Child Beggar Who Asked for Pencil Inspires Man to Build 206 Schools

    18 June, 2014


    From VOA Learning English, this is the Education Report.

    Adam Braun established the organization Pencils of Promise in 2008. Its goal is to make sure all children have a chance for education. Six years later, the non-profit group is building a new school somewhere every 90 hours. It has helped more than 22,000 children in Africa, Asia and Latin America. 

    It all started when Adam Braun was a college student. He was visiting India when a boy stopped him on the street, the boy asked for money. Mr. Braun asked the boy what he would want, if he could have anything in the world.

    Child Beggar Who Asked for Pencil Inspires Man to Build 206 Schools
    Students who attend a Pencils of Promise school in Guatemala, May 2011. (Courtesy Pencils of Promise)

    "I thought the answer was going to be 'a house' or 'a car' or 'a boat'. His answer was 'a pencil'. So I gave him my pencil and he just lit up with joy. I realized he never had been to school before, and that was the reality for 57 million children around the world," Braun said.

    Adam Braun started working in finance after he graduated from college. But he never forgot the boy and the problem he represented.

    "We live in a world in which every single child can have access to quality education, because we have everything necessary already. We have the capability of educating every child. So I became immensely committed to helping create that world," Braun said

    Mr. Braun raised money for his project by using social media. He paid for building the first Pencils of Promise school, in Laos, five years ago. Since then, his group has helped pay for more than 200 schools in rural areas of Laos, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Ghana.

    He says, his organization works closely with the local education agencies. He says the officials organize the main program of studies. But he says his group provides additional learning materials about health and water and waste systems. Pencils of Promise also works closely with communities.

    Leslie Engle Young is another Pencils of Promise employee. She says local people are willing to combine efforts and resources for children's education.

    "We started saying 'OK, how can we get your 20 percent? What part of the labor can you do? What materials do you have that you can contribute to the project?' And through this really organic conversation, we start building a true partnership with these people," Young said.

    Such support helped Adam Braun decide to expand his organization's work beyond the elementary school level. Pencils of Promise developed financial plans to help students continue on to secondary school and teacher training.

    "We are really rigorous about making sure that the programs are not just beautiful photos and videos of kids, but that we're actually seeing incredible results in the classroom. And if we're not seeing results, then we need to change our programs. That's why our kids in Pencils of Promise schools progress from one grade to the next at two times the national average," Braun said.

    And that's the VOA Learning English Education Report. For more education stories, go to our website I'm Christopher Cruise.