This week, we’re delighted to welcome Patrick (PK) Gillock from Isara.org to the interview chair. Isara is a charity based in northeastern Thailand that uses Joomla as a platform for their innovative fundraising efforts. Instead of asking for money, they only ask that people use the tools they have online (such as bloghosting, short URLs and more) so that they can raise money from advertising.
You have fun – they raise money for their humanitarian work.
Currently their sites are:
- Isara – Main Portal
- IsaraPIX – Image Hosting
- IsaraBLOG – Blog Hosting
- IsaraURL – Short URLs
- IsaraCards – Free E-cards
- IsaraSMS – Text Messaging
1) Hi Patrick. Could you tell us a little about yourself? Where do you come from? Where are you now and what are you doing?
My name’s Patrick Kirk Gillock (or just PK) and I’m originally from Texas, but for the past 4 years I’ve been volunteering in northeastern Thailand. I originally came to volunteer for just 3 months but I quickly fell in love with the Thai people and their easy-going way of life. The food is pretty good too!
2) Isara began offline before creating a web presence. How did the project start and what were its initial goals?
Isara (ee-sa-rah) means "freedom" in Thai and it started as a way to help bridge the gap between the rich and poor. After volunteering in schools and colleges for two years I decided to open a Learning Center, a place where we would teach children and adults for free. During that time I noticed A LOT of students, all over the area, were being injured and killed on motorcycles (80% of Thai people use them). The police weren’t doing much to enforce the helmet law, so Isara decided to educate about safety and donate helmets. Thanks to donations from friends and family, Isara was able to donate more than 1,300 helmets to students around Thailand. But, more importantly, schools have made it mandatory for students to wear helmets on school property and the police started enforcing the helmet law. The only side-effect to this project is that I’m known as "The Helmet Guy" around town.
After the success of the Helmets for Students program we focused our efforts on other areas that needed immediate assistance. But that doesn’t mean we find a poor area, give stuff, and then move on. We try to find long lasting solutions to the problems. Isara gets teachers, students, police, and government officials involved with every aspect of the project. Donating helmets or school supplies is just a quick fix. Isara tries to inspire others to get involved so real change can occur.
3) What was the purpose and the process behind taking Isara online?
When Isara first started we did what most small charities do; we went to friends, family, and web forums to beg for donations. Which is fine, but we didn’t want to beg each time we did a project (I’m sure our friends would agree. lol). There had to be a better way. And there was. We’ve all seen websites become rich by getting a lot of visitors and then selling ads, right? The more web traffic they receive the more money they get. We thought, why can’t a non-profit do the same thing? But, instead of making it rich, we would be making a difference. So in November, 2005 I built a small web portal and invited people to make it their homepage. Just by making that small change in their surfing habits they could make a BIG difference in their world. For free! It slowly started to catch on and by early 2006 we were able to create projects that were paid for by just ad revenue and NOT donations. 100% of everything the site makes goes to the projects. This way visitors know that their clicks matter.
4) Did you consider building Isara.org with any other systems apart from Joomla? If so, why did you choose Joomla? What components did you find particularly useful?
Isara was originally just static html pages, but it quickly became too difficult to update. A database system with dynamic pages was the best solution and Joomla stood out from the rest. It was the easiest to get online and the community support was incredible. In February, 2006 we made the switch to Joomla and have never looked back. We also added Simple Machines Forum, Gallery2, Bookmarks, and a few other modified scripts. We really like that Isara is powered by Open Source software.
5) What can people do to help Isara and the people it assists?
All Isara needs are visitors. So just by making Isara.org your browser’s homepage it will help A LOT! We also ask that you spread the word about Isara. Just tell your friends and family or put a link to us on your website. That’s all it takes.
6) Where does Isara go from here? What ambitions do you have for 2007 and beyond?
2007 is going to be an interesting year for Isara. Our projects will be getting bigger, we’ll be expanding into other countries, and we’ll also have our first volunteers come to join us.
As far as the website, we will continue to develop it and add more features. We’ve also just begun work on our own search engine (Code-name: ACORN). It will hopefully develop into the world’s first non-profit search engine.
Thank you to Alledia for this opportunity to tell your visitors about Isara. Keep surfing and keep making a difference!