While Giovanni and Grazia Criminisi never had the opportunity for formal education, they believed strongly in the power of literacy to achieve prosperity. Now, their five children have chosen to honour those values through a fund at Hamilton Community Foundation.
Economic circumstances forced Giovanni to leave school after Grade 1 to work as a shepherd in the Italian countryside. He could not read or write throughout his life. Grazia completed Grade 5, then left school to help raise her younger brothers, and was unable to fulfill her quest for further education. When the couple immigrated to Hamilton in the 1950s, they devoted their time and effort to make sure their children succeeded in school.
Their oldest son Charles, a Hamilton lawyer, fondly remembers his dad watching him intently for hours, as he studied at the dining room table, far more engaged by the act of learning than by TV or music.
“My father was a very smart man without an education,” says Charles. “Both my parents instilled in us that learning was the key to a better life. My mom taught herself to read English and could check that we had done our homework. There was no question in our house: hard work and good marks were an expectation.”
The Criminisi siblings chose HCF for their philanthropic tribute, because the Foundation serves the city where the family put down roots and they like the permanency of an endowment. The Giovanni and Grazia Criminisi Literacy Fund will assist children and adults to acquire functional literacy that could lead to opportunities for education and employment.
“We want to replicate for others what our parents did for us,” says Charles, “to create literate, successful citizens.”
Excerpt from Spring 2010 Newsletter