News / Africa

Child Beggar Who Asked for Pencil Inspires Man to Build 206 Schools

In the six years since its founding, Pencils of Promise has built 206 schools in Africa, Asia and Latin America. (Courtesy Pencils of Promise)
In the six years since its founding, Pencils of Promise has built 206 schools in Africa, Asia and Latin America. (Courtesy Pencils of Promise)
Faiza Elmasry
Before he turned 25, Adam Braun had a vision of what he wanted to do in life, and the legacy he wanted to leave behind.  

In 2008, he founded Pencils of Promise, a non-profit he prefers to call a "for-purpose” organization, to ensure all children have access to education. Six years later, Braun's organization has built 206 schools, breaking ground on a new building every 90 hours, reaching more than 22,000 children in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Boy and a pencil

It all started when Braun visited India as a college student and a boy begging on the street approached him to ask for money. Braun asked the boy what he would want, if he could have anything in the world.

“I thought the answer was going to be 'a house' or 'a car'," Braun said. "His answer was 'a pencil'. So I gave him my pencil and he just lit up with joy. I realized he never had been to school before, and that was the reality for 57 million children around the world.”

After graduation, Braun was on the path to a successful Wall Street career, but he never forgot that boy and the problem he represented.

“We live in a world in which every single child can have access to quality education, because we have everything necessary already," he said. "We have the capability of educating every child. So I became immensely committed to helping create that world.”

Financing schools

Using social media, Braun spread the word about his mission and raised money. He funded construction of the first Pencils of Promise school, in Laos, five years ago.
Students who attend a Pencils of Promise school in Guatemala, May 2011. (Courtesy Pencils of Promise)Students who attend a Pencils of Promise school in Guatemala, May 2011. (Courtesy Pencils of Promise)
x
Students who attend a Pencils of Promise school in Guatemala, May 2011. (Courtesy Pencils of Promise)
Students who attend a Pencils of Promise school in Guatemala, May 2011. (Courtesy Pencils of Promise)


Since then, his organization has helped finance more than 200 schools in remote rural areas of Laos, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Ghana. In each country, he says, his organization works closely with the ministries of education.

“Those are the ones who craft the original curriculum, but we provide additional sanitation, health and water curriculum," he said, "essentially teaching kids to live healthy holistic lives.”

Pencils of Promise also works closely with the local communities.

“Every project is uniquely catered to that community, but 20 percent of the funding on average comes from the community itself," Braun said. "We want locals supporting other locals.”

Common goal

Rallying people around a common goal of education is something that generally brings communities closer, says Leslie Engle Young, director of impact for Pencils of Promise.

“We started saying 'OK, how can we get your 20 percent? What part of the labor can you do? What materials do you have that you can contribute to the project?'" she said. "And through this really organic conversation, we start building true partnership with these people."

Young is amazed at the feedback they receive from parents and grandparents every time a new school is built.  Thrilled to see their children given the opportunity to learn, people are willing to pool efforts and resources.

“I was just in Ghana at the opening ceremony of a new kindergarten in the community of Likpe," she said. "One parent got up and gave the students a charge, basically saying to them, ‘This is your school, you need to make the best of it. It’s your right to have an education and now it’s your job is take advantage of that right and see where you can go in the future...Teachers, you’re going to show up regularly. You’re going to do good work. We’re going to help you do that good work.’”

Enthusiasm like that inspired Braun to broaden his organization's reach beyond the elementary school level.

“So we developed scholarships, which enabled them to continue to secondary school, as well as teacher training," he said. "We are really rigorous about making sure that the programs are not just beautiful photos and videos of kids, but that we’re actually seeing incredible results in the classroom. And if we're not seeing results, then we need to change our programs. That’s why our kids in Pencils of Promise schools progress from one grade to the next at two times the national average.”

Braun shares his story in his new book, The Promise of a Pencil, about building up his non-profit, pursuing his dream and proving that one ordinary person can create extraordinary change.

You May Like

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Video Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: R.Sooriamoorthy from: Mauritius
May 18, 2014 12:57 PM
Well, if that's not an authentically great man, I'd think no one is right now.


by: Teacher from: USA
May 17, 2014 11:22 PM
I wish I had the forethought of Adam. I taught in a 'poor' school. Many years after my retirement, I stepped into a store and a young man said to me, "Do you remember...You gave me a pencil?"
I helped a number of children with their books, clothing, etc. But never went beyond that.


by: Mona from: Singapore
May 17, 2014 9:59 PM
Thank God for a man like Adam. He's a true inspiration. I wish to be like Adam some day.


by: Thomas Reimel from: Montgomery County, pa
May 17, 2014 6:32 PM
A true inspiration. It is amazing what one man and a great dream can do.


by: Robert Tubere
May 16, 2014 7:19 PM
Adam, you are a man with a big heart and matching genius. I thank God for men like you. I respect your father for bringing up a young man like you.


by: randy from: md. usa
May 14, 2014 11:08 PM
once n. Korea does another nuke test it will make the earth warmer by 5 degrees could this be in comparision to 50 million Cows farting? is this number to low ?


by: DR. APOLLO SWORO O. DUKU from: Juba, South Sudan
May 14, 2014 8:10 AM
Mr. Braun I would like to applaud you foryour good work I believe this what we need to help my young brothers and sisters in South Sudan, a new-born nation facing big challenges at the moment, and rated as having one of the worrst litercy rates in the world currently. We will welcome your support to help educate our future leaders of tomorrow. Keep it up.


by: DORAI RAJ L from: Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu.
May 14, 2014 7:14 AM
Was the student a beggar or a poor street boy?


by: Guest from: Earth
May 13, 2014 1:56 PM
But the bigger question is how did he found Braun Shavers and became so rich?

In Response

by: Someone from: Pune, India
May 15, 2014 1:26 PM
I think you're gravely mistaken in your facts. His Wiki page says, "...Adam's father Ervin Braun, a dentist, founded an AAU basketball team called the Connecticut Flame in 1995 and still remains the coach of the team." He is doing an amazing deed and is a person we can all look up to.

In Response

by: Daniel P from: Sydney, Australia
May 13, 2014 6:42 PM
My friend he is not the founder of Braun shavers neither is his father by from I could gather. He is of jewish descent from NYC but first an foremost he is a Humanitarian which our world is in desperate need of.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid