DePaul University Newsline > Sections > Campus and Community > Alumnus’ nonprofit creates children’s book in response to COVID-19
By Layda Galvan and Rachel Wojnicki /
June 4, 2020 /
Posted in: CAMPUS AND COMMUNITY /
This spring, “The Unwelcome Stranger" hit the internet, aiming to help parents communicate the topics of public health and COVID-19 with their children. Given a nod by Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, the book is a product of DePaul alumnus Drew Edwards and his nonprofit, PANGEA Educational Development.
According to Edwards, this was his first time writing a children's book. Originally meant to be Afrocentric, Edwards and fellow DePaul alum and co-author, Taylor Tomu, changed course with the May release of the North American adaptation.
“We wrote this in response to COVID-19," Edwards says. “We thought a lot of people weren't considering kids in the conversation. We felt the need to make something as a way to communicate what's going on with young people. I have never written a children's book before, but I studied education in graduate school where we discussed uncertainty in kids. This outbreak seemed to be a 'good fit' for that topic."
“The Unwelcome Stranger" also explains the importance of following protocols, and what families can do to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In addition to Mayor Lightfoot's recognition, the Vice President of Liberia, H.E. Jewel Howard-Taylor, read the book on television to a national audience. The book is currently available in eight languages in several regions around the world – North America, Africa and North Africa, Europe and the Middle East.
“We put the book online for free as a way to reach families as a form of prevention," he says. “We hoped it could help calm people and help them recognize we have the power and knowledge on how to slow or prevent the spread."
While at DePaul nearly 10 years ago, Edwards was in the Community Scholars Program in the Stean's Center. As part of his curricula, Edwards conducted community service, taking the course CSS 300 – introduction to nonprofit management. It was during that class he created his nonprofit, PANGEA Educational Development. The organization's mission is to empower individuals and communities to fulfill their purpose and potential by fostering cultures of literacy.
“My co-founder, Kevin Oh, and I decided to launch PANGEA to help in Uganda," Edwards recalls. “We formalized it while I was in Melinda Wright's class. Since then it has been my full-time work."
According to Edwards, only one of Uganda's 48 languages has a proficient number of books available to children. PANGEA aims to close the gap on childhood literacy development in communities across the country through sustainable learning programs.
“My co-founders and I looked out at the world and saw injustice. PANGEA is our response to them and the Vincentian question of 'What must be done?'" Edwards says. “We see change happening when all of us work toward doing what must be done in our own spheres of influence. Over time, those spheres have grown as we locked arms with others who are working to realize the world as we believe it can be."