Would you give away half your house?



The Power of Half: One Family’s Decision to Stop Taking and Start Giving Back, is a book written by Kevin Salwen and his 14-year-old daughter Hannah in 2010. It describes how the Salwen family came to decide to sell its home, so that it could donate half the proceeds to charity. The family then bought a new home for itself, half the size. It also discusses what the family went through in selling its home, donating half the sales price, and down-grading to a smaller home, and what they learned in the process. The Salwens donated the other half of the proceeds of the sale of their original home ($850,000) to a charity: they chose The Hunger Project, a charity that works to lessen the hunger of 30.000 rural villagers in over 30 villages in Ghana, and help the villagers move from poverty to self-reliance. The book describes the egalitarian, one-person-one-vote, consensus-driven process that the parents and their two children used–over a period of time–to reach the decision to give away half the value of their home, and how they chose the charity from a number of non-profit organizations that they considered. It also describes the challenges that the family had to overcome in turning their family project into a reality, from economic ones to keeping the project a secret for a period of time so that they would not appear to be “freaks” to their friends. Archbishop Desmond Tutu praised Hannah and the Salwens for the project, remarking: “We often say that young people must not let themselves be infected by the cynicism of their elders. Hannah inoculated her family with the vision to dream a different world, and the courage to help create it.” Reviewing it for The Washington Post, Lisa Bonos wrote that the book, “soaring in idealism, and yet grounded in realism, can show Americans of any means how best to give back.”Nicholas D. Kristof, writing in The New York Times, said he found the project “crazy, impetuous, and utterly inspiring”. Subsequently, a number of other people, many inspired by their example, committed to donating half of their money, or half of a possession or income, to charity.