Holiday Update 2016: The Gift of Education Lasts Forever!

Our 2016 Success Stories

(Scroll down for our Newer Programs!)

Scholarships for Girls

­4 more girls graduated in 2016 to bring the total to 22 who have gone on to University or Post Secondary Institutions since our Scholarship program began! Pencils for Kids has provided 367 scholarships to 175 girls since 2009, and 103 of those girls received scholarships in more than one year because of their consistently high academic achievements.

Photo of 4 2016 Graduates

2016 Graduates – Clockwise from top left: Nourre-Elenne Abdel, Phardaouss Alhassane, Rachidatou Boubacar, Aichatou Soumana Hima

Our Scholarships for Girls program continues to thrive. Four more girls graduated from Secondary school in Liboré in July 2016 bringing the total to 22 from the beginning of the program. These 22 girls are all enrolled in post-secondary institutions, and are role models in the community. We are tremendously proud to have initiated a program that is changing the lives not only of these young women but the lives of their families and community as well.

Photo of 2015 graduates, receiving their laptops

Graduates from 2015, receiving last Fall a laptop from Pencils for Kids at a specially held ceremony to help them with their future education in University or Post Secondary Institutions.

Farmers of the Future

Farmers of the Future logo700 students have participated in Farmers of the Future since the program began. 100 mothers are running nurseries and gardens. 35 teachers have taught elements of the program.

Farmers of the Future is a partnership between Pencils for Kids and Eliminate Poverty Now (NGO in the USA), guided by Professor Dov Pasternak. The Farmers of the Future (FOF) program encourages farmers to think of farming as a business. It promotes the cultivation of high value irrigated crops, primarily vegetables, and provides training and opportunity so farmers begin to prosper and not just survive.

In 2016, a new garden received funding from Rotary clubs across North America to enable 20 more women to operate an income generating garden at the Leadership Academy, bringing our total to five Farmers of the Future gardens since inception, and over 100 women engaged.

Among other things, women are learning to store onions while the supply is high, and sell them when the supply is low and the demand is higher. They are learning entrepreneurial skills while they navigate this new agricultural world.

Photo of Onion Storage at the Leadership Garden

Building an Onion Storage at the Leadership Garden

In the FOF program the village primary school is the focus of attention, teaching young students, open to new ideas, about the exciting business potential of farming. Students have their own practice plots of land, and learn from the technicians who are also advising the mothers. Two generations are taught the importance of access to water, planting high yield crops and knowing when and how to market their produce.

Photo of students in the fields

Students are in the fields every day practicing what they are learning.

Below is just one success story from our Farmers of the Future program.

FOF Success story … in Madam Domo Oumarou’s own words

“My name is Domo Oumarou. I am 40 years old, I am married and have 5 children: 3 girls and 2 boys.

My husband is a farmer. We were making our living from his cereals during the annual harvests. We did well only when the raining season was good and yields were high. In years where it did not rain enough we just survived.

I was sitting every day under the Neem tree doing nothing.

Madam Domo Oumarou of the Gonzare village at her house

Madam Domo Oumarou of the Gonzare village at her house.

One day I was informed by my neighbour that there is a new project called Farmers of the Future that will help women do income generating activities but she did not know what type of activities. I decided to immediately learn more about this project and join the project no matter what kind of activities they were doing as long as it would help me generate some resources.

My dreams were to acquire the know how to use my hands, then to become financially independent and contribute to my husband and family. I was lucky to be selected by the women’s group to join them in the project and my dreams became reality.

Madam Domo Oumarou working in the fields

I moved from a passive role of an assisted person to an active role of someone who provides assistance.

Because of the resources I am generating from my gardening and nursery activities in the frame of the FOF project:

I paid for the official documents of my children (Birth certificate, Nationality certificate, Identity card for my husband and myself)

I am contributing every day to the food supply for my family,

I improved the quality and taste of my family’s daily meals by buying more meat and more frequently,

I improved the nutritional value of our food by using my garden’s vegetables,

I bought clothes for my children, and I am also paying for their school fees.  I am giving them money every day for the break.

I even bought a cell phone!

Before the FOF project, even getting CFA25 (6 cents in Canadian $) was problematic. I had to ask my husband for every single expense and that was so difficult for him but also for me.

As a result of my new activities, I have a healthier and happier family than before and the relationship with my husband is excellent. He is very respectful and always consulting me for decisions related to the life of our family.

There is a total transformation in my life and I will do everything possible to preserve my new situation, even after the project’s assistance finishes”.

Cooper Sewing Centre

The Cooper Centre, founded by Pencils for Kids with generous support from the Cooper family, is a sewing program where girls take a three-year course, pay their own tuition, and participate in examinations that are accredited by the National Sewing Association. Pencils for Kids started this program with only four manual machines in 2009 in order to help girls acquire an income generating skill.

To date, ­­200 girls have received training in the Cooper Centre.

Photos of the Cooper Centre and 2016 Graduates

2016 Graduates from the 3 – year sewing program hold up their certificates.

Girls in the Cooper Centre have also learned this year to make creams and soaps from Moringa and they have been selling them to the public and making money!

Photo of the girls holding up their Moringa creams

Holding up the Moringa creams that they have made and will sell.

Special Story about one of our Sewing Graduates

Hassia Hamsa is deaf and mute. She was born October 16th, 1999, the day her oldest sister died in a tragic traffic accident. Her childhood was challenging because of her disability but she was never discouraged. The family did not have enough money to send her to the special school for children who were deaf. In 2012 she was enrolled by her family as a volunteer at the Cooper Sewing Centre in the hopes that she would be accepted into the program. Despite the distance of 1.5 km between the Centre and her home, she always arrived on time. Eventually she was accepted into the program, however many challenges remained; communication with her colleagues and teacher was difficult; she felt nervous all the time because others could not understand her; and her family’s financial situation continued to cause concern.

On the day of the final exam, all students must pay 2,000 cfas ($4.50 Canadian) in order to register. She did not have the funds so she ran home to her father to see if he could provide it. During this time the four hour sewing test had already commenced. Upon her return, without the money, the leaders of the school decided to let her take the test and pay later. Despite losing 40 minutes of the allotted 4 hours to do the test, and dealing with the anxiety after racing home and back, Hassia received the highest ranking of all her colleagues.

Management at LIBO, our local NGO that manages the Cooper Centre, generated the funds to help her pay for the exam, and through the generosity of a Pencils for Kids donor, a new sewing machine was presented to her upon graduation. Today, Hassia is a pillar in the community and her perseverance a role model to all.

Photo of Hamsa receiving her new sewing machine

Hamani Djibo, President of LIBO, presents Hassia Hamsa with her new sewing machine upon graduation.


Update on our newer programs


In June, 2016 we officially opened our «La Vie Peut Etre Belle» Art Program in memory of Bernice Henry, a Canadian artist who believed in the importance of nurturing talent from a young age. It is located in the newly built Education and Apprenticeship Centre. Eight between the ages of 13-18 are currently enrolled in after-school classes.

Teacher at the Art school and students in the program

Teacher at the Art school and students in the program.

Photo of Bernice Henry’s painting of the Canadian Flag

Photo of Bernice Henry’s painting of the Canadian Flag hung over the blackboard in the Art class.


La Liberté d’Etre is a theatre club, introduced and sponsored by Pencils for Kids Program Director, Louise Sherman, in 2014, that uses theatre, drama games, and performance to build self-esteem and confidence, encourage imagination, practice teamwork, and teach life skills. This past year it introduced competitions among the students on educational themes that benefitted the entire community.

Photos of students performing

Students in the Theatre program performing in front of the entire community.

Education and Apprenticeship Centre

Phase 1 and 2 of The Education and Apprenticeship Centre were completed in 2016, thanks to the generous sponsorship of LUSH, Fresh Handmade Cosmetics. This Education Centre is home to the Cooper Sewing Girls and the Cooper store, in addition to being home to other apprenticeship courses and exhibition spaces and the LIBO offices. It is our hope to complete phases 3 and 4 within the next few years if funding becomes available.

Photos of The Education and Apprenticeship Centre

Phase 1 and 2 of the new Education and Apprenticeship Centre have been completed!


Thank you for supporting the work of Pencils for Kids and letting the children know that you care!

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