Reflecting Back and Looking Forward

For ten years Robin Mednick and the Pencils for Kids team have been delivering education, healthcare and hope to the community of Liboré, Niger.

It all started in 2005 when Robin learned from Dan Galbraith, that 30 children in a classroom in Niger were all sharing one pencil. She sprang into action and immediately set out to change that by sending school supplies overseas. “I never imagined ten years ago that I would leave my work and start up a charity,” she says. Over the decade, she’s built up a team of volunteers and continues to develop sustainable programs to make life in in Liboré more prosperous.

Robin with a group of Liboré kids

This year, Pencils for Kids is on track to reach one million dollars in donations—that’s a whole lot of pencils! But, as many know, Pencils for Kids has expanded well beyond providing classroom necessities. “We realized right off the bat that whatever we were doing was not sustainable,” says Robin. Pencils for Kids has since partnered with local non-governmental organization LIBO to create and execute the right programs for the people of Liboré.

Gorouberi Kindergarten

Pencils for Kids doesn’t believe in swooping to make quick fixes. Rather, it strives to implement programs that empower members of the community to take ownership over their own lives. The Farmers of the Future initiative, for example, teaches agricultural business, enabling individuals to earn an income and support their families. It’s the best way to help alleviate poverty.

Gonzare woman watering freshly replanted hot pepper Gonzare gardens during February 2015

In 2007, Pencils for Kids helped build the first of three Pencils for Kids schools in Liboré. It also created Scholarships for Girls. Prior to this, few if any girls attended secondary school. Now, 13 have gone on to university.


Outside of the classroom, Pencils for Kids started the Sewing Program for Girls, made possible by a donation from the Cooper family in Canada. Those enrolled at the Cooper Centre learn fabric dyeing and pattern making—they also make uniforms for the scholarship girls. In the next few years, P4K aims to build a permanent facility; there’s currently a waiting list of young women ready to join the sewing program.

Back home in Toronto, Pencils for Kids partnered with the founders of Youth Empowering Parents (YEP) to pilot this sought after program in Liboré. “We have students teaching older adults or their parents how to use computers and how to better themselves in the workforce,” Robin says.

 Youth Empowering Parents (YEP)

New for the 2014-2015 school year is the Theatre Club for youth and children, which helps foster confidence and self-esteem through drama games and performance opportunities. Since recreation is always important, Pencils for Kids introduced Soccer for Kids with Project Play Soccer and recently received 11,700 non-deflating soccer balls from One World Futbol.

Soccer for Kids
As Pencils for Kids enters its teenage years, it’ll keep perfecting the programs already in place. “We have no intentions to expand in any other country,” says Robin. “We decided early on that we would concentrate in one place and try to do one thing well somewhere,” she continues.

And that one thing is not about building a lasting legacy to the Pencils for Kids team in Toronto. It’s about improving life in Liboré. “Our intention is to continue with this community and continue on our road to helping them become self-sufficient ,” says Robin. “We’re just giving them the tools. As the old adage says, ‘instead of giving a person a fish, teach him how to fish’. That’s our goal.”

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