IN THE BEGINNING…
For as long as I can remember, reading has been my passion. As a child, I spent countless hours imaging adventures in far-flung, magical kingdoms. Stories were a way to picture a new and better world. So now, as an adult, it seems natural for me to be coupling my passion for books with my passion for social change.
My interest in social activism was sparked as a teenager when I became involved with a primary school for marginalised children in Varanasi, India, which my parents had helped to build. Whenever I had the chance, I loved to visit and started to take on more responsibility by becoming a board member. I also particularly enjoyed creating innovative teaching tools for use in the school.
When I was 22, after taking part in the Oxfam International Youth Parliament, I decided to launch Youth Action for Change (YAC), a global, youth-led NGO inspiring and empowering young people worldwide to become socially active in their own communities. Starting from my kitchen table, the organisation grew quickly, reaching out to young people in some 130 countries worldwide while harnessing the power of ICT to help solve some of the world’s most pressing problems.
Through my work as a volunteer with NGOs in different countries, I have come to see the role that education can play in shaping lives and communities for the better. In 2009 -2010 I did a stint with the United Nations in Afghanistan to draft a practical, visual manual for children and young adults on ‘Livelihoods in Emergencies’. There I witnessed extreme poverty, serious human rights violations and a general feeling of hopelessness. However, in a remote village close to the border with Turkmenistan, a group of schoolgirls once shared their dreams with me. Despite the fact that their school had no blackboards, books, pens or even teachers, they wanted to become, engineers, midwives, doctors and teachers themselves. They desperately wanted basic education, “to be of help to their community and to help the village escape poverty”. These young girls are an inspiration to me, and my experience of meeting them prompted me to start Plain Ink as a way to provide access to books and education, while helping children and communities just like them to thrive and find the path toward their own development.
The journey is just starting. I’d love if you join in as we continue to write this new story.
Selene Biffi, Founder