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April 2: Hannah Salwen
Hannah Salwen; Philanthropist and Author
Hometown: Atlanta, GA Age: 17 Education: Junior at the Atlanta Girls' School Family: Mom Joan, dad Kevin and brother Joseph
Hannah Salwen is a teenage philanthropist and the co-author with her father Kevin Salwen of "The Power of Half." Hannah attends the Atlanta Girls' School, where she is a member of the varsity volleyball team, co-editor of the school yearbook and a representative on the student council. She has been volunteering since the fifth grade at the Atlanta Community Food Bank, Café 458, and other nonprofits.
Joan and Kevin Salwen were living a "standard American life" until their daughter Hannah convinced them they should sell their spacious Atlanta home, downsize their lifestyle and give half the sales price to a charity. It all begin when Hannah, who was 14 years old at the time, saw a Mercedes pull up to a traffic light next to a homeless man begging for food and suddenly realized that if the rich man didn't have such a nice car, the poor man could have a meal.
After selling their home and moving into one half the size, the Salwens donated the $800,000 left over from the sale to build 30 self-reliant communities in Ghana. In January 2008, after putting a great deal of thought into where to send the money, they partnered with The Hunger Project, a global non-profit organization striving to eliminate poverty and hunger by helping to build self sustaining communities in poverty stricken nations. The Salwens were able to fund two five-year programs designed to move about 30,000 villagers from poverty to self-reliance. The Hunger Project carries out its mission through three essential activities: mobilizing village clusters at the grassroots level to build self-reliance, empowering women as key change agents and forging effective partnerships with local government.
Hannah tells her story in the new book she co-authored with her father Kevin, "The Power of Half: One Family's Decision to Stop Taking and Start Giving Back." Hannah includes practical ideas for how readers can create their own "half project." Fittingly, the Salwens have pledged half of all funds received from the book to benefit the Hunger Project.
Hannah's affinity for volunteering started when she was 11 and working on a school project called Urban EdVenture where she discovered Café 458, a restaurant for homeless men and women. Then, after one of her best friends in high school had a heart attack during a cross-country run, Hannah decided she wanted to become a nurse. She has since signed up as a volunteer at the Atlanta Children's Shelter, helping to provide health care for underprivileged children.
"I don't want to be oblivious to what's going on around me," Hannah says. "I'm the happiest, most upbeat person I know; that may be because I'm doing something to help." Hannah once said that she most admires Mother Teresa because she lived her beliefs. Selling the house and giving up some of her possessions is a far cry from the sacrifice of Mother Teresa, Hannah says: "When it comes to aligning our actions with our passions and beginning to help affect change, we are just getting started."
Hannah's family includes her mother Joan, her father Kevin and her brother Joseph. Kevin spent 18 years writing and editing at the Wall Street Journal, then left to create his own company in 2000 and has been an entrepreneur ever since. He is on the board of Atlanta Habitat for Humanity. Joan enjoyed a first career at Accenture for nearly 20 years before her heart told her to go back for a Masters and build a second career as a teacher. Joan has worked with organizations serving seniors and as a mentor with Big Brothers/Big Sisters. Joseph is a 15-year-old freshman with a passion for baseball and music.