Find out how Pencils for Kids began.
It all started in the fall of 2005 when Canadian athletes participated in the "The Games of La Francophonie” in Niger, West Africa. During the Games a group of athletes, including one of the photographers for the Canadian Team, visited a school in Liboré, a rural area outside Niamey, the capital of Niger, which is considered the poorest country in the world. What they saw shocked them. Thirty children in one classroom were sharing ONE pencil. There were few books and fewer supplies, no electricity and no running water. They were warmly received by the community as they gave out school supplies they brought with them from Canada.
Fast forward a few weeks. Dan Galbraith another photographer for the Canadian Team, returned to Toronto, but found day to day life hard to manage after having witnessed the extreme poverty in Niger. It was at this time that Robin Mednick called Dan about their upcoming trip to the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne. Robin sensed something was not right as Dan sounded distraught and barely audible. He explained that he could not get the images of the children in Niger out of his mind. His pain was so tangible it reached out to Robin on the phone and she instinctively said, "Dan, let’s not talk about it, let’s do something”!
And so began the journey. Molly Killingbeck enthusiastically committed to the cause without even knowing what it would entail. Michael Williams, Manager of a local Office Depot said, "I decided this year it was not going to be about me, I want to join your team”! So too was the heartfelt response of Ian Chalmers of Pivot Design Group who offered not only to donate his services to create the website, but to join the Pencils for Kids team as well. Carolyn Taylor who had extensive experience in the not for profit world welcomed the opportunity to help in any way possible and David Crombie a respected friend, became the Honorary Chair of the Advisory Board for Pencils for Kids.
Robin contacted the Canadian Embassy in Niger who put her in touch with Amadou Madougou, Mayor of Liboré, a commune of 24,500 people, 20 minutes outside of Niamey. With the community’s "wish list" in hand, the team began collecting school supplies that were so desperately needed. Shortly afterwards, Office Depot, BIC Inc. and DHL Express (Canada), Ltd. stepped up to the plate and donated over 1000 pounds of school supplies and free shipping. These sponsors came forward on faith and put their trust in individuals they had never met before, but they sensed the urgency and understood the reason - truly extraordinary giving.
The next step was to connect the students from Canada to the students in Liboré. Three teachers and classes at the Dewson St. Junior School’s French Immersion Program were introduced to the concept of pen-paling with Niger through Robyn Crombie, Co Chair of their School Council. Three keen teachers, Joanne Jenkins, Chantal Hilaire, and Alexandra Stevenson in three different grades began a pen pal relationship with three separate schools in Liboré and in the process learned so much about each other's culture and lifestyle. With enthusiasm, determination and passion, the grade six class raised over $600 in less than a week by running a lemonade stand and bake sale.
After visiting Liboré in May 2007, the relationship between Pencils for Kids and the community was forever forged. The Mayor and his team were introduced to the staff at the local Canadian Consulate and after a proposal was submitted, funds were granted to build a school in partnership with a local NGO, Thiebon.
The first Pencils for Kids school was built in the village of Oulmantama where children had never before had access to education. The official opening of the school was in November, 2007. Today over 100 students attend the P4K school.
That is how Pencils for Kids was born - one community at a time, one child at a time, one book at a time and one pencil at a time.
Through education all things become possible. Every child in the world deserves the opportunity to dream, to imagine, to learn and to achieve.
This journey, to connect community to community, is just beginning and "pencils” will always be the symbol of communication, literacy and hope.
To view video of how we began click here.