My favorite week of the year is about to start. For our organization, it is the week of our biggest fundraising event and when our entire family of supporters gets to be in one room together, celebrating our impact and powering the year ahead.
For me personally, it is when four of my closest friends and colleagues fly around the world to spend one week together. From Ghana, Guatemala and Laos, they come to New York to live and cook under one roof.
During that week, a lot of formal meetings and conversations take place. We’re in the office long hours working through next years’ plans and they’re meeting with PoP supporters and family to share about our work on-the-ground after hours.
But the times at home, at an Airbnb in Queens, are the times that say the most about how far our organization has come and who we still are today.
Ten years ago this month, Pencils of Promise was founded. A year later, in 2009, Lanoy (one of our Lao co-country directors) and myself were volunteering and working in Laos to get our work off the ground.
Everything we did in those early days was informal. Meetings were held in coffee shops, volunteers were paid in gratitude and with home-cooked meals and introductions to government officials were all done through friends and relatives.
Over the course of the next ten years, a lot needed to change and a lot has changed. We have multiple offices across all three of our countries and over 100 local staff members. We have built out formal processes, guidelines and systems to handle this growth. Our work in-country is in legal partnership with education ministries and our efforts are aligned with theirs.
And in the office this week we’ll keep working through all of that. We have new budget templates to train on and performance management systems to learn. Our Country Directors are the most hardworking and dedicated people I know. Over the years they have challenged themselves to learn new, hard and soft skills to keep up with the growth of their teams.
At home this week, we’ll be who we’ve always been and who we hopefully always will be.
Some of our most important work will happen at the dinner table when the people who oversee all of our in-country work can freely share and exchange ideas. They’ll talk about times when a community contribution for a build was low and what they did or how they help motivate government employees to stay engaged with our work.
I am incredibly proud of how much has changed at PoP over the last ten years, and I can’t wait to see how much we will change over the next ten. I firmly believe that our ability to change and adapt is what makes us who we are.
At the same time, I’m proud of what has stayed the same, and that this time next week, I’ll bring my baby to sit around the dinner table as everyone talks about their kids, their families and their work and will once again be my favorite week of the year.