Payback for a Peacemaker

Jeremy Courtney is executive director and co-founder of Preemptive Love Coalition (PLC).  PLC is an international development organization that has provided life-saving heart surgeries to the most-at-risk children in Iraq, training for Iraqi doctors and nurses, and emergency refugee relief throughout the region – and which creates peace between communities at odds.  Jeremy is a true Champion of ChangeU.  In his roles with PLC, Jeremy has played the role of peacemaker and friend to all.


Ed.: On February 14, Jeremy announced that his eight year old son, Micah, had been admitted into an Iraqi hospital for an emergency appendectomy.  The following is Jeremy’s follow-up post on his personal Facebook page from February 18. It is used with permission. The post is a beautiful example of how spreading peace begets peace and cooperation in returning care and concern to the peacemaker in a time of need.  In this Easter season, let this be a lesson to each of us that desires to be a global difference maker!

Jeremy’s Post

Over the last few days, I’ve watched a team of doctors from around Iraq help save my son from excruciating pain, and possibly much worse. A Sunni pediatrician from Fallujah, a Shia anesthesiologist from Baghdad and a Shia surgeon from Basra, Christian nurses, and Kurdish technicians all worked together to diagnose, treat, and care for Micah and our whole family.

All of his doctors ended up being doctors we had previously trained because of your ongoing support of Preemptive Love or who had previously heard about our lifesaving work for children in Fallujah, Baghdad, Basra, and beyond. So Micah got the royal treatment!

As parents, we feel immensely grateful for the love and kindness they’ve shown. And this is why I know that medicine has the ability to draw nemesis neighbors together and remake the world. Thank you for putting us in a position where we had everything we needed to care for Micah. By God’s grace and your generosity, we have a salary in a country where many people who go to work every day have not been paid in months. We have an amazing international insurance plan. And we have a diverse community of Iraqi and international friends who rallied to care for Micah in every way. Micah took particular joy in the fact that Muslims, Christians, Yezidis, and Jews were all praying for him.

In the midst of such chaos here in Iraq, our hearts are full. Thank you!


Jeremy is the author of Preemptive Love: Pursuing Love One Heart at a Time. Be sure to check out more about Jeremy at

Toilet Talk

This post originally appeared as “One Man’s Countdown to Success” (written by Rachael Chong) on March 4, 2016, at  Used with permission of the author with minimal editing.  This is part 2 of two Jack Sim-related posts.  Part 1 appeared on March 12.


“Today, I have 7,710 days to live,” says Jack Sim, founder of the Restroom Association of SingaporeWorld Toilet Organization and BoP HUB. “I have a countdown to my 80th birthday on my phone. It motivates me to the urgency of living a meaningful, balanced life and to allocate time to the things that need to be done before I die.”

When Jack tells you how many days he has left to live, he does so with the enthusiasm of someone who has been given a second chance at life. Jack has been using death as a motivating force since his 40th birthday, which coincided with the loss of half of his fortune during a recession. Having spent the past 16 years starting a series of successful businesses, he knew he could start over, but with enough money to live comfortably for the next 40 years, Jack reassessed his life goals and chose not to.

Having grown up in a slum in 1950s Singapore, Jack knew the value of—and desire for—money. But he also now realized how easy it was to lose it all due to forces beyond his control. It turns out money was not the goal of life after all.

“Money is a tool for you to do something else,” says Jack. “You need money but after a certain point you don’t need it anymore. You’re just on this planet to spend your time well.”

For nearly twenty years now, Jack has turned his attention away from financial gain and towards humanitarian causes. After leaving the for-profit sector behind, Jack searched for a neglected agenda he could rally behind. He is interested in picking unpopular but important topics, as he believes that these “undervalued” opportunities will give him the chance to make the most impact on the world with the limited time he has left on this planet.

Jack soon discovered that the issue of toilets, or lack thereof, wasn’t being discussed because it was embarrassing and unsavory. While most Americans tend to take bathrooms for granted, a third of the world’s population is living without them, resulting in disease and water contamination. Diseases caused by contact with fecal matter are a leading killer of children in the world. And it’s preventable with the use of toilets.

Jack co-founded the World Toilet Organization in 2001 to help change the mindset, educate the public about the use of toilets and unite organizations working on the same cause in different parts of the world. Over the years, he’s used a combination of humor and hard facts to transform a taboo into a media darling. Now, there’s even a World Toilet Day, celebrated by all 193 countries in the United Nations on November 19th each year. And despite intense competition among issues such as climate change, war, malaria and more, Jack has “managed to keep sanitation and s*** on top of the heap!”

His efforts have not gone unnoticed. He was selected a Schwab Social Entrepreneur in 2001 and a Time Magazine Hero of the Environment in 2008. Jack is impressive because he’s managed to take a single idea and bring people together to maximize the solution’s potential reach.

Jack has now set his sights on an even loftier convening goal: to strengthen cross-sector collaboration among social entrepreneurs working to improve the lives of the four billion people living on $10 or less a day. The BoP Hub facilitates shared services, distribution and growth initiatives among those working on similar issues.

“People are having good ideas that are not being replicated. That’s an idea waste,” says Jack. “Instead of scaling up one entrepreneur, we can scale up an entire industry.”

By harnessing the energy, models and resources of organizations working separately, the potential for transformative ideas and action is limitless. Collaboration could increase the odds that organizations will be more efficient and therefore, succeed at their missions.

However, a nonprofit’s success isn’t currently measured by its progress in achieving its mission but instead through metrics such as dollars raised, membership growth, people served and overhead costs.By redefining success to include mission fulfillment and resource mobilization—both of which can be improved through BoP collaborations—organizations can start to have a greater impact on society at large.

It stands to reason that Jack wants to rewrite the definition of success not only for nonprofits but for individuals as well. After all, the key indicator of an individual’s success in society today is the accumulation of wealth, not on creating value in society and spending one’s time well on this planet.

The measure he’s pushing for is simple: success is less about money and power than it is about helping other people in a meaningful way. In this scenario, Jack says, “Malala is relevant and Donald Trump is not.”

It’s the philosophy by which he’s living out the second half of his life. Being successful is no longer about the number of businesses and homes he owns but instead about the positive impact he’s having on the lives of others by inspiring them to think and act in a way they may not have considered before.

True success came to Jack only after he started counting down the days he had left to make a difference to others.

“On the last day, I want to say, ‘It was a useful life. I have used all the money in a way that I find meaningful and fulfilling, while raising a family with four kids with my wife and having a good relationship with my family, my country, and my planet,’” says Jack.  That will be his greatest success.



Champion of ChangeU Jack Sim is the founder of World Toilet Organization, the Restroom Association of Singapore, the World Toilet College, and the BoP Hub.  Jack has been awarded the following: Ashoka Global FellowSchwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur, and Synergos Senior Fellow.  He is also a member of the World Economic Forum serving on the Global Agenda Council on Water & the Global Agenda Council for Social Innovation.

Malala is a Billionaire (Donald Trump Isn’t): Redefining Success

by Jack Sim

This post originally appeared on April 1, 2015,  in the Huffington Post.  Used with permission of the author with minimal editing.  This is part 1 of two Jack Sim-related posts.  Part 2 will appear on March 19.

I was at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January, among some of the world’s most influential political and business leaders, when it was announced that the wealth of the 85 richest people in the world now equals that of 3.5 billion people — the poorest half of the world’s population.  Oxfam also estimated that by next year, the wealth accumulated by the richest one percent of the world’s population would exceed that of the other 99 percent.  It struck me: if 99 percent of the players can’t win in this money game, isn’t it time to change the game entirely?

The recent Occupy Wall Street movement in New York, the global Occupy movement, and the Arab Spring have exposed a massive meltdown of trust between people and governments. With the slogan “We are the 99%” the Occupy movement protested against a financial system that unfairly benefits a wealthy minority of the population. And the wave of protest sweeping across the Arab world exposed populations who see little relevance of the actions of their governments to their lives.

Growing inequality has been fueled by the capitalist system and a society that values material wealth above all else. And global poverty has been spurred on by the inefficient and inequitable distribution of opportunities in this current system.  We have been seduced by advertisements and mainstream media to attain instant gratification by buying things we don’t need, with money we don’t have to impress the people we don’t like.

The growth of a consumer lifestyle and obsession with ‘having stuff’ has created a wasteful throw-away society that is generating unsustainable levels of waste: in 2013 it was estimated that if business continues as usual, we’re on track to double global waste generation by 2025, and to triple waste generation by 2100 to exceed 11 million tonnes per day.  Extreme consumption has led to the rapid depletion of natural resources both above and below-ground, deforestation of the Amazon, the burning of forests in Indonesia, over-exploitation of our seas, and had an irreversible impact on the planet’s climate.

Reaching saturation point

The addiction of consumerism has today reached several saturation points that are clearly unsustainable.

  1. Saturation of storage space: the clutter in our wardrobes and storage spaces show us clear signs of over-consumption.
  2. Saturation of our body capacity: we are breaching the maximum capacity of nutrition input that our body can accept at a healthy level.
  3. Saturation of waste to landfill: our thruway lifestyle is creating unsustainable levels of waste.
  4. Saturation of the environment’s capacity: we are in ecological overshoot, currently using the earth’s resources at a rate that would require 5 planets to sustain.
  5. Saturation of time: we sell time to make money, leaving little or no time for anything else that matters in our lives.

Yet in Davos at the World Economic Forum, the discussion was how to stimulate more consumption so as to generate the economic multipliers through further borrowing and spending. We know more of the same will simply delay the search of better solutions. Surely now is the time to reflect and ask ourselves what is the meaning the mission statement “improving the state of world.”

Relevance: redefining success
Our society cannot continue with this system that lauds selfishness and rewards arrogance. In our search for a better world order, we need to design a system of recognition that motivates people to take actions with a positive impact on those around them.

I propose that we redefine the meaning of success based on relevance rather than the amassing of money.  A billionaire would then be someone that is relevant to the lives of a billion people, or whose actions positively impact on the lives of many.  In this system someone who hoards their money in a bank would not be as successful as a relatively penniless activist like Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai who has touched the lives of billions. Malala would be considered a “billionaire” as her efforts are relevant to the lives of billions — as a champion for human rights and girls’ education; at the age of 17 she has already had an impact on the lives of billions now and in years to come. And Donald Trump would not be considered a billionaire. He might have “seven billion **** dollars in the bank,” as he once put it, but he’s notoriously stingy when it comes to parting with his wealth for the benefit of society.

From “egosystem” to ecosystem
The current model is a zero sum game that rewards “winners” and punishes “losers.” This “egosystem” driven by the selfish accrual of wealth is unfair: not least for the four billion people living at the bottom of the economic pyramid (BoP) that are excluded from the formal economy. And it’s wasteful: just look at current unemployment rates across much of Europe. To facilitate an inclusive world and mobilize all resources, we need to move from this “egosystem” to an ecosystem approach. There is a long proven sustainable model we can learn from for this: in nature’s ecosystem there is zero waste.

Similarly by taking an ecosystem approach in human society, we could eradicate waste, and set up an inclusive society that works for the whole population, and accepts diversity as a necessity for our survival — just like in nature’s ecosystem.  It is time to reflect on what is relevant to us as people and as a society, and just as importantly what is no longer relevant so that we can find a better way of life going forward.

Let’s improve the state of the world in a way that’s relevant to all of the citizens of the world.


Champion of ChangeU Jack Sim is the founder of World Toilet Organization, the Restroom Association of Singapore, the World Toilet College, and the BoP Hub.  Jack has been awarded the following: Ashoka Global FellowSchwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur, and Synergos Senior Fellow.  He is also a member of the World Economic Forum serving on the Global Agenda Council on Water & the Global Agenda Council for Social Innovation.



A Cafe With a Conscience

This post originally appeared on December 10, 2015 as “Joma Bakery: A Cafe with a Conscience” at   It was written by Nikki Scott, Director,  Used with permission of the author with minimal editing.

Next month, Joma Bakery Café in South East Asia celebrates 20 years of social enterprise! Formed by three Canadian and one Thai founder in 1996, Joma opened the doors of their first two cafés in 1996 in Vientiane and Luang Prabang. The company now has 12 branches in 4 cities and 3 countries in the region (Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia).

So what is the secret to their success? And why are we writing about them?

Here at South East Asia Backpacker we love to tell you about the places that we think are making a positive impact to the environment and communities of South East Asia. Places where as a backpacker, you’ll be spending your money and contributing to a good cause.

Here are some reasons why we love Joma Bakery Café:

 Joma employs staff from disadvantaged backgrounds

“Joma currently has 54 employees that our competitors won’t even interview. This alone is success in my mind.” (Michael Harder – Chief Operating Officer, Joma Bakery Café)

Working with international non-profit organisation Hagar International, Joma hires employees that have come from disadvantaged backgrounds. These could be victims of human trafficking, women and men who have been abused, repatriated refugees or just young men and women who are unskilled and seen as not useful in the eyes of the work force. Joma staff are made up of a lot of people just getting started at life, college students, as well as many who are looked down on socially, such as people with disabilities. In Laos for example, people born with physical disabilities are often not even sent to school!

Joma invests highly in training. Whereas initially it may take longer to train an employee who is at first unskilled and inexperienced, Joma believes that the investment is worth it in so many ways! The individuals usually stay long-term with the company and have a passion and enthusiasm for their work. They find economic hope and financial independence through their work and are incredibly appreciative of the opportunity of safe employment and a pathway to a brighter future. Seeing staff members eventually move on to have a successful career in whatever they choose is highly rewarding when you know that it would have been difficult for them without having been given this initial chance.

Joma also gets to connect with, and help out, amazing grassroots social enterprises that are doing practical good things on a day-to-day basis. Through partnerships such as this, Joma leads by example in their communities and shows other local businesses that running a successful business as well as being socially conscious in this part of the world is indeed possible! It is positive action such as this that causes a benevolent rippling effect throughout society.

Joma promotes fair-trade

The coffee that you’ll drink at Joma Bakery Café is made using quality Arabica coffee beans that are grown on the lush Bolaven Plateau in southern Laos by a community co-operative of farmers. The green beans are shipped directly to each Joma city where they are roasted by local roastmasters.

No mass production or big corporations are involved. The Coffee Farmers Co-operative works with ethnic minority families, such as the Mon-Khmer, who rely entirely on coffee harvests for their income. In 2005, the co-op received a certification to recognise their ongoing efforts to ensure a higher sale price for the local farming families.

With their 2% People and Planet plan, Joma gives 2% of every sale (before profits!) back to the people and planet through various charitable organisations in the communities around their cafes.

Good coffee that helps the environment

Rising to an elevation of 1,350 metres, the beautiful Bolaven Plateau region in Champasak province, Laos, is perfect coffee growing country. With cool temperatures, rich volcanic soil and plenty of rainfall, the conditions are just right for the cultivation of world-class coffee beans.

The coffee trees are shade-grown, which means forests are not harmed by planting the coffee trees. Rather, the forest actually helps the coffee trees by giving much needed shade from direct sunlight, and balancing the soil’s nutrients. The Bolaven Plateau provides prime coffee-growing conditions such as volcanic soil, high elevation, cool temperatures, and ample rainfall. This mutually beneficial environment also maintains the natural habitats of native birds and insects. The Arabica plant has been found to thrive in these elements, yielding one of the world’s most rare and distinctive coffees.

Joma cares about great quality food

So we’ve heard all of the amazing things that Joma is doing in the community. What about what Joma can do for you?

You can bet your next coffee that everything you eat in Joma is homemade, natural, fresh and most of all, clean! You won’t be in danger of getting ill from lack of hygiene here! Bread and baked goods are made fresh on-site every day and there are no artificial sweeteners or preservatives in that chocolate chip cookie! Every ingredient is sourced specifically to ensure the best quality, whether it’s found abroad (like their New Zealand butter) or locally (like their fresh passionfruit juice) or prepared specially in house (like their gourmet ice cream).

A big hit with homesick backpackers are Joma’s range of delicious bagels (the bagel egger is a must try!), as well vegetarian options, hearty breakfasts, healthy wraps, sandwiches and fresh crunchy salads, which can be hard to come by when travelling in this part of the world.

Joma’s best sellers are their lattes and cappuccinos (served ice cold, if you like, as a cool pick me up in Southeast Asia’a tropical weather), as well as the tasty mango fruit shake. For lunch, you certainly won’t be disappointed with Joma’s delicious freshly-made BLT, chicken caesar wrap, mango sesame salad or pumpkin soup. And for something sweet? Joma’s coconut cake, carrot cake and amazing almond croissants are to die for!

So, when you’re fed up of rice, you’ll know where to go to get some satisfying comfort food, and why not pick up a box of oatmeal cookies for that long bus journey ahead? Check out Joma’s online menu here and you’ll notice excellent value for money prices too!

 Joma has friends in the right places

They say to judge a person by their friends and Joma’s friends are pretty amazing! As well as Hagar International, Joma regularly works with local NGOs to help the community around them.

Recently Joma have been supporting the Laos Girls Teen Project, an organisation in Luang Prabang that is working to educate girls in neighbouring provinces and countryside about their bodies as they enter puberty. Many girls quit school when puberty begins, because they don’t know how to take care of their bodies and therefore jeopardising their futures and their means of having financial independence. Joma has been helping out conducting workshops for young girls and providing them with informative books and the “welcome teenager” bags.

Joma also financially support Laos NGO, Pencils of Promise (founded by another Champion of ChangeU, Adam Braun)an organisation dedicated to improving the literacy rate in Laos. (Currently 30% of Laos is illiterate, with even higher rates of illiteracy amongst ethnic minorities). The money that Joma provides goes towards building schools and equipping teachers every day.

Other NGOs that Joma support include; Soap4Life – an organisation doing great work in Laos with vocational training for women and health education for children; AbundantWater.Org – an NGO that helps remote communities stop disease and death with clean water using clay-pottery water filter technology and many, many more!

Michael Harder, COO of Joma Bakery & Cafe, a Champion of ChangeU, wanted to share this previously published blog post from Southeast Asia Backpacker to show the kind of impact you can have with a vision of positively changing the lives of those living with any variety of human insecurities – and doing something about turning that vision into reality.