Seena Jacob is on a mission.
Jacob, the founder of the nonprofit BookWallah, strives to help children heal from trauma using books. She founded the organization in 2009 when she began to question the purpose of her life and started visiting orphanages around the world.
“We’ve traveled to Indonesia, India, Jamaica distributing storybooks donated by children here in the United States and the reaction I’ve seen on the ground in orphanages for traumatized children, the way they were watching the pop-up books, I just knew I couldn’t go back to the old ways of life, my corporate life,” Jacob said.
It was then that the Magic Crates program was born and small pop-up libraries were placed in schools and orphanages.
“I found these books and the messages in the stories, that all kids need to hear, the hero’s journey, the hero’s struggle to overcome something,” Jacob said. “Coming out stronger, a happier world, is so critical for children who have lived with your insecurities and traumas. Where they can relive that journey, overcome it, and realize that they could create a better world for themselves.
What started globally slowly grew locally. Magic Crate Libraries can now be found in Chicago, filled with a variety of take-home books for children.
One of those places is at the Boys and Girls Club in North Center. Each child was able to leave with a book during a recent storytelling session.
“I bought this ‘More Than a Princess’ book because she’s more than a princess,” 8-year-old Abigail said. “She’s pretty and a princess but more than that.”
Mom and teacher Nancy Unzueta says the magic crates encourage kids to explore different topics.
“I believe these crates will open up this question…kids will go home and ask for more books and ask parents to join the program and they will be reminded to take a break and sit with your child and read with them” , said Unzueta.
For Jacob, her mission stems from her passion to empower children and allow them to heal and dream.
“No child should cry at night,” Jacob said. “We want to see them smile and laugh, and if we can give a gift as simple as this and have so much power and magic, why not?”
Thanks to volunteers and the Related Affordable Foundation, Jacob says his goal for BookWallah is to continue to grow in Chicago.
“I truly believe that if those books weren’t there for me, I wouldn’t be here today,” Jacob said. “I believe these stories have saved my life and I know they have the power to save the lives of other children. [lives].”