Big Change = Discomfort + Fear, Then Trust

We were inspired to become a nonprofit when we realized we had reached our full growth potential in not being one. It was somewhat of a painful transition, as we were comfortable (that’s the worst, and when change will hit you hardest!), and were at a point where we could have continued business-as-usual and been mediocre in our efforts. Realizing that, there was no question that we were going to have to get uncomfortable to grow as an organization that serves others.

A little background – before our official launch as a 501c3 organization in 2017, we were sponsored as a “project” within a church since 2009, where they handled all the nonprofit paperwork and requirements for maintaining a 501c3 status so we didn’t have to (Nice!). They also sent us to attend missions team leader trainings and gave us airtime to share our experiences in Jamaica with the congregation. During that time, we ran a number of mission trips to Jamaica to rebuild homes, refurbish the Bluefields Community Center, and more. All the while, we were building relationships with the people of the Bluefields, Jamaica community, and THIS is the most important work that was being done!

Fast forward to 2016, and although all those dry, legal paperwork requirements were handled, operating as a “project” caused limitations in our growth because of a few factors:

  • Competing for attention with all the activities, budget items and other missions and work that were happening within a busy church environment.
  • Leaning on the same church audience to travel with us or donate to us, effectively tapping into the same people, year after year, month after month.
  • People outside of “The Church Proper” sometimes weren’t comfortable or willing to volunteer or donate to a religious organization (honestly, I sometimes have trouble with doing this, too.)
  • Our approach of ongoing, community-partnership-based international missions work generally didn’t fit into “the box” of a typical Christian mission trip and created some discomfort with it not being the norm. (See also: this fantastic article about the White Savior Complex)

As we contemplated moving away from the church and all the comforts there to stand on our own, there were many unknowns (and fear!) to contend with. How would we go about becoming a 501c3? (A: We got help) How would we have the time to run a business and work full-time at another job? (A: It’s worked out amazingly.) Where would the donations come from if it wasn’t from people we know? (A: People we don’t know – who’d have thought?)

Taking that first step forward got the ball rolling and we haven’t regretted a single moment. We found support in early 2017 from the Greensboro, North Carolina startup community and joined the Launch Greensboro program, which resulted in getting help to achieve our 501c3 status and a solid foundation to starting our nonprofit. We joined forces with Brandon Ward, who’d traveled often with us in the early years, to become our third co-founder to balance the work. Volunteers have come out of the woodwork to help us with all kinds of things (we’re so grateful to all of you!). We have seen interest from people within our own neighborhoods but also from across the country and beyond, ultimately resulting in personal donations of a few dollars on up to corporate donations of thousands.

In 2018, we were officially official, and in those 12 short months, we were able to achieve so much as a team personally and professionally. Most importantly, through the programs and projects we’ve completed in partnership with the communities we serve, we’ve been able to impact many lives for the better. What we’ve learned from this is not to fear change – but to embrace it! And…hold on for the ride.

Comment below about a time YOU faced a big change. What did you fear? Why did you need to make that change? How did you get through it? What resulted from it?

8 Tips to Try Next Time You Travel

Over the years, we’ve learned a few things about traveling, although we still can end up trying to get on the wrong plane (ahem…featured post image…not naming any names…)! While we gear up for travel season, we thought you’d enjoy a few things we’ve learned about moving from place to place, along the way.

  1. Take a picture of your passport, other ID and insurance cards, and keep on your phone in the event of a lost or stolen document.
  2. Buy your favorite snacks from the grocery store and pack them in; airport snacks are getting better, but are $$$!
  3. Jackets and hats (and neck pillows!) don’t count as luggage. Wear them onto the plane and save space in your suitcase.
  4. Spring for the preferred seats towards the front of you have a short layover so you can get off the plane faster and not risk missing your next flight!
  5. Look at all nearby airports when booking your flight. If you are willing to travel to them you can save some costs. Sometimes, you could save by arriving at a different airport than you departed from, using a one way rental car or Uber to get you to and from the airport.
  6. Challenge yourself to only carry on your luggage, especially when traveling to warm countries for two weeks or less (no bulky coats!). Invest in a travel pack (about 40 liters is a good size) that will fit as a carry on. Minimize what you take, and roll your clothing!
  7. It’s important to stay hydrated while traveling. Bring a refillable water bottle but empty it before security. Many airports have water bottle refill stations in the terminals.
  8. Some airports have “fast passes” that allow you to skip the customs lines upon entry to or departure from a country (looking at you Club MoBay!). Plus, better food and adult beverages than you can get in the terminal!

How about you? Comment below to share your favorite travel hacks!

Giving Back in the Piedmont Triad

At the beginning of the year, our leadership team decided to make more effort to connect with those in our hometown that are already giving back, so we can celebrate and support them in the work they do.

A little about our community: we are headquartered in the Piedmont Triad region of North Carolina. This north-central area of the state includes the cities of Greensboro, Winston-Salem and High Point, which along with all the surrounding towns and rural areas, has a population of around 1.7 million. It’s a diverse community that includes urban and rural areas, fine-dining and food trucks, tobacco and farming history, multiple universities and colleges, immigrant communities from all over the world, waterfalls, mountains and hiking paths, farmer’s markets, theater and the arts, entrepreneurship programs, and much, much more.

We are fortunate to call this place “home,” and have discovered SO many people and organizations here who are giving back. Over the summer, we thoughtfully selected four ways to support our hometown community, and although we continue our original focus on the work to be done in rural Jamaica (such as this), we are so appreciative that because of our funding partners, we can support and be inspired by the people who are hard at work in our hometown!

To learn more about partnering with us to create more sustainable communities, check out how you can Give Back.

Project Funding Total: $1,245 USD

  • Sponsored the advertising for and donated just over $100 of supplies to a school supply drive in the town of Walkertown, which was organized by a group of friends who saw a need and simply did something about it
  • Sponsored a “GAP Girl for a Year” at $500 in the pilot Girls & Production program, a partnership between the Sawtooth School for Visual Art and a/perture Cinema in Winston-Salem to immerse high-school-age girls in the world of filmmaking, and help “close the gap” in gender pay and opportunity differences within the industry
  • Aided a crisis situation for a Pfafftown family who were working their way back from being under-employed and who had no electricity or food. We connected them with various local resources we knew of who could help, and sent a $100 gift card to assist with school supplies and clothing for their five children to be better prepared for the coming school year.
  • Sponsored $500 worth of materials for a Kindergarten teacher at Smith Farm Elementary in Winston-Salem, who is using play-based-learning materials to bring basic engineering principles into a classroom of at-risk children.

Project Locations:
Winston-Salem, Walkertown and Pfafftown, within the Piedmont Triad region of North Carolina, USA

Just a Drop in the Bucket.

Earlier this year, we started accepting applications for assistance, in an effort to understand just how much need was out there, and help us have a better way to plan to meet these needs.

Within a short time, we received applications from people across the Bluefields, Jamaica area, with various needs brought to our attention – from rainwater catchment, to home and road repairs.

Here are a few excerpts from the applications we received:

“I need a water catchment because water is a scarce commodity for me.” ~Shopkeeper, age 49

“A water tank is needed to store water for my chickens.”
~ Poultry farmer, age 52

“Water is life. Please, I’m badly in need, and can’t afford to buy a tank
right now. Please and thank you.”
~Farmer, age 54

While there were 56 applications that initially were submitted, we expect more. And those we’ve already received represent over 250 people who’s lives can be impacted positively through our partnership with the Bluefields community.

Read more about how we’ve already provided clean water to eight of our applicants.

To find out how you can partner with us to meet these needs, visit our Give Back page for a link to make a donation that is comfortable for you.


School Supply Drive!

Sometimes parents of school-age kids can have a hard time purchasing everything on their kids’ school supply list due to circumstances beyond their control.

Did You Know? The average annual cost of school supplies in the US is $104 per child; not including clothing or electronics.


A trio of friends saw this need and decided to step up, take action, and organize a school supply drive in the Walkertown, NC community.

We’re grateful they allowed us to play a role in this awesome event by putting together signage and promotions around town to help get the word out…and later this week we will also be making our own donation of supplies!

Want to Give Back? Check out the link below for donation drop off locations and a list of most needed supplies.

And, even if you aren’t in Walkertown, we hope this has inspired you to donate supplies to your local school, so kids can get a strong foundation in education.

One love, y’all!

Eight Rainwater Catchments in Belmont

Earlier this year, we started accepting applications for assistance, to understand just how much need was out there, and help us have a better way to plan to meet these needs.

We also started working with Project Re3, a movement of people who work to ‘Re’store, ‘Re’build and ‘Re’novate to make communities livable again, who sent a group to travel with us for the first time in mid-May. When we asked them how much they wanted to work, they said “bring it on”, so we set the bar high and planned to complete eight rainwater catchment systems.

If you’ve been to Jamaica, you know it’s hot. And when you aren’t beach-side with a cool, tropical drink in your hand or chillin’ in the clear blue sea – it can be unbearably so. But, the team from Project Re3 stepped up to the challenge and finished off all eight systems in just four days – and still had plenty of time to enjoy the beach and the sea, connect with the people of Bluefields, and add a trip to YS Falls and Bamboo Avenue into the mix too!

Filtered rainwater catchment systems were installed for the following families:

  • A senior citizen, 75, retired, and blind, living with his caretaker.
  • A single mom, 42, currently unemployed, living with her three children ages 17, 12, and 9.
  • A senior citizen, 72, living with her child, 50, and her grandchildren ages 17 and 6.
  • Another single mom, 42, currently unemployed, with her three children ages 14, 10 and 5.
  • A domestic helper, age 49, living with her children and grandchildren, ages 21, 18, 13, 12, 11, and 2.
  • An unemployed farmer, 40, who was injured in an accident an currently unable to work, living with his wife and 7 year old child.
  • A senior citizen, 85, who we installed a septic system and bathroom for in October 2017, and who needed water and a pump to complete that project. She lives with her daughter and grandchild, and the bathroom is also used by many in the same “yard” within the Mount Airy community.
  • Two senior citizens, 77 and 67, whose son lives nearby and can also utilize the water access.

With this work complete, we’ve started to make a small dent in the applications for assistance that we’ve received. To find out how you can partner with us to complete more projects we have on the horizon, check out how you can Give Back.

Project Funding Total: $4,560 USD

  • Eight rainwater catchment systems – all gutters, tanks, concrete pads, filters, etc.
  • Employed four people to provide specialized construction site prep.
  • Employed logistics and travel support, provided by RAJ Tours, Jamaica.
  • Additional assistance provided by volunteers from the Bluefields Community, RAJ Tours, ProjectRe3, and Jah Works, Inc.

Project Locations:
Belmont and Mount Airy Districts, Bluefields, Westmoreland, Jamaica

2017 Annual Report

We believe that Jah Works, Inc. is a conduit for moving resources from those who can give them, to those that need them most – and believe our financials should reflect that.

When we found ourselves starting fresh this past year within the non-profit sector AND as a stand-alone organization, we wanted to leverage a solid financial foundation for how much of your generous donations should go towards giving back to others, while still being able to sustain the organization for the long-term.

We decided to track against three goals that Charity Navigator outlines: Program Expenses, Administrative Expenses and Fundraising Expenses. (As an aside, they are a great source for checking the legitimacy of any non-profit organization.)

According to their published metrics, the “best” charities are spending 85% or more of their annual expense towards programs, 15% or less on administrative costs to run the business, and 10% or less on fundraising.

We are happy to report that for Year-End 2017, we were right in line with where Charity Navigator says we should be:

  • Program Expenses: $5,822 Total (95.2% of total expense)
  • Administrative Expenses: $278 (4.5% of total expense)
  • Fundraising Expenses: $19 (0.2% of total expense)

*For full transparency, once it’s submitted we’ll add our 990 form, a filing required by the IRS for all registered 501(c) 3 organizations.

Thank you for trusting us to help those who need it most. We are looking forward to a new year full of connecting people and building sustainable communities!

Wishing you and yours a rewarding 2018.

One Love, Y’all.

Give Thanks

From all of us at Jah Works, we give thanks for all that Jah has blessed us with to be able to complete the work at hand.

We give thanks for all of our readers, who like, comment and share our posts to help us spread the word.

We give thanks for all of our donors who host fundraisers and give directly to help us fund work to be done.

We give thanks for the people who travel with us to give back to others and want to experience a different culture and way of life.

We give thanks to the communities where we serve, who welcome us with open arms.

Give thanks, and be blessed this holiday season. One love.

$6.31. It’s a Start…

A really cool thing that Amazon does to make it easy for non-profits to have funding is this AmazonSmile program. Essentially, every time you shop Amazon, Jah Works can receive a portion of what you spend. All you have to do is to set Jah Works, Inc. as your preferred charity, and remember to shop via whenever you buy from Amazon.

For the first few months we’ve been on AmazonSmile, we’ve raised $6.31…and it’s a start! Now, we’d like to multiply that by 111% – because we believe in big goals – AND because that would give us $700, which funds a complete rainwater catchment system for a family in need of access to good water.

So, as you get ready to shop for the holiday season – we appreciate your support through this program. Instructions below for how to get it set up (easy!). Just remember to check that you are ordering through the AmazonSmile platform any time you place an order (hint: unfortunately, you can’t use the mobile app…but the instructions below can help you set up a shortcut on your phone to use easily).

Click here to set up your Jah Works AmazonSmile!