Crafting for a Cause

Jonah uses his love of crochet to help his birth village in Ethiopia.

The Inspiration

When Jonah Larson was 5 years old, he found a crochet hook in his aunt’s bag. He’d never heard of crochet, a craft similar to knitting, but with the help of YouTube tutorials, he started his first project—a small dishcloth. “My mom expected to find me in a pile of yarn,” says Jonah, now 12. Instead, the dishcloth turned out great, so he moved on to more ambitious projects, like afghans.

At the same time, Jonah struggled with staying focused at school. Then a teacher suggested he bring his crochet supplies to class. Now he has no trouble paying attention as his fingers work the yarn. 

To share his passion for crochet, Jonah started his own YouTube channel and business, Jonah’s Hands, where he sells crochet kits, DVDs, and books. As his audience grew, Jonah set his sights higher. “I saw how crochet inspires lots of people,” he says. “I wondered, could I use crocheting to change the world?” 

The Action

Jonah decided to use the proceeds from Jonah’s Hands to buy books for a school in Ethiopia, the African country he’s originally from. Jonah was born in an Ethiopian village called Teza Gerba and was adopted by an American family in Wisconsin when he was a baby. “The kids in the village where I was born live in very poor conditions,” he says. “They don’t always have the same opportunities for education that I’ve had.” (See “School in Ethiopia.”)

With help from his mom, Jonah launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to buy books for the school in Teza Gerba. After appearances on TV and a partnership with an organization called Roots Ethiopia, Jonah raised almost $35,000—enough for not just books but also to build an entire library. 

The Outcome

 

In Ethiopia, school is free and mandatory for children ages 5 to 16. But many schoolchildren, especially in rural areas like Teza Gerba, lack basic supplies like books. Jonah hopes to give Ethiopian students more access to books and other school supplies.

The library, which is named after Jonah, opened in February. Afterward, the school’s students invited him to visit. Jonah was eager to go but had to postpone his plans because of the Covid-19 pandemic. In the meantime, he’s raising funds for a science lab at the school. As for his own future, he hopes to become a surgeon and to return to Ethiopia to provide free surgeries. “Whatever I do, I will find some way to give back,” he says. 

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