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This post is written by Natacha Danon, a political science and sociology student at Bates College.

In 2013, I fulfilled my New Year’s resolution to give more of my time and money to help others. Through Jolkona, I researched several great causes — giving books to a kindergarten class in Burma, providing prenatal care for poor women in India, funding social services for exploited children in Benin, training homeless American women for the workplace — before deciding to contribute to helping Seattle children improve their math and science skills.

As someone who values education and appreciates the opportunity to attend college, I find it difficult to see friends and classmates grappling with the financial burden of steep loans or postponing their plans for higher education.

Technology Access Foundation

By contributing to Jolkona’s Give Direct project for the Technology Access Foundation, I can do something to help bridge these glaring inequalities. TAF provides educational support, particularly in math and science, to underserved elementary and high school students in Seattle. For example, a $30 contribution pays for a set of headphones to be used in one of their Techstart classes, to help bridge the technology and educational divide for children from low-income families. TAF’s mission is to provide educational opportunities and instills an appreciation for learning — things I was fortunate enough to grow up with because of my parents.

Jolkona carefully evaluates and selects organizations that are sustainable and effective, so I am confident that my contributions get to the right people and have a direct, tangible impact.

Educational Empowerment

In 2014, I plan to support Educational Empowerment, an organization that buys and distributes books to classrooms in Myanmar (Burma), where libraries are virtually non-existent due to years of isolation and political instability. My donation helps buy and deliver locally produced books to help Burmese children learn to read and love learning — a crucial impact  in a country where one-third do not attend school and 70 percent of those who do end up dropping out before high school.

You can also make a New Year’s resolution to support more philanthropy,  and use Jolkona.org to find an issue (education, global health, poverty alleviation, agriculture and food, women and girls), a region, and a specific project that inspires you. Donations are welcomed in any amount, starting at just $5. Whether you’re a college student like me, or already established in your career, every gift counts. After all, “Jolkona” means a drop of water in Bengali – each donation, pooled together with mine and others, collectively creates a large impact.

Happy New Year!

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Give Together is live! And our opening feature issue is Education1005044_10151427376962396_1217417665_n

We have three projects that significantly help both teachers and students internationally move towards a brighter future. Give Together today, choosing your favorite project and pooling your contributions with others who share your same interests.

Here is an introduction to our featured projects:

Empower Burmese Women to Become Effective Teachers

Educational Empowerment supports education in SE Asia, especially in Myanmar. A third of children in the country are unable to access education at all, and 70% of those who do never move beyond primary school. Educational Empowerment has made it their goal to fix this deficit by providing training and educational materials to teachers (90% of whom are women) in poverty stricken communities in Myanmar.

This project not only enhances the education of young children, providing them greater opportunities in the future, but it also empowers the women who teach, allowing them to be more effective in the classroom, and prepare them better for their careers. Both teachers and children face poverty and unequal opportunity. The $250 fundraising goal for Educational Empowerment will purchase the necessary materials to contribute to the essential development of primary school children, and allow their teachers to become confident  role models.

Providing Play-Powered Lanterns for Rural Students in Ghana

Empower Playgrounds, Inc. is an innovative company that installs playground equipment for schools in Ghana, which charge special lanterns that students can take home with them after school to study. In most villages in Ghana, there isn’t a reliable source of power. The village of Ahiatroga, is no different. This makes it difficult for students to continue their education outside of the classroom, which is essential for increasing the quality of their education.

The $500 fundraising goal will install a merry-go-round for Ahiatroga’s school, charging portable LED lanterns for students to take home and study with. Empower Playgrounds, Inc. has already installed 40 of these innovative merry-go-rounds, benefitting almost 10,000 students in Ghana. Donate today, and add the students of Ahiatroga to this growing number.

Fund the Education of Underserved Students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math

The Technology Access Foundation (TAF) is an organization in King County, Washington, that is working on improving the STEM education for communities of color, better equipping underserved students to enter college, and helping them pursue careers in fields of science and technology. Their summer program provides camps focused on a number of topics, such as robotics, aviation and design. The students attend a field trip, and present their work at the end of the session.

The fundraising goal of 2 scholarships at $350 will allow some of the highest need students from White Center Washington, where as many as 82% of students qualify for free or reduced lunches, to have an in-depth, and hands on experience with a STEM field of their interest. The summer program will supplement their education, preparing them for college and science and tech based career.

Donate today, and use Give Together to pick one of these organizations and improve education worldwide!

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The debates over the 2014 Federal Budget have been at the center of domestic politics lately, especially with the sequestration of last month. The biggest question, of course, is what are politicians willing to cut, and the itemized charitable giving deduction is on the table to be reduced. The non-profit sector has responded with a coalition of some of the most prominent charities in the U.S. to call for the current rate to be maintained, and argue that charitable giving should not be held in the company of mortgage deductions as a potential tax loophole. Some in the non-profit community, such as Rick Cohen of the NonProft Quarterly argue that other budget cuts – those that impact essential services that alleviate poverty should be more central than the charitable giving deduction.

Reducing the charitable giving deduction would largely effect those in the highest tax brackets, those who make over $200,000 a year, and itemize their deductions. Most donors, at least those that make smaller donations, are unlikely to be effected. This is good news for Jolkona and our donors, as our partners are mostly international, and rely on micro-donations. The non-profits that will be most effected are those that not only rely on large donations from wealthy donors, but also those that provide domestic services, especially the ones that focus on poverty.

Cohen argues that additional budget cuts from agencies that provide services for people in need are perhaps are more concerning than the charitable deduction issue, at least by themselves. The budget cuts would mean that non-profits that provide similar services as the reduced agencies would have to shoulder significantly more of the demand, which has increased significantly in the last decade. While he has a good point that the charitable deduction argument has pushed attention away from the issues surrounding budget cuts, the coalition of non-profits states that the problems are interconnected. If the itemized charitable giving deduction is reduced, then it could be less of an incentive for large donors to give. The non-profit sector could see the loss of $9 billion in donations, meaning that non-profits, which are already shouldering an increased burden from the budget cuts, would be additionally impacted.

If the reduction to the itemized charitable giving deduction passes with the 2014 budget, the non-profit sector may have to reconceive how they get their donations, and the kinds of donors they reach out to. There is some fear in the non-profit community that without the actions of major donors, fewer people at all income levels would give. With a giving culture that emphasizes the small contributions of many, as opposed to the large contributions of a few wealthy donors, the impacts of these budget cuts maybe wouldn’t sound so dire. Here at Jolkona, we have already made an international impact with that philosophy, believing that $15 can easily change someone’s life.

However, changing an entire culture of charitable giving takes time, and there are people in need much sooner. With the potential of budget cuts, some non-profits may need all the help they can get. You can make a difference today, and help an under-empowered person here in the US. With a donation of as little as $25 through the Jubilee Women’s center, you can support a homeless woman, and help her find employment and independence. Or, through the Technology Access Foundation of Seattle, you can donate as little as $30 to support the technology education of an underserved youth, preparing them for a career in science, math or engineering.

It is difficult to predict how extreme the effects will be if reductions on charitable giving deductions comes to pass. However, you don’t have to wait until a crisis to make a difference. Even those that aren’t wealthy, and can’t make massive donations can have a truly meaningful impact.

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