take a look at the Facebook Newsroom.

A Popular Choice

Gaining more and more worldwide acknowledgement, online donations have become a way for nonprofits and other organizations to get people’s attention–and receive contributions. And the platform, it should be noted, has been quite successful at doing so.

According to NPEngage.com, “[o]nline donations are a larger percentage of giving every year, both in total revenue and number of donors.” The site also points out that online contributors tend to be younger, and give more both in their first donations and overtime.

It is no surprise then that the social media giant has tapped into to this resource, and we applaud the attention it will draw to online charities and contribution sites.

The application is a testament to both a platform that Jolkona has utilized for years, and the work the foundation has done to consistently attract young contributors to support our partners.

Keep Giving

We hope that the growth of applications like Facebook’s will continue to encourage people everywhere to contribute online to nonprofits like ours and to social causes all over the globe. Jolkona believes that our online contribution platform will add to the success of the goals of our non-profit partners, as well as to the betterment of the planet in its entirety, and is excited to see how the medium will expand in the near future.

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

Tomorrow, November 19th, is World Toilet Day. This is not nearly as lighthearted as it sounds; it is a day of reflection on sanitation, disease, and a lack of resources. These all come into play and are essential for preventing death. A lack of sanitation is still the world’s largest cause of infection. About 2.6 billion people worldwide do not have access to this basic need, and suffer extreme maladies as a result. 1.1 billion people defecate in the open; a very dangerous risk of exposure to life-threatening bacteria and viruses. The World Toilet Organization created World Toilet Day to heighten awareness, generate discussion and inspire supporters toward this issue.

Sanitation Conversation

In March of this year, Dr. Luis G. Sambo met with the Kenyan Minister for Public Health and Sanitation and the Minister for Medical Services, Hon. Beth Hugo and Hon. Anyang’ Nyong’o, respectively. Their goals were to discuss improvements in their governmental support system. Various action plans were discussed and initiated, for instance, deploying skilled midwifes and nurses to support health care. The major transitions will dramatically enhance the quality of life for Kenyans. However, many Nairobi slums continue to suffer, using “flying toilets,” or disposed plastic bags instead of a facility. MADRE, a Jolkona partner, offers a $45 clean water transformation for rural Kenyans. A privilege to use a sanitary toilet can be easily overlooked. Inspire another person’s life, and their families.

Haiti, India, & Nepal

I’m extremely touched to reintroduce our projects that give back to those in desperate circumstances. Our partners Project Concern International, Pardada Pardadi Educational Society, Himalayan Healthcare, and Living Earth Institute stimulate philanthropy, local work/economy, and provide clean latrines. One latrine can significantly improve health and stave off infectious disease within a community.

Help at Risk Haitian Families Recover and Rebuild:

This project has a wide description but humongous heart. Haiti has undergone major transition and change within the past few years. Every small (and large) contribution benefits Haiti as a whole. Just $167 provides a community with a sanitary latrine, low-cost solutions for waste disposal, mobile medical clinics, and establishes one “safe space” for children during the day.

Build Green, Hygienic Toilets in Rural India:

PPES, our partner in this project, provides their students’ villages with a clean latrine. $260 covers all materials to build the latrine, the labor to build it, installation costs, and training on usage and maintenance. This project contributes incredibly to disease prevention. This gift will be deeply valued each and every day. India currently loses 1,000 children a day from diarrhea caused by– you guessed it– dirty water and a lack of toilets.

Build Latrine & Septic Tank for a Nepalese Family:

The Honorable president of Nepal has announced that his country will be hosting the South Asian Conference on Sanitation in 2013. This is incredible news for the future of clean facilities for the people of Nepal. Kickstart this process and empower the citizens by stimulating local hiring to build a latrine: the materials, transportation, labor salaries, and their new lease on life is $200. Give just $20 and contribute to the pool of resources that Living Earth Institute is gathering to build toilets for Nepalese families. About 200 toilets have been completed, and their goal is 600. 

Image credit: Samson Lee

Much to my embarrassment, I heard the word “latrine” for the first time when writing this post. Latrines keep people from defecating in the open and potentially contracting dangerous infection.

To Spin the Giving Web

It is natural to feel an overwhelming sensation to contribute, and spring back in thoughtful consideration. Anita Pradhan wrote, “People believe that sanitation programmes and projects have failed because of a lack of involvement and commitment from both communities and external agencies and the consequent lapses in technology, planning, implementation, supervision, support and, above all, accountability.” One of the most surprising moments when I first donated to Jolkona by planting 50 trees in Brazil, was the proof I received. This is something unique to Jolkona’s giving process, and serves as a “thank you, it’s nice to meet you,” response from where you contributed. To personally connect and hear back from the country I chose to benefit solidified the confidence I have in philanthropy, and changing the world. At Jolkona, we understand that feeling, and it’s what motivates us all to give what we can, when we can.

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”

-Mother Teresa

Credit Karen Ducey

On Monday night, October 3rd, Jolkona competed along side 13 other social innovators at Social Venture Partner’s Social innovation fast pitch for the chance to win a piece of the total prize money worth $170,000. It was a full house at the Fischer Pavilion at the Seattle Center with a crowd of more than 600 people in attendance all coming to hear 5-minute pitches of the top social innovations in Seattle ranging from high school students, college students, and seasoned social entrepreneurs.  Jolkona was honored to be one of 14 groups to pitch that night, and even more honored to have won the $15,000 Social Endeavors Award for our new initiative– licensing our micro-giving platform to help non-profits improve fundraising online.

While the competition was very stressful, it was also a forcing factor to help us get our “pitch” down. I’d like to thank Social Venture Partners and specifically Will Poole and his massive team of volunteers for organizing such a great event.  And I’d like to give a special shoutout to some of the amazing volunteer coaches/mentors that helped me with my pitch:  Susan Bloch, Ken Pawlak, Ted Weiler, and Dan Kranzler.  Thank you for believing in me and in Jolkona’s work and for helping to take our idea to the next level!  And a BIG thank you to all the Jolkona volunteers, board, and advisers that came to support that night.  Last, congrats to all the other winners that night!

Credit: Karen Ducey

It’s been a CRAZY week at Jolkona HQ, with the big win on Monday, all the follow-up from the great connections we made that night, and the start of Microsoft’s and King County’s Giving Campaign Month, but we are energized and excited to be moving forward with our new innovation.

Check out pictures from the event here and read articles about the event posted on the Puget Sound Business Journal and on Microsoft’s Unlimited Potential Blog.

 

Nadia Khawaja Mahmud of Jolkona presenting at Social Innovation Fast Pitch

On Monday, September 19th, Jolkona competed along with 37 quarterfinalists for the chance to advance in the Social Innovation Fast Pitch (SIFP) where nonprofits and social enterprises can win grants/investments from a $170,000 pool of money.

Jolkona co-founders were speaking at a conference this past weekend at Harvard University to launch our NextGen initiative and came straight from the airport to compete at SIFP taking place at Paccar Hall at the University of Washington. After a long day of pitches and deliberations from the judges, we are excited to announce Jolkona was chosen to be present next week at the semi-finals along with 20 other nonprofits and social enterprises for a chance to present at the final event on October 3. Congratulations to all the other winners who advanced to the semi-finals!

If you haven’t purchased your tickets, it should be a fantastic day so we encourage you to attend. Plus, 100% of ticket price is a donation to support the top social innovations in Seattle. Read more about why you should attend and how to get your tickets.

Want to read more about SIFP? Here’s a great article by Rebecca Lovell, one of the SIFP judges: Social Innovation: Goldilocks and doing well by doing good.

Special thanks to Jolkona’s awesome SIFP mentors, Ken Pawlak and Tim Weiler for coaching Jolkona on our pitch and helping us make it to the next round! Also, a big thanks to Jolkona Advisory board member, Susan Bloch for also spending valuable time helping with the “pitch.”

Another round of fine-tuning our pitch is ahead once we receive feedback from the judges. So wish us luck next week and we hope to see you in the audience on the third. Even if Jolkona does not make it to the final round, we are invited to present our idea that day so we hope to see you all there!

Nadia working in the office

On September 1, Jolkona learned that we were one of 54 organizations selected to compete in the quarterfinal round of Seattle’s Social Innovation Fast Pitch (SIFP). Presented by Social Venture Partners, SIFP is an opportunity for social entrepreneurs, local nonprofits and social businesses to receive coaching and mentoring and to compete for more than $170,000 in grants and investments.

This week I attended a pitching workshop hosted and facilitated by SIFP where quarterfinalists had the opportunity to present our five-minute pitches to a panel of mentors and speaking coaches for feedback for the next round. I have to say, preparing a five-minute pitch is hard work! To explain what we do, how we do it, and why it’s innovative and important, all in five minutes, is super challenging to say the least, and especially in short notice. Despite spending hours over the weekend working on my deck and pitch, I didn’t have enough time to be totally prepared. Yet it was an extremely eye-opening learning experience that was well worth the effort.

Not only was preparing my pitch slides and story for our new initiative to start licensing our platform super helpful, but having the opportunity to practice in front of peers and mentors, most of whom do not know anything about Jolkona, was even more helpful. Hearing both the positive feedback and the areas I need to work on to make our pitch clear was extremely educational and productive and gives me hope and confidence in the new direction Jolkona is heading. My next challenge is to figure out how to incorporate the feedback and suggestions I received and still stay within five minutes for the quarterfinal round pitch on September 19! I have the next two weeks to figure it out, but hopefully I’ll get there. Stay tuned . . . and wish us luck!

Want to attend the SIFP? Read this blog post, New Ideas for Social Impact, by Joe Wallin at Davis Wright Tremaine, a SIFP sponsor.

This guest post contributed by Action Against Hunger – one of our partner organizations.

The beginning of the year means many things-New Year’s resolutions, increasingly brighter days, budding flowers and baby animals. But for the Race Against Hunger team, the first of the year means only one thing: the beginning of our educational presentations!

The Race Against Hunger is the largest initiative in Action Against Hunger’s educational portfolio. The annual program, initially launched in Chicago during the 2007/08 school year, is an outreach campaign educating students across the United States about the causes and effects of severe acute malnutrition. The past two years have shown remarkable growth for the Race. Since launching the Race with a pilot group of 4 schools in Chicago, we expanded last year to 40 schools spread across 12 states and Canada. For the 2010 school year, we are planning to expand the Race to 100 schools, and I’m proud to report that we’re well on our way to meeting this ambitious goal. We’ve already recruited nearly 90 schools from New York to Los Angeles, Houston to Chicago-and everywhere in between!

The Race occurs in two parts: an educational section-designed to integrate hunger education into curriculum standards-followed by a fundraising fun-run to support Action Against Hunger’s global programs. Our Race Against Hunger team enhances the classroom component by providing interactive educational presentations to each participating school.

Each presentation empowers students in the fight to end global hunger. This year, we’ve chosen to highlight the importance of community. Often times, students are overwhelmed by the incomprehensible numbers-over 1 billion people around the world suffer from malnutrition, 15,000 die every day from hunger-related causes-and wonder how one individual can make an impact. While it may be difficult for one student to draw attention to this pandemic, an entire class, school, or city can certainly garner interest and support. Through our Race presentations, we are able to show students that by combining energy, enthusiasm, and funds, their community can affect communities in countries around the world.

Our rigorous presentation schedule kicked off with schools in Arizona and Texas last week and heads to California and Chicago next. While our team has already fielded intelligent questions about water contamination, malnutrition treatments, and long-term effects on child health, one question sticks out in my mind. During the presentation, a kindergartener in Austin raised her hand and quietly asked, “It seems like lots of these kids are dying; what can we do to help?” For an inspired community, the possibilities are endless.

We are excited to welcome 2010 with a lot of new projects. Here are the newest projects you will find on our website:

We are excited to welcome Ashoka to the Jolkona community. You can now support an Ashoka Youth Venture project right here in Seattle to encourage youth led journalism.

Jolkona Foundation believes that we can not only feature projects around the world, but also feature local projects right here in USA. Action Against Hunger has created the Race Against Hunger program to raise awareness amongst American youth about hunger. You can now show your support by sponsoring a class in the Race Against Hunger

Madre was one of our first partners with few popular projects. Their newest projects will continue that trend. You can support midwives in the troubled West Bank and allows them to provide much needed aid to pregnant mothers who can not get to hospitals. You can also provide assistance to farmers in Nicaragua through affordable donation options.

Last but not the least, we are working with TRIFC to allow our donors to support the blind children of Nepal.

We encourage you to checkout these new projects and give generously to these worthy causes.

Our heartfelt condolences go out to the people and families in Haiti affected by the recent tragic earthquake that has claimed thousands of lives and affected over one third of the population.  We know that there are tons of relief efforts and fundraisers going on right now to help provide assistance, and although we ourselves do not fundraise for natural disasters and relief efforts, we are very committed to helping out in these times of need.  To help direct our users to places providing relief in Haiti, here are some of the options we would recommend:

1. BRAC USA.  BRAC USA is one of our existing partners where we provide support to one of their project’s in Bangladesh.  BRAC USA supports the development work of BRAC in Asia and Africa but are now working with two partners on the ground in Haiti to help support on-going relief efforts.  All donations received that are designated for Haiti relief and rehabilitation efforts will go directly to their Hatian Emergency Appeal and work directly on the ground in Haiti.  You can donate here: https://s71165.gridserver.com/donations/view

2. Mercycorps.  Although Mercycorps is not a Jolkona Partner, we do have strong connections with some of their staff.  While they do a lot of development work around the world, one of their main focus is on disaster response and emergency and natural disaster relief and are thus very experienced in this area. They deploy their own teams and experts, and have local workers there as well so are well equipt to help out on the ground. You can donate to them here:
https://donate.mercycorps.org/donation.htm?DonorIntent=Haiti+Earthquake

3. The American Red Cross. The Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters around the world and is currently on the ground and mobilizing resources to assist in Haiti.  You can make a donation to the Red Cross Haiti Relief and Development fund here:  http://american.redcross.org/site/PageServer?pagename=ntld_main&s_src=RSG000000000&s_subsrc=RCO_BigRedButton
You can also  Text the word HAITI to 90999 to give a  $10 donation to the Red Cross for Haiti Relief fund that will be charged to your cell phone bill

4. Yele Haiti.  Yele is a grassroots movement that builds global awareness for Haiti while helping to transform the country through programs in education, sports, the arts and environment.  It was founded by musician, Wyclef Jean who is now collecting donations to provide relief in Haiti.  You can make a donation to the Yele Haiti Earthquake fund here:  https://co.clickandpledge.com/advanced/default.aspx?wid=23093
You can also Text the word YELE to 501501 to donate $5 to the Yele Haiti Earthquake fund that will be charged to your cell phone bill.

Thank you ALL for your generous support and help to the people of Haiti!

Last month, I gave an interview where I discussed how I came to start Jolkona Foundation. This interview was distributed internally within Microsoft. It is my pleasure to share the article, in its entirety, with our readers.

Once again, I would like to thank my employer – Microsoft Corporation – for being so supportive of Jolkona Foundation’s work.

Trip to Cemetery Creates Life-Changing Moment

Jake Siegel
December 9, 2009 

A stranger in Bangladesh helped Adnan Mahmud realize he could help make the world a better place without much money. He did it by creating Jolkona Foundation, a nonprofit that channels small donations to specific people and causes across the world.

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“I truly believe that in 100 years, our generation won’t be known for the technological advances that we’ve made. Rather, we’ll be known for how those technological advances were used to tackle humanity’s biggest challenges,” said Adnan Mahmud, Microsoft Research program manager.

 

Adnan Mahmud’s quest to change philanthropy started in a cemetery.

It was 2006. The Microsoft Research program manager was visiting his parents in Bangladesh, where he grew up. During the trip, Mahmud went to pay his respects at his grandfather’s grave. As he left the cemetery, he passed a man carrying his dead son. The man clearly couldn’t afford a proper funeral or the traditional Muslim burial cloth; the dead child wore shorts and an unbuttoned shirt.

Mahmud figured the man had spent all his money securing a grave for his son. Just outside the cemetery, vendors were selling burial cloth for 50 cents. “I could have helped him out with a dollar, but when I realized that, I was already home having lunch,” he said.

The recognition that even a small amount of money could make a big impact on someone’s life was a revelation, Mahmud said. He always knew that someday he would dedicate himself to giving back, but that would come after his career. That stranger in Bangladesh made him realize he could help now, even without the checkbook of Bill Gates or Warren Buffet. 

Thinking that many other young professionals must feel the same way, he set out to build a Web site where people could get excited about philanthropy without having a lot of money. In 2007, Mahmud and his wife, Nadia, created Jolkona Foundation. The nonprofit organization lets people channel small donations to specific people and causes while letting them monitor the impact of their gift.

By focusing on small-scale gifts that show a direct impact, the foundation allows donors to have direct control over where and how their donations are spent, Mahmud said. The goal is to galvanize a young generation that wants to do good with its limited resources.  

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The foundation’s Web site lets donors see the Jolkona community’s impact around the world. Click image to enlarge.

 

Jolkona means “drop of water” in Bengali. “The idea is that every donation is a drop of water,” Mahmud said. “With a lot of them, we can have a ripple effect and change the world.”

The Jolkona Foundation site went live in June, and since then more than $15,000 has been raised for projects around the world. At the site, would-be donors can pinpoint projects in countries where they want to contribute and choose from five categories: cultural identity, education, empowerment, environment, and public health. Projects can be filtered by the amount of money needed, starting at as little as $5; and by the duration, from less than a month to six years. They can range from $5 to plant a tree in Brazil to $500 for sending a nomadic Kenyan boy or girl to high school for a year.
As far as Mahmud knows, Jolkona Foundation created the first Web site that provides donation-level feedback. Everyone who makes a donation through the site gets a report card on how that money is being spent. If a donor provides money for, say, buying books in Rwanda, he or she will get a list of the purchased titles.

Mahmud realized the power of that feedback as he started searching for ways to contribute after his trip to Bangladesh. He had always been put off by large nonprofits because it was difficult to choose specific programs or know exactly how his contributions were used. When he found an organization in Bangladesh that provides artificial limbs for $200, he asked them how he would know that he was doing the right thing with his money. They told him, “What if we send you a before and after photo of the person who received the prosthetic limb?”

He loved the idea of seeing the impact of his donation. Many of his friends were also excited when he reached out to see whether others wanted to help. “They said, ‘Normally we don’t know where our money goes, and we don’t have a lot of money to give. If this organization tells me that my $200 will buy someone a limb, and then shows me a picture of the person it helped, then yes, I’ll give them my money.'”

 

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Because of the generosity of a Microsoft employee, this person in Bangladesh received prosthetic limbs. The donor received these photos as the proof of impact.

 

Being a self-described technology guy, Mahmud thought about putting together a Web site to track his friends’ donations. It wasn’t just a problem with one organization, though. “I realized that what people in my generation were seeking was donation-level feedback that was traditionally reserved for the big donors,” he said.

Jolkona Foundation was the result. Half a year after the site went live, Mahmud said he’s proud of the response so far. He hopes to continue to add more partners and projects and to spread the word about the site. He encourages all Microsoft employees to try the site out and make a gift this holiday season.

 
Silverlight and Bing Maps help power the site, Mahmud said, adding that technology lies at the heart of what Jolkona Foundation is trying to accomplish.

“I’ve always loved technology. I truly believe that in 100 years, our generation won’t be known for the technological advances that we’ve made. Rather, we’ll be known for how those technological advances were used to tackle humanity’s biggest challenges.”

Visit Jolkona Foundation. 

 

This guest post contributed by Robert Rose, Executive Director of one of our partner organizations – TRIFC.

Last year on my yearly project/programs visit to Nepal we had an unusual experience with a group of Nepali Rotarian friends.

We all got together in the early evening at a new restaurant that at that point in time was going to open in several weeks named ‘Chop-Sticks’. We were going to get a ‘sneak-preview’ to try out the location, ambience and snacks.  The restaurant had a trendy look with interesting and colorful lighting/décor.  We all sat down and were about to be served some ‘finger-food’ and tea/coffee.  Just before the food arrived, our TRIFC.org board member, Rabendra announced, “I have an interesting idea that I’d like to see if you are all game for…why don’t we turn off the room lights, close our eyes and experience just a bit of what it’s like to be without sight?  When the food and drinks arrive, keep your eyes closed and try to navigate the different dishes and choices onto your plate and into your mouth!”

We had about twenty Rotarian friends surrounding the coffee tables in the comfortable lounge chairs and they all agreed to give it a try.  The restaurant staff were a bit confused by the whole thing, but they agreed to turn every light off except a cell phone light which they used to bring the food in and set it down in the right place. 

It was quite illuminating being without sight and trying to locate where food had been placed and then trying to place it on your plate! I slowly passed my hand over the table, like a magician casting a spell.  The first thing I noticed was the warmth that radiated from the heated food.  You could figure out where to drop your hand, crane-like over the plate where you could feel the heat.  My first ‘catch’ was some French-fries which I scooped up and placed on the plate I managed to get under the food.  I decided not to press my luck and try to put some ketchup on the plate, however!

The others were experiencing similar thoughts and feelings.  Without the sense of sight your other senses pick up different information and feed it to the brain to fill in the gaps.  Eating became a much more tactile experience with shape, texture, temperature and size telling us the story of the food item we currently held in our hands.  Other food items were quietly placed on the table by the waiters, whose presence could only be perceived by the sound of their footsteps and gentle placement of the plates on the table.  I managed to find a different food item which I found to be shaped like a French-fry in length, but more textured on the outside.  This I found to be a breaded chicken-strip, which I proceeded to consume and then reached out to find more! 

What I ate tasted different…more vibrant and vivid.  The taste sensations in my mouth were working overtime to help overcome the absence of sight.  Then Rabendra suggested, “Now let us just sit quietly for one or two minutes and focus on what we are eating, hearing and feeling.  Let us experience and appreciate this moment by living ‘in the moment’.”  This was a magical minute or two, as we sat together in the darkness with our eyes closed, living ‘in the moment’, with me from half-way around the world sharing such moving experiences with my Nepali Rotarian friends. 

Of course, this was but a ‘taste’ of living without sight (no pun intended!) but it was definitely an educational and enriching experience.  I would encourage all of you reading this post to give it a try at home with your family.  It was truly illuminating, bringing the light of understanding out of darkness.

TRIFC.org is about awareness, empowerment and tangible programs to help the ‘differently-abled’ in Nepal.  Our “Backpacks for the Blind/Visually-Impaired” program currently listed on Jolkona.org is a high-impact program that can help blind children in Nepal have a better chance to succeed in school.  Please check it out!

Dear Jolkona Foundation Supporters,

 

Jolkona Foundation (www.jolkona.org) is a startup nonprofit organization based in Seattle that lets people choose how to impact the world through small donations with tangible proofs of impact.

 

When we launched Jolkona Foundation to the public in June 2009, we were very excited at the potential of Jolkona Foundation to make giving more fun, transparent and engaging for all donors. Since then, we have seen a tremendous response to our service. Over 350 donations have been made through Jolkona Foundation thus far. We now have over 50 projects in more than 30 countries and continue to add new projects on a weekly basis. We have received a lot media coverage as well, including a front page article in Seattle Times. Most importantly, together we have made very tangible impacts around the world:

 

  • Supplied more than 250 books to schools in Tibet
  • Educated over 25 girls in Afghanistan
  • Provided more than 15 artificial limbs in Bangladesh
  • Supplied over 25 desks to schools in Zambia
  • Trained over 15 children in computers in Guatemala
  • Planted over 4,000 trees worldwide
  • And much much more…

I would like to start this holiday season by thanking you – our biggest supporters. Your support has played a crucial role in making Jolkona successful in our first 5 months. We will continue to look to you to help reach out to more philanthropists and change the lives of more people on the ground. This holiday season I have 4 specific asks of you:

 

1.    Make at least one more donation to the Jolkona Foundation. Whether it is $5 to buy a malaria net in India, $30 to train a low income individual in USA, or $40 to buy a solar stove in Tibet, please make at least more 1 donation through Jolkona Foundation this holiday season. Check out our projects at http://www.jolkona.org/projects/?view=list and give.

2.    Vote for Jolkona Foundation in the Facebook Chase Giving Challenge and help us win $25,000 and a chance to win $1,000,000. It just takes one click to vote for Jolkona Foundation. Just follow this link – http://apps.facebook.com/chasecommunitygiving/charities/339790, login into Facebook, and vote today. Once you have voted, please get at least 10 of your Facebook friends to also vote for us. We will be planting a tree for every vote we get in this challenge.

3.    Please tell at least 5 people about Jolkona Foundation and give them the opportunity to feel empowered by the difference they can make by giving to a project that inspires them. The more people we can get to give, the more impact we can have around the world.

4.    Stay tuned for our holiday giving features. Give the gift of making a difference to your friends, family, or co-workers.  Holiday gift cards will be available on our website shortly and will make great holiday gifts, stock stuffers, etc.    

 

We started Jolkona Foundation with a vision to galvanize a new generation of philanthropists – young people who want to see the difference their small donations can make. This message has resonated very well and as a result, our team has grown from just Nadia and I to a team of 20 capable, passionate, young people. We have been able to accomplish a lot because of this team and we are looking to accomplish a lot more in 2010. However, we need your help in helping us reach more people and get them to use Jolkona Foundation. I look forward to your continued support this holiday season and in 2010. If you have any questions/comments, please feel free to contact me any time.

 

Happy Holidays from Jolkona Foundation!

 

All the Best,

Adnan

 This guest post was written by Yifat, on behalf of Madre, a Jolkona Foundation partner.

Fatima Ahmed, the president of the Sudanese women’s organization Zenab for Women in Development, recently stopped by the MADRE office with exciting news.  The ground-breaking women farmers union led by her organization had harvested a successful crop-and the results are changing people’s lives.
Founded by Zenab in 2006 and supported by MADRE, this project has brought together women who make up the majority of farmers working on small-scale organic farms in Sudan.  Amplifying their voices, they have been able to demand access to seeds, better tools, and assistance in farming.

Women have been able to share knowledge on how to better prepare their land for cultivation and how to manage weeds that destroy the crops. Fatima was excited to share that these women have not only been successful in providing food for their own families but have also been able to provide crops for other regions in Sudan.

Fatima shared with us a story about one village where the women had been denied access to education. With her help and with the resources generated by their successful farming projects, they organized a much-needed adult education program. The women built a center where they could host their school and opened the space for community meetings.

Their improved farming has increased production and has enabled them to generate an income, in some areas even allowing them the chance to bring in electricity.  In yet another village, three women farmers were able to raise enough funds to send their daughters to university, a victory that would have been otherwise impossible.

Together, women farmers are creating new possibilities for themselves, their families and their communities.

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