2022 — Pencils for Kids’ 17th year in Niger

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2022 – Pencils for Kids’ 17th year in Niger, has been a year filled with both optimism and hope – as we get final approval from the Ministry of Higher Education to open the Dov Centre, A Training School for Horticultural Technicians, forge new bonds with international organizations, and rebuild our 7th and 8th kindergartens.

 


 

THE FUTURE

THE DOV CENTRE: OUR MOST AMBITIOUS PROGRAM YET!

As of December 2022, we have completed construction of the The Dov Centre our Horticultural Training Centre for Technicians, named in memory of Professor Dov Pasternak and built in partnership with a US NGO, Eliminate Poverty Now (EPN).  When the Dov Centre hopefully opens its doors, in the Fall of 2023, we plan to train up to 40 technicians per year, in a two-year program affiliated with the Ministry of Higher Education. These graduates will then have the expertise to train rural women in Niger how to grow fruits and vegetables for a profit in desert conditions, how to market their produce and invest their earnings. It will be the culmination of Dov Pasternak’s dream and a way to help lift so many from poverty.  The official name of the centre will now be: Institut Agronomique Privé Pr Dov “.

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During 2023 we will continue to build the curriculum, hire the Director and teaching staff, and start other training informally for those who have approached us, in advance of officially opening our doors in October 2023. We anticipate a year filled with promise, excitement and hope for new students and for the farmers we will train. 

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See our Named Gift Opportunities for the Dov Centre

 

 

DESPAIR HAS TURNED TO HOPE…

KINDERGARTEN REBUILDING CAMPAIGN:

On April 14th, 2021, 20 kindergarten children, ages 3-5 years old perished when their straw kindergarten burned down in Niamey, Niger. The entire country was plunged into mourning. As a result, we immediately decided to rebuild the 13 kindergartens we started in Liboré that were made of straw, so that nothing like this could happen to the children in our own sites. This campaign called Project Kindergarten has been hugely successful, due in large measure to the Travel Agent Next Door’s (TTAND) generosity. TTAND, along with its partners, the suppliers and agents, helped rebuild four of the eight kindergartens that are completed to date, with hundreds of children now having the opportunity to be in school.  Many other private donors also stepped up to help us with the four other kindergartens.

Every Kindergarten that we launched has a plaque in memory of the children who died in the fire. 

Kindergartens number 7 and 8 were built in Tonkobangou by TTAND and are set to open officially in early November 2022. See photo gallery here.

If you are interested in sponsoring a kindergarten, please contact us at info@pencilsforkids.com

 


 

Scholarships for Girls

Three more girls in our Second Chance Scholarship program (from left to right: Rayanatou, Zouleykatou, and Sahadatou) graduated from Secondary School in August 2022 to bring the total to 44 who have gone on to university or post-secondary institutions since our Scholarship program began in 2009! 

This special program has continued to give girls in their final year of Secondary (called the Terminale level) a “second chance” by opening a special classroom for them, hiring a teacher, and providing all the tutoring and class time needed to pass.  

In addition, 10 girls who received scholarships at the Cinquieme level all passed their exams and moved on to the next level, Quatrieme.

We are also delighted that the collaboration between teachers in Canada and our teachers running the tutoring program in Liboré continued throughout this year!

 


 

Cooper Sewing Centre celebrates its 14th anniversary!

The Cooper Centre, founded by P4K with generous support from the Cooper family, is a sewing program in which girls pay their own tuition, and participate in examinations that are accredited by the National Sewing Association. The goal is to give girls and women, who are no longer in school, a second chance to get a profession. P4K started this program with only four girls in 2008,  helping them acquire an income-generating skill. They are learning embroidery, sewing, knitting, and dyeing and also take courses in numeracy and literacy. Students pay a yearly fee to help cover the costs of the teachers.

361 girls have enrolled since our Sewing Centre began.

108 girls have graduated from the Centre since its inception. 

This year 24 girls enrolled in our programs.  

Some of them are working in their own company on the main road, some of them are working with other private companies and there are others who are working at home.

We also made renovations to the Cooper Centre this year and it is officially called the Cooper Centre of Training and Education

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We also named the new Library on the campus of the COOPER Education Centre in honour of DHL for supporting our work and efforts over 17 years, most recently by printing 1000 copies of Dov’s books in French, and then shipping them to Niger from the US. It is called Bibliotheque DHL!  

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1000 books donated by DHL-edit

 


 

CANADIAN BOOK COMPANY MAKES MASSIVE DONATION!

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RK Publishing INC donated 10,000 French educational books to the children in NIGER!  See photo gallery here.

During this past year, RK Publishing Inc.’s incredible donation has changed the lives of teachers and students in many communities in Niger. 10,000 French books were sent, teachers were trained, and students had the benefit of learning from and enjoying a wide variety of new topics.  Simply incredible.  A huge thank you to RK Publishing for this amazing donation and also to Lean Supply Solutions who generously packaged the donation of 10,000 books from RK Publishing Inc. and then donated school supplies as well!! SO kind, thoughtful and meaningful. See photo gallery here.

 


 

Thank you for supporting the work of Pencils for Kids and letting the families in Niger know that they are not forgotten.

Pencils for Kids continues to be a volunteer-run organization and we are proud of the programs and services that we are able to deliver to the children of Liboré. None of these accomplishments would have been possible without the unwavering support of our Pencils for Kids community. Your ongoing contribution to P4K has an impact every day on the life and the future of the children and women of Liboré. For these children and women, and for the whole community, your support is driving sustainable change that will deliver benefits right now and for future generations. For all these reasons we hope you will be able to maintain or even increase your financial support for P4K in 2022.

“Over 95% of your donation goes directly to sustaining highly effective education and training programs for the young people of Niger.”

2021 — Pencils for Kids’ 16th year in Niger

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2021 — Pencils for Kids’ 16th year in Niger, has been a year filled with both hope and despair — as we get closer to opening the Dov Centre, A Training School for Horticultural Technicians, and also witnessed the tragedy in Niger when over 46 small children perished in fires in their kindergartens made of straw.

 


 

THE HOPE…

The Dov Centre: Our Most Ambitious Program Yet!

As of December 2021, we have almost completed construction of the The Dov Centre, our Horticultural Training Centre for Technicians, named in memory of Professor Dov Pasternak and built in partnership with a US NGO, Eliminate Poverty Now (EPN). When the Dov Centre opens its doors, hopefully, in the Fall of 2022, we plan to train 40 technicians per year, in a two-year program affiliated with the Ministry of Education. These graduates will then have the expertise to train rural women in Niger how to grow fruits and vegetables for a profit in desert conditions, how to market their produce and invest their earnings. It will be the culmination of Dov Pasternak’s dream and a way to help lift so many from poverty.

During 2022 we will continue building partnerships with organizations around the world, fundraise to support the interior furnishings and initial operating costs, and create the curriculum, hire the staff and prepare practical courses for our first cohort in October 2022. We anticipate a year filled with promise, excitement and hope for new students and for the farmers we will train.

See our Named Gift Opportunities for the Dov Centre

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On November 24th, 2020, the Minister of Higher Education officially launched the Dov Centre building by placing a brick on the foundation. A moment of history. A moment remembering and honouring Professor Dov. A vision for the future.

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The construction of the Dov Centre is nearing completion, with the aim to open its doors in the Fall of 2022.

 


 

THE DESPAIR…

Kindergarten Rebuilding Campaign

On April 14th, 2021, 20 kindergarten children, ages 3-5 years old perished when their straw kindergarten burned down in Niamey, Niger. The entire country was plunged into mourning. As a result, we immediately decided to rebuild the 13 kindergartens we started in Liboré that were made of straw, so that nothing like this could happen to the children in our own sites. This campaign called Project Kindergarten is in full swing, with two kindergartens already completed and a third and fourth on the way, thanks to the Travel Agent Next Door’s generosity. Each Kindergarten will cost approximately $20,000 in Canadian Funds and an additional $4000 for furnishings and supplies. 

Every Kindergarten that we launch will have a plaque in memory of the children who died in the fire. We officially launched the first two kindergartens on October 30th, with a representative from the Ministry of Education in attendance, as well as the parents of the children who died in April’s fire.

Sadly, in early November, 26 more children died in a similar tragedy prompting the government to prohibit any child of kindergarten age to attend any school that is made of straw.
 

The urgency of our rebuilding campaign could not be greater. 
 

 
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Memorial sign shown at the opening of P4K’s first Kindergarten Rebuild (October 2021) honouring the 20 children lost in the fire of April 2021.

 

Photos from April’s tragedy

Check out our Official Press Release for more information.

If you are interested in sponsoring a kindergarten, please contact us at info@pencilsforkids.com.

Visit our Project Kindergarten page to learn more >

 


 

Scholarships for Girls congratulates three new graduates!

Three more girls in our Second Chance Scholarship program, Maimouna Abdoulaye, Rakiatou Ousseini, and Mariama Boubicar (left to right), graduated from Secondary School in August 2021. This brings the total to 42 girls who have gone on to university or post-secondary institutions since our Scholarship program began in 2009!

This special program has continued to give girls in their final year of Secondary (called the Terminale level) a “second chance” by opening a special classroom for them, hiring a teacher, and providing all the tutoring and class time needed to pass.

In addition, 24 girls who received scholarships at the junior high level all passed their exams and moved on to the next level.

We are also delighted to announce the first-ever collaboration between teachers in Canada and our teachers running the tutoring program in Liboré.  An exciting new development that we hope will continue for years to come.

 


 

Cooper Sewing Centre celebrates its 13th anniversary!

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The Cooper Centre, founded by P4K with generous support from the Cooper family, is a sewing program where girls pay their own tuition, and participate in examinations that are accredited by the National Sewing Association. The goal is to give girls and women, who are no longer in school, a second chance to get a profession. P4K started this program with only four girls in 2008, helping them acquire an income-generating skill. They are learning embroidery, sewing, knitting, and dyeing and also take courses in numeracy and literacy. Students pay a yearly fee to help cover the costs of the teachers.

This past year, changes have been made to the Sewing Centre to give options to the girls to take a two-year course or a one-year course, no longer a three-year course. This was done because of the needs of the students and parents and was a change recommended by the National Sewing Association, which changed its guidelines. As a result, we enrolled 35 students in our two-year program and 12 in our one-year program.

337 girls have enrolled since our Sewing Centre began.

99 girls have graduated from the Centre since its inception.

Some of them are working in their own company on the main road, some of them are working with other private companies and there are others who are working at home.

The Sewing Centre has 1 Director, 2 full-time teachers, 3 part-time teachers, an Advisor from the National Sewing Association who comes three times a year, a maintenance person and a guard. Everyone is paid by the tuition fees, rental of the Training Board room and chair rental income.

 


 

Over 95% of your donation goes directly to sustaining highly effective education and training programs for the young people of Niger.

Pencils for Kids is a volunteer-run organization and we are proud of the programs and services that we are able to deliver to the children of Liboré. None of these accomplishments would have been possible without the unwavering support of our Pencils for Kids community. Your ongoing contribution to P4K has an impact every day on the life and the future of the children and women of Liboré. For these children and women, and for the whole community, your support is driving sustainable change that will deliver benefits right now and for future generations.

For all these reasons we hope you will be able to maintain or even increase your financial support for P4K in 2022.

A tragedy unfolded last week in Niger when 20 small children burned to death in a school made of straw.

This story is personal to us and to the many Torontonians and Canadians who have joined us for the past 15 years since we founded Pencils for Kids, a charity made up entirely of volunteers, dedicated to helping with education in Niger.

When Pencils for Kids began in 2006, after hearing that 30 children were sharing one pencil in a classroom, we focused our energy on education for children. Niger is the poorest country in the world, ranking dead last on the UN Development index. During this time we initiated 14 kindergartens in Libore, a commune comprised of many villages. Only one of these kindergartens was built out of cement, as the cost of building with cement is extremely high. The other kindergartens have metal frameworks, but the top and sides are covered in straw, as this is the least expensive way to build a kindergarten facility. It is not ideal, but it also afforded an education to thousands of children 3 to 5 years of age.

On Wednesday, April 14th, our national media reported that tragedy had struck. In the capital Niamey, at a kindergarten built entirely of straw, 20 small children, ages 3-5, died when a fire started and the structure  burned in minutes. They were unable to escape. As was written in one newspaper: “Wiping away tears with her veil, the school’s director Habiba Gaya said all of Niger was in ‘total mourning’. The little children, innocents, were really burned alive in this fire,” she told AFP news agency, explaining that while older children were able to make it out, those aged five and under were not: “They were little so they weren’t able to run.”

In the wake of this tragedy, Pencils for Kids has undertaken to re-build each of our 13 kindergartens, converting them from metal and straw to cement structures. This is a huge undertaking, as each kindergarten will cost approximately $20,000 in Canadian funds, for a total of $260,000 to rebuild all 13 of them. But it will be a signal to the people of Niger that we care, that they are not forgotten and that the lives of their smallest citizens matter.

“The global pandemic has taught us a lot about inequity in our own country and around the world,” said Robin Mednick, President of Pencils for Kids. “It’s a small step toward social justice to create a safer learning environment for these precious young children.”

We are looking to raise Canadians’ awareness of this terrible tragedy that has caused the country of Niger to go into mourning. “We are a tiny group but we will do whatever we can to help, and show our solidarity with the incredible people of Niger, who have so little and have lost so much.” said Mednick. “ We are reaching out to Canadians, asking for their help with this project.”   

Please also feel free to share this with anyone whom you feel may take an interest in this story. It would be most appreciated.

If you wish to contribute to our Kindergarten Re-build Fund, please click the link below.

Kindergarten Re-build Fund >

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Check out the 100th episode of the Preconceived podcast — we’re featured!

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We are so pleased to be featured on the 100th episode of the podcast Preconceived, hosted by Zale Mednick. In the episode, titled Do it Afraid, P4K founder Robin Mednick shares the inspirational story of how Pencils for Kids came to be, and what she has learned along the way.

Watch the interview on YouTube >

Listen to the interview on Apple Podcasts >