If you’re reading this article, you’re luckier than you know. Not only do you have access to the internet, unlike 53% of the world, but you’re also able to read, unlike 2.4 million Kenyans.
One young woman is working to change that.
Gianna Biaggi is a 22-year-old from California who started an organization in Kenya called Sunflower which, in Gianna’s words, “promotes literacy and leadership among vulnerable children through high-quality education.”
In the spring of 2017, Gianna was awarded an InterExchange Christianson Grant to push the Sunflower initiative forward. The grant provides awards of up to $10,000 to motivated young Americans who create and carry out their own meaningful service projects abroad.
Gianna was first inspired to start Sunflower when she studied abroad in Kenya and interacted with many children who were illiterate. Illiteracy is a curable problem, Gianna stresses, that when fixed, can lead to better futures for the children impacted.
Sunflower selects unique and bright fourth-graders who stay with the program until they’ve finished primary school. The organization then matches them with boarding schools throughout Kenya to further their education.
Sunflower teaches children to read, not only through the use of personal lessons, but also through hundreds of donated books and fun comic books. Sunflower also focuses on a set of principles called L.E.A.D.:“Leadership, Education, Action, and Discipline.” This structure of values creates a system for the children that encourages them to reach for the stars.
Gianna believes in a glimmering future for the children in Kenya. "We want to build citizens that are not only really good students that have high academic capabilities,” she says, “but [who] are also compassionate towards each other and the world and are really dedicated to making their own communities a better place."
You can apply online for the Christianson Grant, too. Applications must be submitted online and received by March 15, July 15, or October 15. The world is waiting for you to make a change, and this could be the beginning.