Our second in our series of Partner Spotlight for Education month focuses on our partner in Myanmar, Educational Empowerment.

A successful pedagogical environment is dependent on many factors. However, perhaps aside from students themselves, there are a few factors as essential as well trained teachers and classroom resources (books, pens, paper etc.). Indeed, one of the significant reasons why Burmese students don’t finish school is precisely for a lack of these very things. Educational Empowerment is fighting that cause. We caught up with them and asked them to give us the skinny on who they are, what they do, and why you should join our Give Together program and donate to their inspiring cause.

What is the inspiration behind your organization?

When we learned that the libraries and books available to families in the early 1980’s disappeared with the military takeover – and learned that most children have never seen or even touched a picture book, it broke our hearts. Something that we take for granted, books, aren’t accessible to children in Myanmar. Educational Empowerment (EE) founders decided we wanted to bring books and the joy of reading to the poverty-stricken Burmese children.

edu empowerment

What’s the story behind your project?

Shule Myint Zu, one of the schools we support in Yangon, has six grades and over 200 students in one large, noisy room. The six teachers care deeply about their students, but most lack a formal education beyond the age of sixteen, have no training in educational practices, and have little or no access to training materials and classroom learning aids. This school, like others in nunneries and monasteries, tries to practice a more child-centered approach to learning, and teach more critical thinking skills as opposed to the rote learning methods of the government schools. When we asked those teachers what they needed most to be more effective, training and materials was the unanimous top choice. We’re glad that we can support these women in their goal to become better teachers and role models for their students and empower both through education.

How did you become connected with Jolkona?

We knew of Jolkona from first hand experience through another international NGO. As EE planned to utilize a grass roots funding approach, it was a logical step to connect with Jolkona. Jolkona provides an easy mechanism for small dollar donors to make a large impact, especially as funds donated to EE provide excellent value.

Can you tell us a bit more about your project and how it’s going currently?

EE has partnered with Yinthway Foundation, a Yangon-based organization that provides teacher training throughout Myanmar. It is often difficult and expensive for teachers to attend these sessions, so EE provides funding for travel, accommodations and training tuition. A month-long session provides in-depth training for teachers who have had little or no formal education beyond high school. EE also plans to return to Myanmar in December 2013 to videotape a primary education session for DVD distribution to hundreds of teachers both in cities and in outlying ethnic states who are not able to personally attend sessions. Yinthway believes in a child-centered approach to learning that fosters creative and critical thinking for problem solving and education.

What kind of lasting change does the project hope to engender?

Teacher training will improve teacher retention rates. Empowering women provides them with confidence to strive for higher goals and be on the path to socio-economic improvement. Education nurtures hope for a better life for women and children. EE also supports sustainable models that provide for long-term independence.

So say I give $XX to the project, can you explain a little further the impact that is achieved?

$50 will provide basic classroom materials, such as paper, pencils, and chalk, for 50 students for one year.

$100 will provide a teacher with classroom learning materials for one year. This could include laminated posters for use in creative story telling and group discussions, puzzles and games for math, and simple science experiment supplies.

$200 gives a teacher who has no formal education beyond age sixteen, a one-month intensive training course to more effective in her classroom.

educational empowerment

We love stories at Jolkona. Do you have a favorite impact story you can share?

One of our initial goals was to create a greater local awareness of Myanmar through a literacy exchange program. Sixth grade students here at Hyla Middle School created “culture frames”, a type of self-portrait telling about their interests, family, friends and activities. When we presented these photos and stories to the staff at Shule Myint Zu, their eyes lit up with excitement. The children there loved seeing kids from the U.S. and immediately set to work making their own culture frames, full of pride of their villages and families, for us to bring back to the Hyla students. Those sixth graders are now making simple illustrated storybooks to be translated into Burmese script for the Shule Myint Zu students. This sister school relationship is another way to provide learning in a simple, affordable manner. The joy of learning about kids so far away, in a very different culture, has been tangible in both schools and it is a thrill to ignite that spark of learning.

In a nutshell, why should someone give to this project?

Myanmar is finally opening up to the world after decades of isolation. The new school year has just started. Timing is optimum to measurably impact these female teachers’ opportunities to be successful through education and training, to be positive role models, and to provide hope for the future. Your support can make an amazing and significant difference in the lives of these children.

Sign up or sign in to Give Together and donate to Educational Empowerment.

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Each month we will be helping you get to know our partners and their projects a little better with our Partner Spotlight posts. The first in our Education series is our super cool partner, Empower Playgrounds. They are based in Ghana and harness kinetic energy from school playgrounds to power LED lamps, which the children can then take home after school to study. Told you they were cool. We caught up with them, shot them a few questions, and here’s what they had to say about who they are, what they do, and why you should get involved in our Give Together program and donate to their project.

What is the inspiration behind your organization?

The inspiration behind Empower Playgrounds is that there is energy all around us, everyday, and if captured, this energy can empower tomorrow’s leaders and light their way towards achieving their fullest potentials. 

What’s the story behind your project?

Empower Playgrounds Inc (EPI) was started after our founder, Ben Markham, and his wife, Julie, who lived in Ghana for 18 months as humanitarian missionaries. While here, Ben often held meetings in rural school houses and noticed how dark it got early in the evenings and wondered how students were able to study or read in their homes with such conditions. He was also struck by the simplicity of play equipment available to children, usually nothing more than old bike tires and tin cans that would be turned into rudimentary cars. Ben decided to try and solve both of these problems and developed the electricity-generating merry-go-round we use today. 

Kinetic merry-go-round

How did you become connected with Jolkona

EPI’s executive director, Chris Cannon, was in Seattle visiting NGOs and social ventures with a group of MPA students from Brigham Young University when he learned about the innovative fundraising and advocacy work Jolkona was doing. And after talking with Nadia he quickly decided that this was a partnership worth pursuing and that he hoped would help EPI fulfill its mission of providing the light of opportunity to students of Ghana.

Can you tell us a bit more about your project and how it’s going currently?

Empower Playgrounds is currently operating in nearly 40 schools, providing light to over 6,000 students in some of Ghana’s most deprived areas. We continue to gain support from individuals concerned about the quality of education students are receiving in these deprived areas and by groups working to provide similar opportunities. We are hopeful that this year will see wider expansion, both within Ghana and to similar countries, as we gain more momentum and work with a tried and tested system and wonderful corporate partners like Goal Zero and Playworld Systems, Inc. 

What kind of lasting change does the project hope to engender?

Our vision for the future is to have educated parents, especially mothers, in every village who will instill a love of learning in their children. This next generation of children will be much better suited to tackle the generational triggers of poverty and inequality that we as outsiders are often unable to define or solve. We are beginning to see this change take place in some of our earliest schools in the form of increased school completion, attendance, and national test scores. 

So say I give $50 to the project, can you explain a little further the impact that is achieved?

For $50 you provide a group of students a portable LED lantern powered by play! This lantern will provide 40 hours of reading and study time with each charge and is expected to last around 5 years, meaning that they are ensured the light of opportunity for just $10 per year!

Ghanaian students

We love stories at Jolkona. Do you have a favorite impact story you can share?

One of our students, Gabriel, is just one example of how hard students are working to rise above adverse conditions and better themselves in order to better their communities. At 16 Gabriel is the oldest student in his 6th grade class, towering above his classmates and even some of his teachers, however his meek demeanor shines in his bright eyes and constantly beaming smile. This same smile is somewhat out of place when he starts talking about his life and the conditions he struggles with everyday.

He has lived alone in the tiny village of Terhey for several years after his parents moved away to look for work, taking with them his younger siblings. His weekends and evenings are spent doing odd jobs in order to provide for himself: cutting wood for charcoal, helping local farmers, fixing bicycles. And what he earns from these odd jobs he often sends to his siblings so they can buy books and pay for school uniforms, leaving himself to rely on the generosity of his favorite teacher.

Gabriel is now in middle school, still older than his classmates but at least now the same height, and well on his way towards High School. He is a success in the village of Terhey because he is a trendsetter in a community that often sees little use for school and its postponed payoff when so many competing needs have such immediacy. He is one of the lights shining in darkness that makes Ghana such a trailblazer in West Africa.

Such a great story. So, in a nutshell, why should someone give to this project?

With so many organizations and nonprofits doing good things, it’s often hard to choose between so many good options. At EPI we strive to be among the best. We do this by maintaining focus on a single cause – one that we feel is at the root of so many other problems. 

With a generation of educated people Ghana will be filled with home-grown solvers and thinkers who can tackle the difficult problems that plague so many developing countries, resulting in long-lasting and effective change that will benefit the world.

Sign up or sign in to Give Together and donate to Empowerment Playground. Empower tomorrow’s leaders and light their way towards achieving their fullest potentials today.

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Photo credit: AFP/Getty Images

Twisted. Mangled. Buried. Crushed. As the bodies seem to defy gravity, so too does the photo seem to defy belief.

The devastating collapse of an eight-story factory building in Savar, Bangladesh on April 24th rapidly made the headlines around the world. The death toll, just two weeks later, has risen to over 700. It has been the nation’s deadliest industrial disaster. The International attention it has drawn has focused not only on the tragic scale of loss of life, but also – and rightly so – on the appalling conditions that so many people in developing countries are constrained to work under.

Most appalling of all, of course, is because it is so often at the behest of us in the West with our infantile addiction to cheap prices, which we are so happily spoon fed by smug Multinationals.

Tragedy for the workers and their families

The first tragedy is the loss of life – immutable, irreversible, and harrowing. Families have lost their loved ones. Nothing will repair this.

The second tragedy is that most of those workers provided a living for their families. In all likelihood, for many families it would have been their only source of income. Those families have been plunged not only into heartbreaking tragedy, but also complete destitution.

The same, though, goes for many of the survivors, who have suffered life-altering injuries: brain damage, broken backs, crushed bones, and severed limbs. Many of these workers will never be able to work again.

Hope for the injured: prosthetic limbs

We have partnered for a long time with BRAC. We visited their Brace and Limb Center in Bangladesh during our Partner Visit trip to South East Asia in the summer of 2012. BRAC has been helping design, build, and fit prosthetic limbs for thousands of Bangladeshi people for many years.

To respond to the tragedy in Savar, we have partnered with BRAC to start a campaign to provide survivors of this terrible accident with an artificial limb.

A new limb for these workers can mean the difference between livelihood and destitution, between life and death – for an entire family.

For $220 you provide one limb for one victim of the Savar tragedy. You can also donate as little as $5. We have already raised over $4400, reshaping the lives of 20 victims. Help us reshape the lives of many more. Give today.

You can also help support the campaign by sharing about it on Facebook and Twitter.

This whole week we’re celebrating National Volunteer Week! That means we’re celebrating our volunteers, who are absolutely integral to all we do, and without whom we can honestly say, we would be nowhere! So first and foremost, thank you Jolkona volunteers!

But, this week is also about encouraging others to volunteer. Do you take time to help others on a regular basis? Do you give your time and resources to another cause in need? Are you sharing volunteer opportunities with others in your network? Part of that encouragement is about awareness of how important volunteering truly is. So, we thought we’d kick this week off with some stats. This infographic is staggering, and will help you understand just how essential volunteers are.

Are you interested in volunteering for Jolkona? Email as at

You can also help spread the word by liking us on Facebook, and by following us on Twitter,  Pinterest, and Instagram.

To celebrate and participate in Women’s History Month, we’re proud to be launching our third Give2Girls matching campaign, running through the rest of March – starting today! We’re dedicating twenty four days to improving the lives of thousands of women and girls around the globe. This year we’re partnering with our local champions of change, the Seattle International Foundation.

How does the campaign work?

Give to any of our 30+ projects related to women or girls, and we will match your donation, dollar for dollar, up to $250 per donor! Even better than that, though, we will double your proof! So donate $15 to provide workshops and other business opportunities for Peruvian women, and we’ll not only match your donation, but we’ll send you two impact reports. The campaign is being matched up to a total of $2,500.

Why this campaign?

Here are just some of the reasons:

  • Out of the world’s 130 million out-of-school youth, 70 percent are girls.
  • An extra year of primary school boosts girls’ eventual wages by 10 to 20 percent. An extra year of secondary school: 15 to 25 percent.
  • When a girl in the developing world receives seven or more years of education, she marries four years later and has 2.2 fewer children.
  • When women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90 percent of it into their families, as compared to only 30 to 40 percent for a man.
  • The total global population of girls ages 10 to 24 – already the largest in history – is expected to peak in the next decade.
  • One-quarter to one-half of girls in developing countries become mothers before age 18; 14 million girls aged 15 to 19 give birth in developing countries each year.
  • Medical complications from pregnancy are the leading cause of death among girls ages 15 to 19 worldwide. Compared with women ages 20 to 24, girls ages 10 to 14 are five times more likely to die from childbirth, and girls 15 to 19 are up to twice as likely, worldwide.
  • Approximately one-quarter of girls in developing countries are not in school.

(statistics taken from

I’ve said this many a time, and I won’t apologize for saying it again: at Jolkona it is necessary that we talk about statistics, of course. Statistics give us the overarching picture. But what fuels the fire that drives us is the story behind each statistic – the individual. And this is what we want you to see. This is why we give you, the philanthropist, not just the chance to change statistics, but to actually glimpse into the life of the individual behind the statistic by seeing exactly how your donation makes an impact.

Our Give2girls campaign is not about changing statistics; it’s about changing people’s lives. So let’s do that.

Here are 4 ways for you to take action today:

  1. Make an investment in women and girls. Choose from over 30 different projects that support women and girls and give to girls today
  2. Get Educated. Learn about the history of Women’s History Month and then learn about investing in women for poverty alleviation. We like the Girl Effect and UN’s womenwatch
  3. Watch the film Girl Rising made by the inspiring 10×10. Find a screening here.
  4. Spread the word. Support this movement by sharing the importance of investing in girls for poverty alleviation and share our campaign. Tweet using #Give2girls.
You can also help spread the word by liking us on Facebook, and by following us on Twitter, and Pinterest.

My wife told me this week that if we have a daughter one day, she wants her middle name to be Sojourner. “Pretty name,” I thought. “Bit of a mouthful, but on the flip side also not common, which fits the trend of parents finding alternative names for their children. Quite post-modern.” 

Not post-modern at all, actually. She then proceeded to tell me about Sojourner Truth, an African-American abolitionist and women’s rights activist from the 19th century. Had I ever heard of her before? Nope. Have you?

It occurred to me: despite the fact that I care about women’s rights and that, yes, I would call myself a feminist, my knowledge of women’s history is patchy at best. Surely, if I want to be someone who helps shape the future of gender equality, then mustn’t I know about its past? Good thing, then, that March is Women’s History Month.

Women’s History Month

Women’s History Month is a world-wide movement that looks back and celebrates the tenacious achievements of women in our history, with a mind to looking forward and increasing awareness of the great distance that is yet to be traveled to achieve gender equality. To celebrate and support Women’s History Month, we’re going to be rolling out our 3rd annual Give2Girls campaign (details of that to follow soon!). But this year, we want everyone (myself included) to come a little better prepared. We want everyone to educate themselves – a lot, a little –  in women’s history.

Get educated!

Ignorance, I believe, lies at the heart of most prejudice and misunderstanding. Ignorance, therefore, is one of the biggest hindrances to the advancement of gender equality. Here are some websites we love that have some excellent material on women’s history: –

The National Women’s History Museum. This also includes a great online exhibit.

The Smithsonian Museum

The History Channel

Women’s History Month starts tomorrow; learn something today!

Follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest and keep up to date with all we are doing and the impact you are making.

With the exception of perhaps the word security, stick the adjective social in front of any noun nowadays and it is suddenly rendered amicable, manageable, and even hip. Think media and imagine the infinitely vast voices of bias reporting, misreporting, and loyal agendas. Social media on the other hand, well that’s all swell. Networking, though perhaps necessary, is positively obsequious. Social networking? – totally keeping it casual. Engineering evokes highly complex designs and mind-boggling math. Social Engineering (it does exist) sounds quite delightful! Worker: bland. Social worker: tell me more! The word social even makes marketing sound bearable.

What about social justice, then?

I sense, just like the phrase “global development,” the phrase social justice draws us largely to nod our heads knowingly as we acknowledge its familiarity and importance, yet at the same time, somewhere in our subconscious, its magnitude shrouds it in uncertainty. Or perhaps it’s the familiarity itself – the phrase we’ve heard repeated over and over by reporters, politicians, advocates, friends – that causes the disconnect. Maybe it doesn’t really mean anything to us anymore. It is simply an issue in the world and a repertoire in our language.

World Day of Social Justice

The UN has officially recognized today, February 20th, as World Day of Social Justice. And at Jolkona we’re hoping that today you will stop and remember social justice, allow it to move from the nebulous area of your subconscious to the forefront and brightness of your conscience. And then: act upon it.

What can I do?

The UN says it concisely:

“We uphold the principles of social justice when we promote gender equality or the rights of indigenous peoples and migrants. We advance social justice when we remove barriers that people face because of gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion, culture or disability.”

Here are three projects you can support via our Jolkona giving platform which tackle social justice:

1. Provide Education for Disabled Children in Nepal. $36 sponsors one disabled child for a month of education. Proof of Impact: You will receive information and a photo of the student you are helping to sponsor.

2. Give Tech and Life Skills to Homeless Women in Seattle. $50 funds a basic life skills class to a group of women. Proof of Impact: you will receive information about the class that you provided.

3. Invest in Women Grassroots Leaders. $100 will supports women leaders participating in iLEAP’s fellowship program by providing a stipend for one week. Proof of Impact: you will receive the name and information about the woman fellow you support.

You can define justice in many ways. But one thing justice does is it puts power in the hands of the powerless. This is why we always talk about empowerment. Because when you donate, you’re not just giving to someone; you’re empowering someone.

Remember social justice. Empower someone today.

Spread social justice via social media: like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and re-pin our pins on Pinterest.

I was at one of Jolkona’s All Hands Meetings recently, and one of the ice-breaker questions posed to us was, “What’s one of the kindest things you’ve ever done?” It was an apt question seeing that we were all involved in philanthropy. Because it’s one thing being asked that if you all work for – I don’t know – Goldman Sachs, but it’s quite another when you all work or volunteer at a non-profit. And to be perfectly honest, I had a torrid time trying find an answer. Not because I was overwhelmed by the abundant choice of numerous and extraordinary acts of generosity that I had so compassionately performed; rather, it was for a complete lack of them. But ask me what’s one of my favorite places to eat, or one of my favorite Bob Dylan albums and you can bet I’ll give you several answers straight off the bat (Pho Cyclo, Poquitos, Blonde On Blonde, Blood On The Tracks….).

Why is this? I think it’s simple: food and music are significant parts of my life. Acts of kindness, less so.

Enter Generosity Day.

Generosity Day

Generosity Day started with Sasha Dichter, Chief Innovation Officer at Acumen Fund. Struck by his feelings of wanting to ignore the person who had boarded the train asking for money, he one day decided to start what he called the “Generosty Experiment”—a month-long experiment to say “yes” to every single request for help. Later in February 2011, a small group of people participated in a panel discussion during Social Media Week. After the discussion, Sasha Dichter was talking to the other panelists about his “Generosity Experiment”. Inspired and energized, the group suggested that they rally people around generosity on Valentine’s Day, which was just three days later.

Dichter later gave a brilliant TED talk about his experiment. In it he candidly admits that, despite working at a ground breaking non-profit, fundraising for many worthy causes, and caring deeply about the world’s brokenness, he was still a person who said No to generosity. His experiment was an attempt to break that habit.

I think most of us can relate to the reflex of No when we’re approached for help. Or maybe we sometimes say Yes, but in our heads and our hearts we’re thinking No. As Dichter comments, breaking that habit requires practice. And that is what Generosity Day is about: beginning to make acts of kindness a normal part of our lives. But this isn’t some Occupy Valentine’s Day movement. Instead, it’s about reclaiming Valentine’s Day with acts of sincere kindness and love – not obligation. It’s about making a start.

Dichter writes on his blog,

“Give to people on the street. Tip outrageously. Help a stranger. Write a note telling someone how much you appreciate them. Smile. Donate (more) to a cause that means a lot to you. Take clothes to GoodWill. Share your toys (grownups and kids). Be patient with yourself and with others. Replace the toilet paper in the bathroom. All generous acts count!”

And here’s another great thing about Generosity Day, it doesn’t – as Valentine’s Day so shamefully does – exclude those who are single or without love. Single, engaged, married, divorced, or widowed, it calls all of us to participate.

How will you participate?

Here are a few generous ideas for you:

Find out more and go to the Generosity Day website here.

Witness acts of generosity via the Facebook page.

Tweet the love using the #generosityday hashtag.

Share the love with those in need this Generosity Day by making a donation through Jolkona.

Or here’s a loving idea I wrote about earlier this week: Jolkona’s Valentine’s Day gift cards.

Spread the love and like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and re-pin our pins on Pinterest.

As an English teacher living in Italy I used to make all my students memorize Shakespeare. It didn’t matter what level they were – beginners or advanced – everyone had to memorize Shakespeare. Specifically, Sonnet XVIII: “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? / Thou art more lovely and more temperate….” At the beginning of every lesson I would reveal a new line and, like they used to do in the good old days, we would chant it together over and over. Usually, the aim was to have them memorize it in full for Valentine’s Day. The joke being, if they didn’t have a romantic figure in their life, it was a sure way to get one; and if they did, it was a sure way to keep them! But truthfully, I used to do it for other reasons: it was different, it was certainly practical (okay maybe not quite as practical as “Excuse me, where is the train station?” But it still had plenty of good vocabulary and useful grammar structures to learn), it was powerful, and it was memorable.

Wouldn’t it be great, then, if we could do the same with Valentine’s Day this year? Not memorize Shakespeare (though that would be quite a worthy feat in itself), but couldn’t we also do something this year that made Valentine’s Day feel different, practical, powerful, and memorable? You can.

Here’s an idea: instead of sending your loved ones the clichéd Hallmark Valentine’s card, why don’t you send them a Jolkona Valentine’s gift card.

How do they work?

It’s really very simple:

Choose your template

Purchase the gift card for your desired amount

Send the gift card to someone you love

The recipient redeems the gift card via any of our projects

In short, you’re giving so someone else can give. And if love is a gift, then this is love.

Forget not: actions speak louder than words. So this year, tell someone you love them by empowering them to take action. Besides, nothing says I love you like empowerment.

Make this year’s Valentine’s Day different, practical, powerful, and memorable. Send a Jolkona gift card and cultivate change here.

Spread the love and like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and re-pin our pins on Pinterest.

Only months before being shot in the head and neck by two Taliban gunmen on her way back from school in the Swat Valley of Pakistan, Malala Yousafzai, a girl of only 14 years of age, had said, “I think of it often and imagine the scene clearly. Even if they come to kill me, I will tell them what they are trying to do is wrong, that education is our basic right.” Malala Yousafzai was not only aware of the threat on her life, but she accepted it bravely and with defiance. Yousafzai was prepared to die for girl’s education.

The incident drew an international outcry. Yousafzai, miraculously still alive, was flown to the U.K., where she spent weeks on end in intensive care, undergoing highly complex brain surgeries and skull reconstruction. 3 days ago, nearly four months after the attempt on her life, Yousafzai, made her first public statement, repeating some not too dissimilar words, “I want to serve. I want to serve the people. I want every girl, every child, to be educated.”

Yousafzai’s story is as extraordinary as it is both courageous and inspiring. At its heart is a girl – a teenage girl! – willing to die for her freedom. A freedom that for most of us has already been fought – and won – by those who have preceded us.

7 reasons to invest in girl’s education

We would all concur and understand how education for girls should be a basic freedom. But what we perhaps fail to grasp is that, stemming from this basic freedom, are some incredibly rich benefits for their families, their communities, and society as a whole. So here are 7 great reasons why to invest in girls’ education*:

  1. When 10% more girls go to school, a country’s GDP increases on average by 3%.
  2. Countries where women’s share of seats in political bodies is greater than 30% are more inclusive, egalitarian, and democratic.
  3. In many developing countries, the mortality rate of children under the age of 5 is highest among those whose mothers had no education.
  4. Every year of schooling increases a girl’s individual earning power by 10% – 20%, while the return on secondary education is even higher, in the 15% – 20% percent range.
  5. Girls’ education is proven not only to increase wage earners but also productivity for employers, yielding benefits for the community and the wider society. 
  6. When women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90% into their families.
  7. The impact of investing in girls is intergenerational. A mother with even a few years of formal education is considerably more likely to send her children to school, breaking the intergenerational chain of poverty.

Jolkona’s Project

You can donate to an array of projects via our Jolkona giving platform which further girls’ education in Tanzania, Liberia, Afghanistan, Tibet, and Nepal. Give to one of these projects; help bring freedom and empowerment to girls today! Malala Yousafzai almost gave her life to advance the plight of girls in her country. What can you give?

If you want to know more about Jolkona,  follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

*Statistics taken from the UN’s Clinton Global Initiative.

Before January ends, and before we all begin to anticipate (with great excitement!) the move away from the winter months, I wanted to take the chance to look back at December and our Holiday Giving Campaign, our 10 Days of Giving.

A big part of the Holiday Campaign is for us at Jolkona to come together and work as a team (as the vast majority of us are volunteers with 9-5 jobs elsewhere, this isn’t always easy!) It’s also great opportunity for us to – quite literally – put our money where our mouths are, and to practice what we preach. Whilst it also means getting comfy with someone putting a camcorder in your face for your campaign video!


The impact

But at the heart of the Campaign is how the holiday season is not only about giving gifts to friends and family but about giving the gift of impact. And in the same way, one of the best things about the holiday season is seeing what gifts people get, so is it with the Holiday Campaign. So without further ado, here is the impact raised:

  • 8 children saved from diarrhea in India
  • 23 families provided with emergency medical kits in Palestine
  • 5 children’s annual school fees paid for in rural Benin
  • 3 safe birth kits for mothers in Palestine
  • 45 complete outfits for orphaned children in Kenya
  • 6 students’ monthly fees paid for at the School of Life program in America
  • 1 hygienic toilet built in rural India
  • 6 months of computer training for 9 students in rural Guatemala

As ever, thanks to everyone who gave back, who gave the gift of impact!

Start your own campaign!

Starting your own campaign is immensely simple:

Click on this link
Select a project
Give it a name
Set your campaign target
Tell your friends and family!

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


It would seem, as people, we like new beginnings – the clean slate, the fresh start, the frisson that accompanies the chance to embark on something different. The New Year is an apropos example. Cometh January 1st, cometh the renaissance of resolutions: the I won’ts, the I wills, the musts, the musn’ts, the 10 step guides to any goal you could ever think of, and so forth and so forth. We all want a second chance (or perhaps it’s our twentieth).

Now resolutions are fine and well (some, I daresay, even noble), but they strike me predominantly as an attempt at self-improvement. Essentially we ask ourselves, “How can I make my life better this year?” Again, this is not the worst question one could ask oneself. But I wonder how often, as the New Year chimes in, we pose the question, “How can I make someone else’s life better this year?” And I wonder what our lives – or more to the point, what other people’s lives – would look like if we did.

I think philanthropy asks us a very similar question. But it’s not a guilt trip; it’s an honest, straight forward question. With all the abundant resources I have – my time, my money, my talent – what can I set aside to help someone else? I wonder if in 2013 you will ask yourself this question – and be brave enough to act upon it. I wonder if, amongst all your personal goals and good intentions, you will give philanthropy a chance. At Jolkona we certainly hope so.

It’s interesting, after having worked at Jolkona for over a year now, one of the words I associate most strongly with philanthropy is story. I sincerely believe that understanding and experiencing this is aspect of story is essential to philanthropy and other acts of altruism. Really what happens when you engage in philanthropy is you engage in someone’s story – for the good. One way we try to show you this at Jolkona is by sharing with you the journey of your donation and its impact. A life is changed, someone is given a second chance, and a new chapter begins; a chapter you, the donor, have the privilege of helping author. Through philanthropy narratives are interwoven.

So when you’re standing on the threshold of 2014 at some New Year’s Eve party and someone asks you about your year, I wonder if you will bore them to death with the story of all your accomplishments, or if you will share the stories of the lives you helped change, the stories which now you’re a part of. I know who I’d rather be talking to.

If you’re interested in using your time and talents to help others, email

If you’re interested in using your money to help others, find a project you like here and donate.

Back in July we ran our Give Health campaign, successfully raising some $9,000 + for our partners and their projects the world over. One of the non-profits we cozied-up to during the campaign was Socializing For Social Change (S4SC). They threw us a big party and taught us a thing or two about how socializing and social media can lead to social change.

We liked what we learned. For example, did you know that people are more likely to join digital social change conversations than start one? So we’re asking you to join a digital social change conversation today by tweeting @jolkona, liking/sharing us on Facebook, or pinning something of ours onto your Pinterest board.  We want everyone to know that anyone can be a philanthropist. Help us create awareness; help us encourage change. Social media = social change.

If you don’t believe me, check out this infographic, then check out our project our page. Choose a project, donate, see the change, and share the good news (via social media, if you like).

Give today to any of our 120+ projects and tell your friends about it.

We do social media, too: on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Editor’s note: This blog post relates to our Corks & Forks dinner/auction in 2012. For information about Corks & Forks dinner/auction planned for Oct. 10, 2013, visit this page

Jeans donned, tie loosely knotted, and shirt un-tucked, I followed the instincts of my sufficiently empty stomach and made a bee-line down the hill to the Blue Ribbon Cooking School on South Lake Union. My only hold up was a seemingly interminable red light whilst trying to cross the I-5. The rest of the evening was a go!

Food, glorious food!

Soon after a beer and a few too many appetizers later, I was rolling gnocchi and chopping sage with a group of friendly strangers – there’s nothing like the preparation of food to get people interacting! Who rolled the best gnocchi? Despite my three years in Italy, not me. I then powered straight onto Cocktail Mixology, where I learnt all about muddling and a French 75, named after the 19th Century French 75 mm field gun (Why? Think boom. Enough said).

I also connected with a couple fellow Brits. We dubbed ourselves Team GB. Many a “God Save The Queen!” later and I was onto the steak and salmon. Feeling the delicacies of the fish were a little too on the dexterous side for me, I passed to the meat. Steak in pan. Cook for 3 ½ minutes. Turn. Cook for 3 ½ minutes. That part went swimmingly. But when it came to the sauce, it was my pronunciation of tomato that drew heavy criticism. I made amends at the crepe station, however, where I teamed up with one of my fellow Team GB companions. We practically ran the show – our crepes looking as bright, round, and winsome as any gold medal.

To follow was the shrewdly observed silent auction with an incredible array of items. Then we were called to the table where we were treated to the buzz and clamor of our live auction and, of course, our much anticipated dinner. Everything- auction, dinner, and all – was as delectable as it was full of mirth.

One person’s determination to engender change

There were many memorable moments from the evening – the cooking classes, the food, the incredible auction items, Team GB – but, for me, one thing stood above all those: Adnan’s story about Jolkona. It was compassionate and compelling; an extraordinary reminder of how one person’s idea and determination could result in so much change – change for the good. It was truly inspiring to see how from the desire to help one Bengali man, who couldn’t afford to bury his own son, it could end up with where Jolkona is today: over 150 projects and over $500,000 donated. And more importantly, the numerous lives that have been impacted the world over.

The Jolkona team produced a special film for the event. Check it out:


The evening’s impact

Thanks to everyone who participated, donated, and put their time, energy and compassion into the Corks & Forks fundraiser, we were able to raise over….


Thank yous

First of all to everyone who donated so generously to the Kona fund.

We have to thank, of course, our brilliant sponsors: Coinstar inc., Ja Warren Hooker Fitness Performance Group, and Cornerstone Advisors. Little could have been achieved without them.

We also need to thank all those beneficent people who donated auction items: Adnan and Nadia Mahmud, Alexander Resource Group, Amazon, Andy Hytjan, Art Wolfe, Axtion Club, Barbara Grant Consulting Group, Barri Rind, Big Dipper Wax Works, Bob Colleran, Canlis, Carisa Marie, Chateau St. Michelle, Christos on Alki, Coach Aina, Coinstar Inc., Dave Henderson, David Jofre, Dennis Tom, Dreams Performing Arts, Edgar & Holli MartinezEnvy on Alki, Fairmont Hotel Group, FlyWheel Spin Cycle Studio, Gary Manuel Salon, Gene Juarez, Heide and Matthew Felton, IvarsKid Valley, JaWarren Hooker, Jen Duffy, Jenny Almukhtar, Jordan Belmonte, Justin and Jen Spelhaug, K2 Sports, Lauren Burman, Lisa Arlint, Long Provincial, Mary Hoy Shampoo, Material Good, Megan Fleming, Microsoft, Miir, Mission Latin Restaurant, Moshe Dunie, Mynt Expressions, Nancy Xu, Pacific Science Center, Parichey Gandhi, Pavan Potaraju, Pete Morse, Pete’s Market, Punit Java, Raghu Murti, Reconstruct Remodel, Quixotic Designs, Salon 08, Santina Rigano, Seattle Symphony, Tam Nguyen, Teatro Zinzanni, The Bridge, Trudy Muller, WaxDiva Lucy, Wing Luke Museum, Woodland Park Zoo.