Kamara Jones


There’s one bus in particular that is always late during my evening commute home. When I’m tired of waiting for it I’ll often request an Uber. There are lots of people who take that same bus who can’t afford to request an Uber. In fact, lots of them don’t have smartphones to check and see when the bus is coming. I realize that I am privileged to have what I have, and for these reasons, I give what I am able to give.

Location: Washington, DC

Profession: Communications Professional

Twitter Handle: @whokjones  

What was the first charitable gift?

The first charitable gift that I can remember giving was several years ago when my workplace adopted a family for the holidays and I bought a few toys that were on their Christmas list. I think I participated initially because I wanted to be part of the group.However, during the holidays I am generally more cognizant of what I have. When I reviewed the family’s wish list I saw lots of things on there that I had as a child. Seeing the items that the children wanted – the small things, books and toys, etc. – really hit home. I was moved by the small things they couldn’t fulfill on their own.

What is your charity of choice?

I don’t really have a charity of choice as of now. The organization that probably comes closest to “my charity of choice” is Habitat for Humanity. Habitat for Humanity is close to my heart because I just became a homeowner, and I own a home in an area where people don’t own.

For me, ownership equates to fulfillment; it connects you to people and a community; it’s the first step in lifting people out of poverty; it’s the foundation for building wealth.

Who inspires you to give?

My mother inspires me to give. She’s always willing to carry weight that some people aren’t able or willing to carry. When I was growing up she always made sure that my cousins that needed clothes had them – whether they were new or gently worn. I recently learned, from family members, that she gives to them when they’re in tough situations.

My dad is also very generous. I also learned later in life that my father helped my neighbors financially over the years.  Both of my parents instilled in me the importance of helping those around you, if you can. They demonstrated how to give with humility, and without power attached to it. For them, and for me, giving is a selfless act.

What motivates you to give?

My mother will tell you that I’ve always liked helping people. There’s a sense of peace that comes with knowing that your time or money has helped further a purpose or a person. I also think guilt motivates me to give. Although I’ve worked hard to get what I have, I started that journey with a head start (i.e. two-parent, middle-class home, quality public education) that a lot of people don’t get. If my time or money can help get them that head start, I’m happy to give it.

When you’re exposed to certain levels of poverty you realize that though you may not have had certain things, there are people with less. I ride the bus every day and I see people without the basics. Knowing that some people lack the basics – clean clothes, food, etc – stirs up a sense of guilt.

There’s one bus in particular that is always late during my evening commute home. When I’m tired of waiting for it I’ll often request an Uber. There are lots of people who take that same bus who can’t afford to request an Uber. In fact, lots of them don’t have smartphones to check and see when the bus is coming. I realize that I am privileged to have what I have, and for these reasons, I give what I am able to give.

How do you give of your time?

I have participated in beautification days. I spent almost three weeks in South Africa a few years ago building homes for people living in shantytowns. I also help people on a one-on-one basis. I am communications professional so family and friends often ask me to help them write or edit certain materials – resumes, cover letters, formal documents, etc. I most always oblige.

Further, I allow my interests to guide how I give of my time. I like contemporary art so I recently became a volunteer at a local museum. For me this work is important because I’m in a space, a sector, where people of color are not well represented as visitors and as staffers.

If you could start your own charity, what would it be?

I would start a charity that provided low-income people and families with affordable homeownership opportunities.

What advice do you have for others to consider giving?

I would tell them that they should give to organizations or causes that they truly believe in. I would also tell them to use their natural talents to help people, and to do what they feel comfortable doing. People’s diverse talents are needed at all levels, and in all spaces. In a recent interview with Gaby Wood, Toni Morrison describes how she used her strengths as a form of activism. Wood writes:

At her apartment in lower Manhattan, I ask her about the ways in which American literature has changed, and she volunteers that she “had something to do with that”. But she is not referring to her own fiction. “I said, I can’t march, I have small children,” she tells me. “I’m not the marching type anyway. So when I went into publishing, I thought, the best I can do is to publish the works of those who are out there – like Angela Davis, Huey Newton – and the literature. And let it be edited by someone who understands the language, and understands the culture (Source). For Morrison, and for me, sharing your natural talents is a key form of giving and activism.

Lastly, I would tell them to be sure to keep a record of their donations and deduct them from their taxes. A lot of people might think that’s selfish, but I think it’s smart.



Ashley Bowden

About

Ashley Bowden is a development professional with over five years of experience in the arts and cultural sectors. Her passion for museums and the creation of opportunities for people to learn about themselves and the world around them are her driving forces. Ashley holds a BA in Development Studies from the University of California, Berkeley, and MA degrees in African American and African Studies, and History Museum Studies from The Ohio State University and The Cooperstown Graduate Program, respectively.


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Why We Give tells stories of ordinary philanthropists, making a difference, dollar by dollar and hour by hour.  

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