Author Archives: jaysears

Back to the School Build: Senegal in T-Minus Six Weeks

There was never any doubt if–the only question was when

In late March, Team Dayā will be back Building Change

For the first time since the global pandemic derailed our plans, a small intrepid group will be heading to Senegal in West Africa to work on a school build.

“A school is an open door to the world,” said Michael “The Bricklayer” Benedek, CEO of the independent data marketplace Datonics and one of the Team Dayā members that will be heading to Senegal. “It is truly humbling to be part of such an amazing cause and help open a world of opportunity to a community so far from home.”

Of course none of this is possible without you–and the myriad of our supporters from across the technology, advertising and media sectors.

Why Senegal

Senegal currently ranks 168 out of 189 countries on the UN Human Development Index. Nearly half of all Senegalese over the age of 15 are illiterate and more than 6 million (38 percent of the  total population) are living below the poverty line of $1.90 a day. Nearly half of all children living in rural areas are not enrolled in school, compared to 21 percent in urban areas. 

We will be sharing details about our school building project in the weeks leading up to our departure–be sure to follow us.

Three Ways You Can Help

  1. Make a Donation Online
    1. Example investment opportunities:
      1. $100 Five shovels for excavating the school’s solid foundation
      2. $250 All the nails, nuts, and bolts to build a roof for the school
      3. $500 In-country mason during the entire construction of the school
      4. $1,000 Paint for a school
  2. Spread the Word
    1. Share our mission with your friends, your company and your industry
    2. Invite us to speak about our mission to your network
    3. Follow us on our website, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram
  3. Join the Team & Travel on a School Build
    1. If you have a combination of fundraising chops, an adventurous spirit and the belief each of us has the capacity to be Building Change, get in touch with us and have a conversation.

Meet the Team Dayā Members Traveling to Senegal

Michael “The Bricklayer” Benedek. Michael is the president and CEO of leading independent data marketplace Datonics, with over 25 years in the Internet, financial services and healthcare fields based in New York and in Tel Aviv.

Hasan “Trust & Transparency” Arik. Hasan is the founder & CEOof Redmill Solutions, a specialist media data management company headquartered in London. He has worked at Mediacom and GroupM.

Jay “The Instigator” Sears. Jay is the founder of Team Dayā and a longtime ad tech executive. He has worked at Mastercard, Rubicon Project, Pulsepoint, ContextWeb, EDGAR Online and Wolff New Media.

We will be telling each of you more about the Senegal school build both leading up to, during and after the build.

Thanks again for your continued support,

All of us at Team Dayā

Watch Wolff Howl – On Demand

If you missed our annual fundraiser with journalist Michael Wolff, author of Fire & Fury and Siege, and IAB Executive Chair Randall Rothenberg holding a fireside chat discussing Trump, Biden, the US elections and the transfer of power, you can now watch it on demand.

Not on NetFlix or Hulu or Disney Plus. Watch the fireside chat exclusively right here on – it is Donation Video on Demand! 

In all seriousness, watch the replay, and if you missed our fundraiser and can make a donation, we appreciate it. Until December 31st, The Trade Desk is matching your donations up to USD $40,000. Donate here.

Randall and Michael played themselves in classic fashion, with a fun, insightful chat on American politics between two old friends.

Editorial note: in classic 2020 fashion, Randall’s camera malfunctioned for the first few minutes. All other bloopers were edited out, only seen by our production staff or left in on purpose ;)-. Enjoy.

Holiday Fundraiser with Michael Wolff & Randall Rothenberg on Tuesday, December 8th, 6pm ET

Please join Team Dayā for its virtual holiday fundraiser featuring a fireside chat discussing Trump, Biden, the US elections and the transfer of power with journalist Michael Wolff, author of Fire & Fury and Siege, and IAB Executive Chair Randall Rothenberg. The event will be held Tuesday, December 8th, 2020 at 6pm ET.

After a brief Team Dayā welcome and update, Randall will conduct a fireside chat with Michael.

After registration, we are requesting each attendee make an online donation via the link that will be provided on the confirmation page. You can register on our eventbrite page.

Matching Grant & Pandemic Updates from Team Dayā


We hope this post finds you and your family safe and healthy during this pandemic. We are writing with updates including a new challenge grant we have been given for the month of August 2020.

First, one of our current supporters, Shiv Gupta, the founder of the digital marketing education company U of Digital, will match the next $4,000 in contributions to Team Dayā.

If you are able, please consider a gift.

The other good news is we have an expanding team that is ready to go into the field to resume school building in 2021, post pandemic, when we get the green light from our non-profit partner buildOn.

In addition to our Nepal team members (who all intend to participate in future school builds), our new team members include Michael Benedek of Datonics, Gerry Berton of Microsoft and Youssef Ben Youssef of Roku. These individuals have committed to a personal fundraising goal as well as traveling to a future school groundbreaking.

The pandemic has been a time of reflection for many of us. We want Team Dayā to come out stronger than ever on the other side of this. This means continuing to build our core team and staying ahead of our fundraising goals. Our non-profit partner buildOn has seen donations drop 20% this year, so if you have the means, please consider a 2020 gift.

Want to smile?

Remember our first schoolhouse in Dhayapur, Nepal was completed in February before the world started to shut down in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nepal has been impacted like everywhere else, but as of now, schools are scheduled to reopen this month.

Our second school groundbreaking, scheduled for Malawi in East Africa in April, was postponed just five weeks prior to departure. Schools in Malawi remain closed at the moment with the looming possibility of a country lock-down to curb a recent rise in COVID numbers.

Help Team Dayā stay healthy during this pandemic so we can rise stronger than ever after this pandemic. With your help, we can be prepared to break the cycle of poverty and illiteracy in some of the poorest countries on earth.

Donate to Team Dayā. August donations will be matched (up to $4,000) by Shiv Gupta and digital marketing education company U of Digital.

Have questions? Think you or a friend might want to join our team? Please get in touch – we would love to hear from you.

Grateful for your support,

Jay Sears
Team Dayā

Dhayapur, Nepal Completes Schoolhouse, Help Us Do It Again

(PHOTO: School is in session in Dhayapur, Nepal.)

Just four months after breaking ground in Dhayapur, Nepal, the local community, in conjunction with Team Dayā and its supporters, and our non-profit partner buildOn, has completed the construction of a beautiful yellow, maroon and white three-room schoolhouse. The students and teachers are already at work in the school.

On behalf of Dhayapur, buildOn and Team Dayā, we want to send a very big Dhan’yavāda (thank you in Nepali) to all our supporters. Doing this was a dream before we began the group in November 2018, and now we can point to our first successful school completion.

See photos of the completed school just below.

We hope you will continue your support of Team Dayā as we keep building change. We have scheduled two school groundbreakings in 2020 – the first in just 60 days (late April) in Malawi (East Africa) and a second in October in Guatemala (Central America).

Let’s do it again! Please consider making a contribution.



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Team Dayā Malawi Groundbreaking

Some of you might consider getting more involved or even traveling with the team to a school groundbreaking in 2020 or 2021. We are holding two information sessions at the LUMA Partner’s New York office in the coming weeks–on Wednesday, March 4th from 4pm – 6pm and a second session on Thursday, May 7th from 4pm – 6pm (please RSVP).

We hope to see you soon and thank you again for your support. And the best part – photos of the new school in Dhayapur, Nepal:

And the final weeks of construction:

Please donate to Team Dayā ( दया) to help us build primary schools in Nepal, Malawi, Guatemala and other impoverished places.

School Building Progress in Dhayapur, Nepal

When Team Dayā left Dhayapur this past October, we had successfully completed the school groundbreaking, working with the community to dig the foundation and organize various materials (stone, brick, rebar) that would be used for the school construction.

The Dhayapur community, along with skilled labor provided by our non profit partner buildOn, has made amazing progress on the three room school house and the accompanying girls and boys latrine since the October groundbreaking. Here are a few photos of the work through the first week of January.

Your donations made this happen! Please consider making a 2020 donation to Team Dayā so we can continue our school building work.

If you scroll down below this new album, you can see a few photos on what things looked like in October during the ground breaking, just 90 days ago. We expect the community will complete the school between now and the end of February or so. We’ll continue to provide updates.

-Team Dayā

PHOTO, below: Team Dayā member Jordan Mitchell at the groundbreaking ceremony in October.

PHOTO, below: The first days of activity were a lot of intense, manual labor – all the foundation was excavated by hand using hoes and shovels.

PHOTO, below: After the first week of work, the foundation was excavated and the footing and column work was underway.

The Covenant, Thumbprints, Shovels and the Future

I knew it would be remarkable. Still, nothing properly prepared me.

The six of us traveled a long way to finally arrive in the village of Dhayapur in the remote lowland Terai region of Nepal. We arrived to great celebration ahead of the school groundbreaking that would happen the next morning. The community celebration included three hours of music, dancing and speeches. And the signing of the covenant.

We had been told about the covenant signing–an agreement between our NGO partner buildOn and the community that memorializes the commitments of all parties. Community members agree to provide all the manual labor needed to build the school house, as well as equal school access for girls and boys.

Illiteracy rates are strikingly high in areas such as this. Many, especially women, are unable to sign their own name and instead use an ink pad to leave a thumb print as a signature. People line up to sign the covenant and then you see it–women leaving their thumb prints, agreeing to put their own sweat equity to build a school house that will break a cycle of illiteracy and poverty for their daughters, sons and community.

The next morning we were shoulder to shoulder with those same women, digging the foundation of the new school house.

If you are looking for evidence of hope, optimism and conviction the future can be a better place, go look in Dhayapur, Nepal.

Please consider making a donation to Team Dayā to help break the cycle of illiteracy and poverty in a community.

Team Dayā: Our 2020 Plans for Malawi & Guatemala

Happy holidays from Team Dayā!

Thanks to each of you, 2019 was a great first year for Team Dayā, a group of your friends from the advertising & technology industries who are building primary schools in some of the most impoverished places in the world.

We went from an idea to completing our first school groundbreaking in Dhayapur, Nepal in October 2019 just twelve months after our founding. We could not have done this without the financial support from hundreds of our friends in the advertising and technology industries, including major gifts from The Trade Desk and WideOrbit. Please take a minute to look at photos and read two heartwarming firsthand accounts of our Nepal groundbreaking.

We are doubling down in 2020, with two scheduled school groundbreakings. The first groundbreaking will be April 19, 2020 in Malawi (East Africa). Our second groundbreaking will be October 11, 2019 in Guatemala (Central America).

We need your help to make these projects in 2020 happen, and to continue to plan to grow our efforts in 2021 and 2022. Here is how you can be part of our team:

Thanks and best wishes for a fantastic 2020.

-Jay, Jordan, Suman, Jaryd, Winnie, Hasan & Gerry

Successful Team Dayā New York City Fundraiser

(PHOTO, ABOVE: At the fundraiser, Team Dayā members Winnie Yang, Jordan Mitchell, Suman Chagarlamudi, Jaryd Knutsen and Jay Sears report on the first school groundbreaking.)

A big thanks to our industry friends that came out to Team Dayā’s first ever holiday fundraiser in New York City on Wednesday, December 11, 2019. It had only been about six weeks since returning from our first school groundbreaking in Nepal, and it was a great opportunity to share photos and stories of the experience.

We had a great turnout from the industry including Ed Carey of Audience Town; Alex Barocas of Boston Consulting Group; Steve Woolway of DoubleVerify; Alex Moore of Facebook; Michael Gellar; Dave DiAngelo of InMobi; David Jacobs of; Nick Jordan of Narrative I/O; Caitlin Nelson of Narrative I/O; Preeti Farooque of Pinterest; Matt Prohaska of Prohaska Consulting; Ariff Quli of QMedia LLC; Michael Chevallier of Rubicon Project; Laila Corcino of Rubicon Project; Michael Collins of Spire Capital Partners; Catherine Dale of SpoxX; Aaron Shuster of Transunion; Dave Aston of WideOrbit; Aftin Coakley of WideOrbit; Frederick Lee of WideOrbit; Will Offeman of WideOrbit; and Martin Walsh of WideOrbit.

A big, big thanks to Laila Corcino and the Rubicon Project for the donation of the event space, food and drinks for the event.

Winnie Yang on a Journey to Build Change

by Team Dayā member Winnie Yang

Arriving from Kathmandu at the Dhangadhi Airport, we were picked up by buildOn. After two days of immersion studies (including visiting a school built three years ago), we drove for two-hour bus ride to Dhayapur – a village one mile from the border of India.

Upon our arrival, we were greeted with garlands, music and an entire agenda of introductions, speeches from the mayor, dances, covenant signing and blessings. Since we are building a government school, the mayor of the district came to welcome us and assure his and the community’s sense of ownership to the initiative. We were then introduced to our host family (pictured with our bua).

Our days started at 6am, where the whole community would come together to practice yoga. Led by the guru, each day’s class got a little harder. By the last day, he showed us how to levitate.

Before each morning’s work, we’d get together in a circle; one member from Team Daya and one member from the community spoke briefly about what this build meant to him/ her. Before we would break, the speakers would scream ‘Ha Mi’ (‘we are’ in Nepali), while the rest of us screamed ‘buildOn’, three times – this got us revved up before the day’s work!

Each day we’d build from 8am – 1pm, when the sun became a little too intense.

Day 1 of the build we dug out the foundation. buildOn’s engineers and builders were onsite, directing us to dig varying depths. As an agricultural community, they came prepared with their own shovels and hoes.

Occasionally, we’d hide in the shade and dance (someone brought their boombox).

The next couple of days consisted of forming a lot of human chains to pass dhongas (‘stone’ in Nepali), cement and brick. We also made rebar which is harder than it looks. Rebar helps to safeguard columns and roofs against earthquakes. Previously built schools not required to have rebar risk concaved/ leaking ceilings after an earthquake or general age of the building, forcing schools to be canceled during the monsoon season.

Cultural immersion afternoons were my favorite times of the day. Here we’d have chat circles with the community to discuss gender equality, education disparity, modern day slavery and general day-to-day life. We’d reflect amongst ourselves of the purpose of our voluntourism trip, the concepts of wants versus needs, and what it means to be truly happy.

Grandma is telling us about her arranged marriage, how she came to know about it and live a boisterous life with her husband of now 65 years.

Hospitality is the cornerstone of Nepali culture. Our family welcomed us as their new son and daughter; they gave us their one-bedroom, cooked dal bhat (stewed vegetables from their farm, lentil soup over rice) that we still dream about, as we shared cultural and familial similarities every night. The two boys Niraj (11th grade) and Hitesh (8th grade) went to private schools nearby, they were getting ready to celebrate Diwali.

The dancing continued, along with speeches of gratitude and shared kinship for new friendships bonded. We’re all Facebook friends!

By the time we left, the foundation was about done, and rebar columns were up. A photo received a couple of days ago from the community shows much progress. As part of the signed covenant, the community made a promise to finish construction within 106 days from breaking ground.

Around Dhayapur