Thursday, 31 October 2013

Pencils of Promise

One of the keynote speakers at a conference I attended earlier this month was Adam Braun of Pencils of Promise.

He was AMAZING! The entire conference room - more than 700 people - sat in rapt silence as he told us about his "defining moment" in his life and how he came to found Pencils of Promise.

Adam is in the lower right square.
Other keynote speakers were: Jessica Jackley of Kiva,
Peter Diamandis of Singularity University
and Marc and Craig Kielburger of Free the Children

Pencils of Promise, as an idea, first swam into existence when Adam asked a question of a small boy begging on the streets of India but it had its roots in an earlier incident in Adam's life.

He explained to us that as a young boy his goal in life was to succeed, to become rich and he had made that his focus in education. He worked hard, he went to university, he graduated magna cum laude with a degree in  economics, sociology and public & private sector organizations but his focus changed when he enrolled in Semester at Sea and began to travel around the world.

Adam told us that his ship was hit with a rogue wave - an enormous wave that caused the ship to wallow and tip and almost go down. Adam said that it was at that moment - when he faced almost certain death - that an incredible calm settled over him and he knew that he wouldn't die that day. He hadn't fulfilled his purpose in life.

When he returned home he packed a backpack and began hiking around the world, visiting over 50 countries and becoming very interested in international development along the way.

In India he asked a young boy a question:

What do you want most in the world?

When Adam told the conference attendees this story he said that when he heard the answer he called over an interpreter and asked him to translate the question. He didn't think the child could possibly have understood it.

The interpreter asked the question and the answer was the same:

A pencil.

From the Pencils of Promise website here are Adam's words:

I reached into my backpack,

handed him my pencil, and watched as a wave of possibility washed over him.
A smile erupted and his eyes brightened. And I saw then the profound power and promise brought through something as small as giving a pencil to just one child.

And from these two defining moments in a young man's life - a rogue wave and a question - the non-profit organization Pencils of Promise was born.

Starting with a $25 deposit in a bank (and we got to see that initial deposit slip :) ) the organization has now built more than 100 schools and hopes to break ground on many more this year.

57 million children in the world don't have access to education. Pencils of Promise is working to help that - and 100% of online donations directly fund schools.

$25 will educate one child for a year.

How many lives could we impact?

As October draws to a close another set of holidays looms on the horizon. In November I will be talking about Remembrance Day and Thanksgiving with my class. We will be remembering all the reasons we have to give thanks - and one of those reasons, surely, should be the fact that we can go to school.

I would like to support Pencils of Promise - I will do it personally but I am also going to donate all the proceeds from a new Thanksgiving project that I have created for my class - Turkey's Thanksgiving Feast.

Find it HERE

I'm grateful for the opportunities I've had - I'd like to pass them on.

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