#UpgradeYourWorld: How One Pencil Has Helped Underprivileged Children Gain Access to Schools


It all started with a simple question, “If you could have any one thing, what would you want most?” According to founder Adam Braun, who asked this to a child in every country while on a trip, the most memorable answer came from a street beggar in India, who replied him with a simple request for a pencil. Inspired by this comment, Braun decided to start Pencils of Promise (PoP), a nonprofit dedicated to offering educational opportunities to underprivileged children.


Strongly believing that everyone should have access to quality education, PoP stands by its “100 per cent promise” ethos: to give every dollar donated online to educational programmes, to appoint local leaders as their country directors, and to ensure that every school they have opened is fully operational.


Who are they?


PoP was set up by Braun at the age of 24 in October 2008, with the understanding that education is a powerful tool that can be used to change the world, such as through reducing poverty, empowering women, and preventing the spread of diseases. In two short years, PoP soon raised more than $1 million, and built about 24 schools globally. Today, it has set up more than 300 schools around the world, and strives to continue improving literacy rates in countries such as Ghana, Guatemala, Laos and Nicaragua.


How are they doing it?


Braun realised that 85 per cent of the local communities in developing countries are lacking basic school infrastructures. Quality learning environments are integral in facilitating learning, and PoP is carrying out school building activities with the communities—one of the many programmes that the nonprofit is involved in. It is also carrying out other programmes to improve the quality of education, including training and supporting local educators, teaching students about water, sanitation and hygiene, and secondary school scholarships, which will equip students with the resources they need for a full year at school.


And the results have been staggering. In Guatemala in 2014, 33 per cent more PoP second graders are showing greater proficiency in early literacy skills, as compared to their peers. In addition, the teacher-support programme had led to an 18.7 per cent improvement in literacy proficiency in PoP sixth grade students in Ghana over control students.


What are they doing with Microsoft?


Microsoft is supporting PoP’s mission through providing both funds and technology, such as Windows tablets, to help them enhance their efforts in offering quality education for every children. These would help the nonprofit build ten more schools in Guatemala, as well as 42 schools in other PoP communities.


Part of PoP’s efforts goes into regularly monitoring and evaluating its programmes, and technology has helped its teams test and track the progress of its students extensively. Through the use of Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4 tablets, the teams can collect such data quickly and accurately to qualify its success, and garner insights that can drive greater effectivity in its programmes.


Believe that every child has the right to quality education?

Lend a helping hand, either through donations or by starting your own fundraising programme, with PoP today. Find out more about how you can help, or learn more about Microsoft’s partnership with PoP.


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