Hawa Diallo always wanted something most of us can do without thought. She wanted to read and write.
Her dream was long deferred. By a forced arranged marriage when she was 13. By civil war in her native country, Mauritania. By four years in a refugee camp in Senegal. By the needs of her four children. But in 1997, she succeeded in coming to what she once described as, "This wonderful freedom country, USA... Now I don't have to get up at night and see if someone is out there to hurt me. "
A loving non-reader; a family of writers
Hawa had taken care of her 105-year-old grandmother in Africa, and feels a deep affinity with those she sometimes calls "the olderly." At 46, she came to work as the weekday 24-hour lead caregiver for the children's book writer/editor Charlotte Zolotow, now 97. She also became friends with Charlotte's daughter, the writer Crescent Dragonwagon as well as the other caregivers, Carlene (weekend lead) and Corine, Sharon, and Kebeh (back-up).
Over time, Hawa's care, with that of the others, has brought Charlotte indescribable comfort, peace, and fun. Over time, we "girls" shared secrets.
Hawa's deepest? That she couldn't read. Crescent arranged for literacy tutor Suzanne Leake to come to the house to work with Hawa; $3500 of Charlotte's went towards this. Now, as Charlotte nears the end of her life and funds, we must conserve her dwindling resources.
Travel with us on a remarkable journey
But Hawa is in the middle of her life. The greatest gift that that life, a life that has had so many difficulties, could give her, is literacy. That Charlotte can no longer afford to give this gift, and that I (Crescent) can make only a small monthly contribution, should not and must not stop this process of Hawa learning to read and write. She also has a remarkable story to tell us all (Charlotte, ever the editor, one day asked Hawa out of the blue, "Are you working on a book?")
I think that those who love Charlotte, or her books; those who love and value reading itself and understand just how enormous and life-changing a factor literacy is for those who do not have it; those who believe in justice, redemption, and that good can come out of bad and even the most difficult experiences used, will help us help Hawa continue her journey towards reading and writing. Are you with us?
An hour of tutoring is $75; Hawa receives two hours a week. Suzanne says it is hard to estimate the exact amount of time needed, for Hawa is an older learner, and English her fourth language. But Suzanne believes six to eight more months will do it. Could you contribute a word, a sentence, a paragraph, a chapter to that book which is Hawa's journey through life and to reading? $5; $50; a thousand dollars... each bit will take Hawa closer to freedom, and to the full participation as a citizen of the world, which literacy, and only literacy, confers.
None of us can save Africa, and the untold tragedies and horrors that are often visited on those born in some parts of that continent. We can't right all the wrongs done to so many women, and to all survivors of ethnic warfare, and to all immigrants who have worked so long and hard to come to the country that is still the repository of our world's dreams and hopes.
But right now, you can help one smart, beautiful, kind African woman --- who, from the resources she has, has brought great joy to a much-loved "olderly" American writer --- you can help Hawa read, and own her place in the world fully, today.
Please, right now, while this is fresh in your mind, make a contribution.
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