While most young people hang out in bars and relax in beaches, Katherine Motyka, Karla Castro and Castillo Lusitania have reimagined the notion of having fun, all the while raising money for the most impoverished in the Dominican Republic and other Latin American countries. This led them to creating Jompeame.
“Our mission initially was to change the lives of at least five people in [poverty]every week, in every country we are expanding,” said Katherine, the co-founder and CEO of Jompeame.
In 2013, Katherine attended the Startup Weekend in Santo Domingo and met her partners-to-be, Karla and Castillo. Bonded with a shared interest in changing the lives of those in dire need, they quickly decided to found Jompeame.com, the first crowdfunding platform for social causes in the Dominican Republic.
Currently, in the Dominican Republic, more than 40 percent the population live on less than $1.25 a day and over 20 percent of the country lives in extreme poverty.
Jompeame aims to reduce poverty in South America and empower more young people living in the most poverty-stricken areas of the country, giving them a voice to ask for more jobs and educational opportunities.
The platform has a group of more than 30 volunteers who verify the causes submitted via emails, Facebook and WhatsApp messages. Once the cause gets approved, the amount of money needed is established and listed online. In the next two weeks, the cause is promoted via the website and other social media channels, where people with credit and debit cards can make donations.
Nevertheless, a crowdfunding project of this nature had an extremely difficult inception. In the Dominican Republic, only 40 percent of the population has Internet access and 10 percent of them have a credit card.
Indeed, Jompeame founders admitted the biggest challenge they encountered was to search donors. In order to reinforce the platform’s credibility, they started to focus more on corporate sponsorship, collaboration with other nonprofits and the platform’s visibility in the media in 2015.
Since its inception, Jompeame has raised more than 1.5 million Dominican Republic pesos in donations, helping with more than 70 cases of extreme poverty.
Thanks to Jompeame, Juan was able to move into his new home with his two grandchildren; Enmanual’s dream of creating a free music school on the street came true; Scarlet, a one-year-old girl with epilepsy, was able to get an MRI; and Jasuel, a teenager who created robots with recycled cardboard and syringes, could finally enter a polytechnic school with better education qualities.
“Our focus[es]are small contributions but big impact. We are talking about giving education, food, provisional shelter, water, medicines, shoes and even school supplies,” Katherine said.
These girls’ dream, however, has never been small. Jompeame finally crossed the borders of the Dominican Republic this year, continuing to reduce poverty in South America. It joined Startup Chile, a program sponsored by the government of Chile to attract successful social venture partners around the world. In addition, it also expanded its operation in Brazil, raising funds to work for a more inclusive country without hunger and poverty.
“That poverty is not usual,” said a representative from Ceiling, a Dominican nonprofit which has collaborated with Jompeame to provide housing for families living in extreme poverty. This is also why thousands of young people choose to come out to the streets of the country to voice their concerns about the current poverty situation.
At the end of the day, Jompeame reminds us that the poor should be taken seriously and given the dignity, compassion and opportunities that all human beings deserve.
– Yvie Yao