PROVO — For children around the world, story time is not always a childhood staple. Hannah Giacalone, a student at Brigham Young University, is working to change that — one book at a time.
Her company, The Maafia (may-fee-uh) Project, is starting a line of original children’s books in conjunction with reading workshops in the hopes of increasing childhood literary rates. For each book purchased, one will be given to a child living in a third world country. The books feature life in different parts of the world.
The first book is a story about life in New York with colorful illustrations by Amelia Hillebrant, another BYU student. The second book will be set in New Zealand and is the stepping-stone to more stories from around the globe.
“The first round of books will be personally delivered by me, my illustrator and my business partner, Kellie Addison. Taking it from there, we hope to personally deliver all of the donated books and spend time teaching reading workshops to the kids that receive them,” Giacalone said.
The project was inspired by Giacalone’s personal experience on a trip to Ghana, where she lived in a village without a reliable source of water or electricity for three months.
“I went to Ghana, because it was something I've always wanted to do. I have always wanted to travel and do service in a third world country, so it seemed like a good time to live out that dream. It was incredible,” Giacalone said. “I taught art to 5th graders and worked in a children's home.”
While working with the children in Ghana, Giacalone realized the impact a single book could make for one of the children in that village.
“One book can make all the difference. In places like Africa, one book reaches more than one kid, but even if it did only reach one kid, that book and the opportunities it brings could change a life,” Giacalone said. “Hopefully in 5 years we have an entire line of children's books about kids around the world. I would also hope that eventually each book will be written and illustrated by someone native to or living in that country.”
While the entire globe is up for grabs in this project, The Maafia Project hopes to hit home as well.
“We are actually focusing on any community that does not have access to proper education. That means these books will go all over the world — even to kids in the United States. My hope is that it will increase the literacy rate, which in turn increases a person’s education and eventually affects their job and how much they get paid. In the long-run, maybe not even in my lifetime, it could have the potential to reverse the snowball effect of poverty.”
In the future, Giacalone hopes to set up a system for people to work through The Maafia Project to do volunteer work by handing out books and teaching workshops on reading and writing.
“I learned to love the culture and the people in Ghana by serving them. I feel like the biggest things I learned were gratitude and service. Gratitude, because I have been so blessed in my life, and service because service is service no matter if you are helping tie someone’s shoe or building them a house. What matters most is that you show up and you are willing to work,” Giacalone said. “After I came back to America, I wanted to extend a hand to those who didn't get the opportunity of literacy and education that I had and still enjoy. In some small way I wanted to share the blessing that literacy has been in my life.”
Books are currently available for pre-order on Indiegogo.*
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