Half is So Much More: Natural Home Interviews Hannah Salwen

When then-14-year-old Hannah Salwen saw a homeless man on the roadside next to an idling luxury car, she had an epiphany: By having a little less, her family could give others a lot. In 2006, her family sold its home, bought one half its size and donated the proceeds to The Hunger Project, which helps villagers—in this case, 30,000 in Ghana—move from poverty to self-reliance. Their book, The Power of Half, chronicles the Salwens' experiences.

| September/October 2010

  • Photography By Brad Kaye

How have your classmates responded to " The Power of Half "?

For the most part, everyone at Atlanta Girls’ School has been very supportive. I definitely get my share of friendly teasing at school—like for being on TV or for being Miss Goody Two Shoes—but it’s good-natured. My classmates are a very generous group in their own right, so they see how what our family has done is just another expression of their own generosity. Beyond that, a number of my friends at AGS have started their own Half projects, including a couple who are donating half of their babysitting money to environmental causes. That’s pretty flattering.

Tell us about your generation.

I think my generation is a group of can-do optimists. Around our family, we always say, “If you’re not optimistic about the younger generation, you’re not paying attention.” That’s because teens are growing up with great technology that allows us to learn quickly, become engaged more easily and solve problems. I think that will help us be real change-agents as we get older, being very innovative about world problems. Of course, there are a ton of social problems here at home and out there in the world. We’ve got a lot of work to do!

Who inspires you?

If you had asked me that a few years back, I would have said Mother Teresa for her amazing generosity. But in recent years, I’ve become equally amazed by ordinary people doing extraordinary things. For instance, Rosa Parks did a simple thing that had remarkable impact. And I think about the nurses we met in the remote villages of Ghana. They are the entire health-care system in those communities and save lives every single day. I guess what I’m saying is that I’m inspired all the time by everyday heroes.

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