Jonah Larson is a 14-year-old crochet prodigy, who is giving back to his village in Ethiopia by raising a GoFundMe on his website and selling his items online.
He was born in the small village of Durame in southeastern Ethiopia and was adopted when he was six months old. He now lives in La Crosse, in the US midwestern state of Wisconsin, where he first discovered his love for crochet and started sharing his gift with the world.
When Jonah was five-years old, his aunt introduced him to crochet by giving him and his siblings extra craft supplies. They included a ball of yarn and a crochet hook. Then, his family members encouraged Jonah to watch YouTube tutorials about crocheting, which led him to make his first dishcloth — in less than an hour.
Jonah was comfortable making dishcloths, but his mother reminded him of the importance of consistently learning and developing new skills.
At first, Johan was intimidated about working on new projects. He saw it as a challenge. With practice, however, he began to progress, and eventually he started his own company, Jonah’s Hands.
“From that point on, I just fell in love with crochet and how calming it was and all the beautiful things you could make,” says Jonah.
Jonah founded Jonah’s Hands LLC three years ago when he was just 11 years old. From the day his parents adopted him at the age of six, they instilled both in him and in his siblings the values of giving back to others and doing good in the world. This advice informed the identity of Jonah’s Hands. Today, the company generously supports Jonah’s village and many of the people who live there.
On his website, Jonah features YouTube tutorials, books, and DVDs that teach crochet. He also sells items, such as dishcloths, blankets, booties, scarves, and hats on the website’s GoFundMe page, to raise money for philanthropy.
So far, Jonah has raised about $25,000. With this money, he was able to open the first-ever library and a science lab in Durame. With many more projects on the way, people are recognizing Jonah’s contributions.
"I love to read. I started reading when I was just three years old,” Jonah says. “Sometimes, I think about Ethiopia, where I was born, and the very rural area where the kids did not have much, not even a book. It makes me sad, and I can hardly imagine a life without books and stories.”
The first library in the region, Jonah's Library, contains more than 3,000 books. Its trained librarian tutors help more than 2,000 students, including older students who fall behind.
The Science Lab at Teza Gerba School is the first of its kind in Durame. It provides microscopes, goggles, and other basic science equipment.
The Ethiopian government recognized an instructor at the science lab, Ato Meharu. It awarded him a gold medal for teaching excellence on National Teachers Day 2020-2021. Such an achievement is virtually unheard of in Durame.
Jonah is working on his next project: adequate restrooms for the students. Jonah says this project is starting to move forward but will needs $5,000 more in donations before he can complete it. After this project, Jonah hopes to continue raising financial support for myriad other services.
Jonah has not been able to visit the village where he was born but he is hopeful and excited, however, by the possibility that he may be able to return someday soon to witness in person the impact of his philanthropy.
When asked for advice about people hoping to learn crocheting today, Jonah says: "It's not going to be super simple, it's not going to be a breeze, but you always have to keep trying, and it will turn out the best."
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