Our Founding Story
It began with a question. A young boy on the streets of India. “What do you want most in the world?”
“A pencil,” he replied.
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. I saw the profound power and promise brought through a gesture as simple as giving a pencil to just one child. Over the next five years, I backpacked through more than 50 countries, handing out thousands of pens and pencils across six continents. These pencils, these small pieces of potential, led to powerful conversations with local parents and children across countless cultures and languages. From years of listening to their words, it became clear that there was a need for an organization led by a staff of local leaders from within each country of impact. This would require active community participation in each school’s creation, as well as ongoing support, training and monitoring of each school to ensure long-term success. These are the guidelines on which PoP was founded in October 2008.
Since starting with just a $25 deposit, we have now built more than 550 schools.
But our founding story is more than just one person’s experience. Our organization is a representation of all who have contributed in ways small and large to help Pencils of Promise reach this current moment, including my great friend and PoP’s first staff member, Lanoy Keosuvan. Today she stands as our Laos Co-Country Director, but it was her efforts in our earliest days that enabled us to build the foundational relationships across government and community leaders that has ensured the long-term commitment and sustainability of our work. Our partnerships in Ghana, Guatemala and Laos have countless individuals like Lanoy whose heroic efforts helped lay the foundation for our thriving programs today.
Since our inception, we have learned a lot. We’ve learned that education is a living, breathing entity that evolves into something spectacular. Every piece of its growth is a challenge and each pencil, dollar and supporter is essential. Pencils of Promise is now a global movement of thousands of passionate individuals, many of whom are the most dynamic and impactful leaders we have ever seen. They are committed to supporting a world with greater educational opportunity for all. We fundamentally believe that a day will come in our lifetimes when every single child will have access to a quality education, and we will continue to work tirelessly in breaking down the restraints of today to enable the possibilities of tomorrow.
The Promise of a Pencil
To read more about how Pencils of Promise got started and the learnings from our journey, read The New York Times Bestseller, The Promise of a Pencil.