Building schools is key, but maintaining them is just as important. Developing a local support staff ensures the schools are sustainable.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF PENCILS OF PROMISE (4)
Penciling in the Future It all began with a pencil. That’s what a small boy, begging on a street in India, told Adam Braun he wanted most in the world. Braun, an American college student on a backpacking trip, gave him a pencil—and got an idea. In October 2008, Braun put $25 into a bank account and created Pencils of Promise. He hoped his new nonprofit could attract enough money to build just one school in Laos, a country he had visited and wanted to help. One year later, he had built that school, and he realized that what he’d started was gaining momentum. Today, Pencils of Promise has completed 55 schools around the world. By the end of 2012, they hope to have built 100 schools.
the time to develop local staff so the organization will be sustainable. At all GET INVOLVED of their schools, which are Find out what you can do at now in Laos, Nicaragua pencilsofpromise.org and Guatemala, 90 percent of the employees come from the region. Lanoy Keosuvan, a Laos country coordinator for Pencils York City headquarters, says of Promise, is one example. her job involves visiting schools Braun met her while staying at around the country to spread a guesthouse there; she was the the word about Pencils of housekeeper. He saw promise Promise’s high school internship in her and offered her a job. program and the fundraising Today she oversees a 40-person toolkits available on their staff. “I’m so very happy to website that can help students work with Pencils of Promise,” take action for the cause. she says, “and I will work with Maietta arrived at Pencils Pencils of Promise all my life.” of Promise after graduating The second part of their from Northwestern University mission—training young last June. She had read leaders—includes raising about the organization and awareness and teaching appreciated its emphasis on leadership skills. One way they “working with the community, do this is through an internship not for the community,” and program. Suzanne Maietta, a on education, a subject about Pencils of Promise community which she is passionate. engagement intern at the New “I’ve had a great education, and I see the value of it,” she says. “Education is the beginning to solving a lot of problems.”
Their mission is really two-fold, says Wendy Wecksell, director of corporate partnerships for Pencils of Promise: to increase access to education in the developing world and to train young leaders to take action at home and abroad. The first element means not only building schools, but helping communities sustain those schools. “A big thing for us is ownership. Before we break ground, we work with the community to find out if they value education; we work with the ministers of education in the region,” Wecksell says. “We’re empowering people, not giving handouts.” To that end, each village is asked to contribute 10 to 20 percent of their school’s build budget, which has projected sustaining costs included. That dedication to working closely with communities sets them apart, Wecksell says. They take
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