Crowdfunding: Chasing my passion

Help me start my journey!

Help me start my journey!

 

I’m finally moving to Indonesia and currently seeking support for my relocation costs. My ongoing crowdfunding campaign started great, but I am still short of my goal. Although it’s been shared through my social media outlets, it’s possible some folks are not fully grasping my plan or need more info. So, I decided to make a blog post about my campaign and share briefly what crowdfunding is!

My cause, my story in short

Last January, I finished my research internship assisting a graduate student’s project on Indonesia. Now I am focusing on understanding and learning from underprivileged communities and kids in Indonesia about their daily struggles. As an International Development Studies major at Berkeley, I was exposed to concepts and strategies used to improve less-developed nations’ welfare like Indonesia’s. I also became interested in poverty in Jakarta and what kind of access people have to fresh produce and healthy foods in the slums. Naturally, I developed a drive to want to find ways to empower these people’s lives. Some people call it humanitarian work, I call it my passion.

Someday I want to collaborate with local Indonesian leaders and organizers in devising strategies to mitigate urban poverty and food access issues plaguing Jakarta and the country at-large.  I am inexperienced at the moment as a fresh college graduate, but I have the motivation. Understanding this, I need to collect skills and experience from the field to build upon my education. This way I’d have a strong foundation and confidence to approach any situation thrown at me.

Like all projects and endeavors, steps need to be taken to be effective. The first phase is to work in Indonesia. This way I can immerse myself in the community and meet the locals to gain insight on the current social-economic, political climate of the country. Next, I intend to use this knowledge to develop a research proposal for graduate school, where I hope to gain community development skills in addition to conducting my own research on Indonesia. Upon finishing graduate school, I plan to utilize the specialized knowledge on community development I’ve gained in dedicating my life in working in Indonesia, specifically on urban poverty and food access issues.

There isn’t a concrete career track for my field of study, so I have to blaze my own path. Road blocks will be inevitable. But I’m won’t be deterred, because I am not afraid to ask for help. With my friends, family and strangers’ support, I hope to be able to start step one of my plan and begin my journey.

My Luck

Despite my enthusiasm to just pack up and leave, money and luck have always been the issues.

  • In my last semester at Berkeley, I applied to a prestigious summer fellowship to Indonesia at the recommendation of many of my professors, but strangely it was cancelled due to a lack of applicants.
  • During my mentor-ship, I couldn’t secure any travel funding mostly because my applications weren’t selected or was unqualified. Few grants/fellowships are offered to recent graduates as many, if not all, are available to only undergraduates, graduate students and post-docs.
  • I tried to apply to jobs here in the US hoping to save money to go to Indonesia. I sent out close to a hundred job applications but heard very few back. The ones that did call back, I didn’t pass the interview rounds. At many times, I felt disappointed on getting rejected. Apparently, I wasn’t alone. A Reuters article I read said that “recent college graduates in the United States face a more challenging job market, causing them to remain unemployed or take lower paying jobs than their counterparts in the past two decades, an analysis by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York has found.”

I stayed resilient. This time, I tried to find work in Indonesia hoping someone would hire a fresh grad from California interested in the non-profit, environmental, and public sectors. For two months, I was up around the clock sending out my resume and cover letters to companies, Linkedin connections and people in my network.

Again, I ran into roadblocks: “look at the job board” (which I already have), “sorry there isn’t anything open”, “we only hire Indonesian nationals only”, etc. But most of the time my emails met with silence, even after a few persistent follow ups. As for the few connections that actually responded, the contact person only wanted to talk to me when I am in Indonesia. Although my luck seemed to be finally shifting, money was still a problem.

Being optimistic for a potential opportunity to Indonesia, I took a cafe job as a night shift dishwasher to save up. I barely made 20 hours a week but I knew every dollar counts. Hoping to work there long enough to have a sizable travel fund, a prospective employer contacted me and would be interested in hiring me. By this time, I had only managed to save enough for a plane ticket. People who have gone to Indonesia know how expensive tickets can get, so when you add relocation fees (work permit, visa, living expenses, local travel expenses,etc.), it just becomes astronomical, especially for someone who has college loans to pay. My parents had enough things to worry to ask for their help. I also swore not to take out another loan until my student loans were repaid. I didn’t want to let this opportunity to pass so I thought I try out crowdfunding.

What is Crowdfunding?

For those unfamiliar with this concept, crowdfunding is a fundraising strategy that takes donation collecting to another level by not having to worry about capital investment. Traditional fundraisers like holding bake sales or car washes have a limitation. For those, you need money to make money. You can’t sell your baked goods or wash cars before buying the ingredients or washing materials. How do you buy these things when you don’t even have money for your cause?

The New York Times has found that plenty of people are often in this predicament, but there is a solution. They wrote, “Many of us have ideas… hatched while staring out the window or doodling on a cocktail napkin. And that’s where the dream ends, stunted by a lack of capital, credibility and confidence. Not anymore. Online crowdfunding is helping… big ideas become reality.”

I got exposed to Indiegogo, Kickstarter and GoFundMe as a member of the Berkeley Phi Beta Lambda National Business Organization. Crowdfunding was introduced to me during an entrepreneurial workshop as a potential method to assist a burgeoning enterprise get off the ground to develop their products and business model before seeking larger monetary backing. Back then, It never crossed my mind that crowdfunding can be utilized for personal causes.

Recently, though, thousands of people have started to use crowdfunding platforms to gain support for personal endeavors: medical treatment, educational opportunities, funeral expenses, etc. Even researchers are using it to help get their projects off the ground. Seeing how crowdfunding has been able to change many people’s lives, I took my cause to GoFundMe hoping people would support me.

College Grad Unemployment in America

US News has said, “The number of college graduates working minimum wage jobs is nearly 71 percent higher than it was a decade ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest figures.” Additionally, the New York Daily News mentioned, “More than 40 percent of recent U.S. college graduates are underemployed or need more training to get on a career track…”

The situation is real. Like many of my peers, I have fallen into all of the categories: underemployed, unemployed and needing more training or “experience” to get on my career track. If you don’t know what underemployed means, it is basically when you work at a job you are overqualified. I was overqualified when I worked as a dishwasher/busboy at a cafe in Berkeley. You don’t need a Bachelor’s degree to work the back of a cafe. That’s the reality of the current job market, and I’m not alone.

Although I served as an assistant for a grad student, I was basically unemployed as I had no income coming in prior to working at the cafe. My mom helped me out through this time as the small savings I had from my financial aid in my final semester of college dried up. Before I got the job at the cafe, I couldn’t apply for even a waiting or barista position because most required prior experience, which I didn’t have. I was shocked at this.

This “Catch 22” is an unfortunate phenomenon current job seekers fall victim in today’s job market. Most of the job postings I have encountered, including entry-level positions, seek candidates to have a certain amount of work experience to qualify. How can someone get work experience without a job? An internship is an example for a person to get that experience in their field. But, very few internships are paid, and I know the non-profit, public sector ones are mostly unpaid. If someone has loan payments, they may opt in applying for a service job instead. If they are lucky, they can get both an internship and a low wage job. For those that aren’t, they may end up part of the rising number of individuals defaulting on their loans and the staggering statistics found in the articles I shared above.

Not long ago, acquiring a Bachelor’s degree was still the key for individuals to achieve a prospective life.  Unfortunately, today, being college educated is the norm and you can’t rely just on your degree to get hired. But what is even frightening, folks with Master’s and PhD degrees can suffer, too. NPR wrote, “The number of people with graduate degrees — master’s degrees and doctorates — who have had to apply for food stamps, unemployment or other assistance more than tripled between 2007 and 2010, according to a report in The Chronicle of Higher Education.” The fact of the matter is, following this recession, employment in America for recent grads is harder than ever, no matter where you went to school.

Having been bred by UC Berkeley, where innovation and entrepreneurship are hot topics among my peers, I’m not ready to completely let my career path be determined by forces I can’t control. I was taught  to be resourceful and think outside the box. Adversity should also never get the better of me. I see crowdfunding as an opportunity to reach my goal, so I took advantage of it hoping it will be the boost I need.

So, if anyone who has read this post and has been moved in some way to help me, please check out my page and donate if you can. Even the smallest of donations go a long way.