Hanna Jaff Bosdet knows a thing or two about what it’s like to be different amongst your peers. Bosdet was raised in two worlds. With her mother being Mexican Catholic and her father being Kurdish Muslim, Bosdet experienced discrimination very early in life. “I’ve been a victim of discrimination, growing up in the states, being Muslim, being Mexican,” Bosdet explained. “I saw racism up close and I always had to defend myself and that’s one of the reasons why I started this.”
The 31-year-old philanthropist saw an untapped space with potential for helping refugees and immigrants who are entering the United States. In 2013, she started the Jaff Foundation for Education, providing aid, not with food or shelter, but by giving books and teaching English to refugees and immigrants. Giving them the ability to communicate, the books Bosdet passes out were written by her, titled, “The English Learning Book.” To date, her team has given 60,000 books to those in need here in the United States and 20,000 to refugee camps in Iraq.
Headquartered in Mexico City, Mexico, the Harvard grad has cultivated teams for her foundation in 17 states as well as a team in Iraq. Of course, with great success, there is always a back story of struggle. For Bosdet, she knew when getting started that doors would be closed in her face, however her desire to persevere is what kept her going. “When I studied in Boston and New York, there was a lot of racism,” Bosdet said. “Even when I studied in Iraq, I could never be by myself without my father being around.”
Bosdet said things became a little more difficult for her once the Donald Trump Administration entered the White House.
“It’s almost like people aren’t afraid to comment negative things about Mexicans anymore,” Bosdet said, remembering the ugly words uttered by a sponsor who pulled out last minute. “He was willing to donate books to us,” Bosdet said. “After I went to meet him and he saw I was Mexican, I showed him my book and he said what’s the book for if they can’t even read?” Although hurt by his comment and insensitive laughter, the San Diego, Calif. native corrected his ignorance with kindness and education about the struggles of her people. “So it’s been obviously hard but at the end of the day, our cause is about unity, tolerance, and respect so if you don’t want to join it, just respect it.”
Like other non-profits starting out, Bosdet has had many doors close on her for not having the experience they thought was needed. With her team by her side, she said she has thought of new ways to get her message across to those who want to support as well as volunteer their time. The website for the Jaff Foundation for Education is more transparent than ever, giving potential sponsors all the information needed, including awards, sponsored events spearheaded by Bosdet and her vision. Starting in September, the Foundation will be launching a new campaign entitled, “We Are One,” in support of war victims in the Middle East, promoting tolerance and public awareness about eliminating hatred.
While her resume is already impressive, the two-time TED speaker has every intention of adding more to it. Bosdet is set to star in Netflix’s first Mexican reality series “Made in Mexico,” which will showcase nine of Mexico City’s wealthy socialites. In addition to the show, Bosdet plans on impacting those she hasn’t been able to reach yet, like the people of Africa. She said it’s her roots that keep her grounded and humble, praising her family for leading her to a career where she can help people. “When I’m doing something good, that’s when I’m the happiest,” Bosdet said.
The series debuts on Netflix on Sept. 28.