WIJABA PROFILE: CYBELLA MAFFITT
Cybella Maffitt has a long love of reading which started as a young child. Originally born in Connecticut, she now lives in Auckland, New Zealand, where she is a year 12 student at St. Cuthbert's College. She is involved with English and writing both in and outside of school, and in her spare time enjoys running, writing, and painting. She loves the limitless possibilities of literature, and hopes to combine her love of literature, art, and sciences in University. How did you first hear about WIJABA? I first heard about WIJABA through my mother. She told me that a friend of hers was building libraries for kids that didn't have them, and as a young avid reader myself, I knew that I had to find a way to help. How many libraries have you funded? I've fully funded two libraries- both in Indonesia - and I'm over halfway through funding for my third. Ideally, I'd like to continue into funding for a fourth and probably a fifth.
Where are the libraries? The first is in Padang, Indonesia. The second is in Bali. How did you fundraise? The very first thing I did was collect all the little plastic water bottles my school handed out in the summer to turn in to the recycling plant for around 5 cents each. Our garage was filled with trash bags full of them. However, I quickly realized I needed to find some faster methods of fundraising, and began selling baked goods, earrings, origami, and hand-painted cards. My aunt Daisy was also a huge help. She donated quite a lot of things for me to sell at flea markets. Recently, my family and I have also begun hosting Indonesian dinner fundraisers, and having people pay a donation for food. This year, in an effort to finally finish my third library, I've started on two big projects. First, I'll be running two half-marathons, and having people sponsor my run. I've also almost finished writing a short children's book, which I plan on selling as an ebook. All the money from both of these will go towards my next libraries. How old were you when your first WIJABA library opened? I think I was around 13 when the first one opened? I'd been fundraising for quite a while before I finally finished. What inspired you to build libraries with WIJABA? I've always lived and breathed books. From a very young age, I could always be found reading. When I realized that so many children didn't have access to books, I was shocked. I couldn't possibly imagine what my life would be like without books. Books are such a key part of both our education and our sense of imagination. As soon as I heard about WIJABA, I knew that I had to do everything I could to get involved, and help other children get access to this resource I loved so much. In your opinion how important is reading? Reading is everything. Through reading, I was able to explore both the magical and the factual. Books teach you so much about language, social norms and values, and the accepted facts of the world. More importantly than that, they grow your imagination so that you can challenge those norms, and think outside the box to revolutionize the accepted facts of the world. I am so proud to have been able to give that to other people. The education that books provide, and making that education accessible worldwide, is what's going to advance us as a society, and diversify the voices we have in powerful positions. What is your favorite book? Picking a favorite book is near impossible, but "The Hours", by Michael Cunningham, is a current favorite. I love how it connects these three lives across time through one single story, and gives a voice to all these women. It demands that you think about it long after you've finished reading. Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers? Get involved. If you see something in the world that you don't think is right, find a way to do something about it. I know so many people who think they won't be able to enact the change they want to see themselves, but even the smallest actions matter. Whether you're the revolutionary leading the cause, or just a little kid collecting plastic bottles in your garage, I promise you that your actions will have impact. When I started, it was just me fundraising, but soon after friends, my sisters, family, and even the wider community all got interested and involved in helping me finish both the libraries. I wouldn't have been able to do what I've done without their support. When you first start out, you may not realize the powerful ripple effect you can have. Through my small actions, I was able to spark greater, bigger actions, and eventually create the change I wanted to see; at the very least, begin talking about these issues, and leading them into the limelight. It is through giving them a voice, and a story, that we gain the power to change the world.