The Simple Dollar’s Christmas Charity for 2008: Jump for Joel

Each year, I like to highlight a charity that’s near and dear to my heart and encourage readers, if they’re considering donating money to a charity during the holiday season, to look carefully at this charity.

This year, my charity of choice is Jump for Joel.

What’s Jump for Joel? Jump for Joel‘s mission is to directly improve the baseline living conditions and educational opportunities for impoverished children in sub-saharan Africa, particularly in orphanage situations. They do this through directly sponsoring volunteers to travel to that region in Africa, as well as directly buying supplies for children in such situations (school supplies, toilets, etc.).

The charity was started in 2007 by a University of Illinois – Springfield student who spent two weeks on a volunteer project at the Gathiga Children’s Hope Home in Nairobi, Kenya. The conditions that the orphaned children lived in shocked her into action, bringing her to start Jump for Joel (named after one of the children in that orphanage).

I became aware of Jump for Joel through my sister-in-law, who spent much of the summer of 2008 volunteering in an orphanage in Romania. It was through this experience that she became acutely interested in what she could do here at home to help out children in such impoverished situations, and through that she became a part of the Jump for Joel team.

What have they done? Since its inception, Jump for Joel has raised almost $20,000 for the Gathiga Children’s Hope Home, which enabled the home to construct a two toilet outhouse, a stone entrance gate, bunk beds, a functional kitchen, a roof over the room where the children sleep, and floors and walls for the classroom and sleeping rooms. Currently, the project is focusing on buying doors and windows for the sleeping rooms, and they intend to branch out from there into other homes and orphanages in the area.

Jump for Joel also engages in partnerships with churches in the Springfield area for other fundraisers, raising money for school supplies for the children as well.

Why do I support Jump for Joel? As I’ve discussed before, I tend to lean towards supporting charities to which I have a personal connection, so I can personally witness the passion and sincerity that is being brought to the table.

With Jump for Joel, I can see this passion in the eyes and actions of my sister-in-law. Her deep passion for helping disadvantaged children runs through almost every aspect of her life, from her college major to her many, many years spent working for day care homes and centers (dating back to when she was twelve) and her time spent abroad volunteering to help disadvantaged children.

It often seems to me as though helping disadvantaged children is what she was born to do, and Jump for Joel is a framework in which she (and others with a similar perspective as her) can channel her work and passion to bring real change to children’s lives.

Another factor which drew me in as a fan of Jump for Joel is their openness. One only has to browse their website for a few minutes to see this – they write blog postings that detail their activities, produce podcasts to describe what they’re doing and share ideas, and actively respond to pretty much any question you might have as soon as you ask it. I find their YouTube channel to be particularly interesting, as it provides a great visual description of their mission that text and audio just can’t quite provide.

Explore the Jump for Joel website for a bit and you can just feel the passion bubbling under the surface.

How can you support Jump for Joel? The biggest thing you can do to support Jump for Joel is to donate a few dollars to them via PayPal. The money directly goes to improve the living conditions and further the educational opportunities of truly impoverished children.

If you don’t have money to spare but would like to keep tabs on their good work (and also promote the cause a little bit), you can follow their blog or become a fan of Jump for Joel on Facebook.

My wife and I are planning on giving several people gifts for Christmas that are donations in their name to Jump for Joel. I hope you’ll consider doing the same.

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