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How resave.org came to be, a candid story.

Updated: May 7, 2020

I figure the first post should be dedicated to a less formal introduction of how the social enterprise idea and the project in Dominica got to be what they are now.


I always wanted to do something meaningful, but I didn't really know what it was exactly.



The first iteration of resave.org


I initially tought up the name, designed the logo and bought the domain in the summer of 2017, my initial idea was to make an e-commerce platform selling eco-friendly products and use the proceeds to buy land for conservation in endangered areas. You would save the environment once by buying, and we would save it again by utilizing the profits for its protection."To save again" is the definition of resave, hence the name.


You would save the environment once by buying, and we would save it again by utilizing the profits for its protection."To save again" is the definition of resave, hence the name.

But the more I thought about it, the less it made sense. How was I really affecting meaningful change on anything by drop shipping bamboo toothbrushes in large boxes on heavy boats from China. I could market it as meaningful, but let's face it, it really wouldn't be. The whole process offsets itself. So I dropped that idea and resave.org got shelved for a bit, but I kept paying the registration for it. I didn't want to give up my hope to be able to make a difference, and I kinda liked the name. I knew I was gonna do something sometime with it.


A few months later, investments that I had made in cryptocurrency blew up several orders of magnitudes and for the first time ever I found myself with way more money than I needed. It made sense more than ever to give back, and since I had disposable funds, I could afford to work on a project that wasn't as self-sustainable financially.



The second iteration of resave.org


I always had the sense growing up a bit poor that most adults didn't think arts were a viable occupation, economically speaking. I had always enjoyed drawing and was ok at it, but never talented enough to want to make it a career, yet I felt that if I had, my decision might have been influenced negatively.


So I had been juggling the idea of subsidizing supplies for kids from low-income areas that were interested in pursuing arts, and creating a free portal online for them to showcase and sell their art. To give them the means to practice their craft, and to allow them to grow in confidence regarding their ability to make a living out of it. It seemed like a nice way to open doors to kids for whom they might have stayed closed otherwise.


I could partner up with schools in these districts and use the input of art teachers to identify kids who may be interested in receiving a grant to jump start their art career. I could finance the grants and we could sell branded apparel to meet operating costs so we wouldn't need to rake the kids' profits, and if it took off hopefully it could become self-funding before I ran out of funds.


I started working at it, creating the web portal gallery, setting up the payment systems, ordering apparel samples. I hired a friend of mine who was a brilliant urban planning student as an assistant to help me get a jump start on things. It was about to be real.


I started working at it, creating the web portal gallery, setting up the payment systems, ordering apparel samples. I hired a friend of mine who was a brilliant urban planning student as an assistant to help me get a jumpstart on things. It was about to be real. Unfortunately, ...

Unfortunately, before we even got to do any meaningful work, the cryptocurrency exchange platform that I was using to trade, QuadrigaCX, which was holding all my unsold cryptocurrency assets, went belly up. The company collapsed due to the owner "dying" in suspect conditions while in India, taking with him "to the grave" the private keys to over 200 million dollars in cash and cryptocurrency. Close to six figures in my case. He disappeared defrauding thousands of investors, just after leaving behind a trust for his dogs, and jets and mansions for his spouse and relatives. We are to this day waiting on funds from the dissolution of the estate after they surrendered it to avoid prosecution. If you are not familiar with the case, it is definitely worth googling (but not now though, keep reading this).



This caused me to lose a vast portion of my capital and forced me to let go of my friend and abandon the project, having no means to finance it, nor the ability to take time off work now that things were tighter again. I had sold off a portion of my assets already before the collapse, so I wasn't completely ruined, but I had to get back to being in a better spot myself before I could get back to helping others. So I dropped that other idea and resave.org got shelved for a bit, again, but I kept paying the registration for it, again. I still didn't want to give up for good.


This caused me to lose a vast portion of my capital and forced me to let go of my friend and abandon the project, having no means to finance it, nor the ability to take time off work now that things were tighter again.

So I kept working my regular job, I even started a B.Sc in international business for some reason. The following year I bought a restaurant with one of my best friends and her husband. After I quit my current job, but before we took possession and started renovations on the restaurant, I decided to go for a couple weeks of vacation in the Commonwealth of Dominica, a small island-nation in the West Indies. I had lived there for almost two years, split on two separate occasions in 2007 and 2009, and hadn't been since then. It still remained to this day my favorite place in the world.



The third iteration of resave.org


Dominica waking up from Hurricane Maria, September 2017


I was aware that they had been hit almost two years ago by Hurricane Maria, but after ten years away from the island, I didn't have regular contact with people there anymore. What was not my surprise when arriving on the plane I could still see dead trees by the thousands, making the jungle seem shallow. The road to my village from the airport ran many miles, with derelict and broken down structures scattered alongside it here and there. More than I imagined, two years after the fact. I saw roofs still made of the infamous gray US AID tarp holdings. A minute into entering the village and I noticed the home of one of my friends was gone. No trace. I was petrified.


The only photo I have of his house, a 47 year old Benji and a 21 year old me hanging out on the front steps in 2009, versus how it looks now, and a crude idea of where the house was. There are no traces of it whatsoever. Benji is fine however, for those who might worry.


The road to my village from the airport ran many miles, with derelict and broken down structures all the way alongside it. A minute into entering the village and I noticed the home of one of my friends was gone. No trace. I was petrified.

I was visiting people I hadn't seen in a decade, without any heads up, and all of a sudden it dawned on me that they may not even be there anymore. I had heard about Maria hitting hard, but what you see in the news is not the same as in person, even two years after. The house I was headed to was visible from the top of the hill arriving into the village since the hurricane had leveled all the large trees that used to block the view, so I knew that it was still standing.


The roof had been torn off and rebuilt, but all the partition walls were still gone and the house was now a makeshift loft. The lady that I used to live with, Nathalie, was 76 years old when I was there last in 2009. She was now much older and with dementia, but she was there. Old and tough as the nails holding the remnants of the house together. She didn't recognize me for a long minute and it made me cry. She was the most important to me with her son, with whom I also used to live in that house, and that had since moved to the USA.


Despite having showed up unannounced after ten years, within an hour of having been dropped off in my old village I was provided with a house to myself and a hot plate of food to eat. I had brought my tent and didn't ask anything of anyone, but that's just how they are. Nathalie's daughter is the principal of a school in another village so she let me have her place for the time she was away. Nilda, one of Nathalie's relatives that I had never met before, was living in her house and taking good care of her, so she did the same for me and cooked me a delicious meal.


That evening I was very distraught at how things were, and how oblivious I had been, living thousands of miles away. I felt stupid for having searched long and hard what good I could do back home when there were people I called friends who had lost their homes here. I knew that I needed to do something about it.


That evening I was very distraught at how things were, and how oblivious I had been, living thousands of miles away. I felt stupid for having searched long and hard what good I could do back home when there were people I called friends who had lost their homes here. I knew that I needed to do something about it.

A few years after I originally lived in Dominica, I had planned to go back for a year of travel through the Caribbean and Central America. I wanted to do survival videos and document my trip so I had bought a GoPro and another camera. A week into that trip though, my little sister had been diagnosed with cancer (she's in full remission now, don't worry) and I had elected to cancel the trip and fly back to live in my parents' home for the time being so I could be close to her. All that to say that I had all this camera gear lying around so I decided to bring it with me in Dominica this time and do some of those survival videos.


That evening however, it seemed preposterous to be on vacation and enjoy myself, seeing what I had seen. That's how I got the idea to film around and try to get relevant content about the local situation rather than just my trip itself. I thought it was the best way that I could get enough engagement from people back home to raise some funds and come back to make a difference. Talking with people I got to have a sense of exactly what they needed and got to thinking about how I could make it happen.


There were two things that stood out:


First, there were still people that had damaged houses from the previous storms, and that lacked the funds to purchase the materials for the repairs. That was priority number one, needing to be addressed before the next hurricane season.


Secondly, the village being the last one at the end of a very remote road, it had only one way out, which had rapidly been cutoff by landslides and trees in past storms and had remained closed for a while. So the village needed a strong, secure and accessible hurricane shelter for people to use during the storms, and for a while after if their home were damaged or destroyed, until help and materials could get to them. That was more complex, costly and needed actual planning.


I then thought out a plan to bring it to life. First I'd use my own shitty cameras and get some content (150 hours of mostly rubbish footage) regarding the place and the help they needed. Then I'd go back home, and get the restaurant started, because as much as I was focused on helping them, I was only on a small two-week vacation before the reality of having poured all my life savings into a restaurant was going to come crashing in. We had renovations to do and a whole business to build from scratch, but when that was done I would use the place as a venue to host live-event fundraiser events where people could buy a ticket to come eat and drink and learn about the country though the videos. It wouldn't be much content, but enough to get the ball rolling, enough to get people intrigued. I could use all the profits from the ticket sales and hopefully additional donations to fund the first phase of reconstruction.


Then I would go back, this time with a friend whom is a talented video maker and graphic artist that I roped into volunteering. While we worked on the reconstruction of the damaged properties, we would also be able to do an actual professional looking mini-documentary. Beyond covering our own project, there would be so much to show. We could do portraits of people, showcasing their stories, so that people fall in love with them as I have. We could do pieces on the country's effort to become climate resilient, which are vast and commendable. On the nature, the politics, the culture. This in turn would now be substantial enough to serve as a means of promotion for the second phase of the project where we would need significantly more funds to achieve the construction of hurricane shelters. We could take it online and public and get a crowd going.


The more I thought about it, the more it seemed like this was actually a good idea, even on a bigger scale. What if we could create a self-perpetuating circle of good deed and good content. Use ad revenue to leverage the content showcasing the previous projects into funding the next ones. The more people watch, the more budget you have, the more budget the bigger the impact, the bigger the impact the larger the engagement, the larger the engagement the more people watch...


The more people watch, the more budget you have, the more budget the bigger the impact, the bigger the impact the larger the engagement, the larger the engagement the more people watch...

And so resave.org was reborn once more. I had finally found the idea that would allow me to dedicate my life to doing good around the world. The best part was that it was leveraging capitalism against itself, using ads, one of the perfidious tools of commerce, to finance humanitarian and environmental projects. Sweet irony.


Viewership finances the entirety of world entertainment, imagine how much good it can do when the camera is pointed in the right direction.Of course at the beginning donations would be necessary, and they would probably always be welcome, but it wasn't far fetched to think that in due time enough people might be watching not to depend on them.


Imagine coming back from work, you take it easy, put up the channel on your laptop while you're cooking dinner. It plays while you cook, it's positive and engaging. Or you're on the bus coming back from work, after a bad day, watching our latest project take form. It's about this thing we're building, it's changing people's lives, makes you feel good.


Because not only does it feel good watching people do good things, it does, but because you are actually participating. While you were busy cooking, or looking out the bus window, a couple ads played, they weren't really bothersome. They yielded us maybe a penny or two. Meanwhile a few millions of people watched a little bit too. These millions of pennies become thousands of dollars. These thousands of dollars become food baskets, blankets, roofing nails or whatever is needed for the current project.


I don't know about you, but it feels like a very worthy thing to do. Instead of the next influencer buying some overpriced make-up or a flashy car, you know your viewership led somewhere. It even beats giving money to a big charity knowing a major part of the funds often end up wasted on the board of directors comprised of rich elites, and their posh lobbying events masquerading as "fundraisers".


And if you're wondering about me, what prevents me from buying overpriced make-up?

Well, I lived for months in a tiny shack with no electricity or bathroom in the middle of the jungle. I lived for a year at a temple academy in remote mountains of China, training in kung fu with a Shaolin monk. You can trust me when I tell you I don't need, or want, much material things. That being said, if you want to know more about me, I think it's fair, and so I've made this page for that.

Where I lived for my second year in Dominica, about two hours' walk from Petite-Soufrière.



So this is it, this is the idea, I'm moving forward with it. We open our restaurant in mid-October 2019. First few months are tough, insane hours to get the restaurant started, but it pays off and we are getting great success. We have a great end of December and close for the holidays. During that time I go spend two weeks at the place of my video maker friend to work on the project and discuss the plan. I get back home and start editing videos and organizing future fund raising events. I'm working hard at it, and then, enter COVID-19. A flashy entrance I might add. All 2020 plans exit stage left. We have to shut down the business, lay off all our staff including ourselves and go home. I am devastated, times two.


I'm working hard at it, and then, enter COVID-19. A flashy entrance I might add. All 2020 plans exit stage left. We have to shut down the business, lay off all our staff including ourselves and go home. I am devastated, times two.

Fortunately, this feeling of dread didn't last so long. I must say I'm the least patriotic person ever, I prefer to think of myself as a citizen of the world: I've traveled to many countries and lived a quarter of my adult life abroad. That being said, I have to admit that I was extremely proud to be a Canadian at this time. The reaction of both the people and the government was admirable. People stayed home, like I did, and those who were financially impacted from that got well taken care of. And quality free healthcare was never a question.


Within days of stopping working I applied for unemployment, for the first time in my life, and then just days later got put on the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit. A couple weeks after that, we applied for a partially forgivable loan for the business and got it right away. It very quickly seemed like we we're going to make it out okay-ish after all.


My mind instantly reverted back to Dominica and resave.org. How in the world was I supposed to organize fund-raising events in my restaurant if there was no restaurant, and no date in sight for a reopening. Hurricanes don't give two shits about social distancing and my timeline. Comes summer, they will start tearing it up no matter what.


Well, if you've read this far, first thank you, and second, well, this is it. We are a month later, and after an ungodly amount of hours staring at my screen so that everything is perfect, I have this thing. The website is the best that I can do with the material that I have to reach people regarding this project. It's like we're jumping to warp speed straight from the dock.


I've made the first videos much longer than I originally thought, the footage was mostly bad, but I managed to piece a few things together and add some informative stuff as well, to try and make it like a baby of what I hope to be able to shoot while we're building.


This is where we are now, thank you for reading this until the end. I hope we embark on this journey together!


Jay


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