#93 Start with a pencil and change the world

It started with a simple gesture. Adam Braun was one of the hordes of young backpackers roaming the world. Now he’s head of an organization that builds schools around the world. In an interview for Care2.com’s Trailblazers for Good series, Kevin Asuncion asked him how Pencils of Promise got started. The answer is one of those powerful moments of transition we often don’t recognize until much later:

“I previously spent a lot of time backpacking and travelling through the developing world and I had a habit of asking one kid in each country what they wanted the most if they could have anything in the world. When I was in Northern India I met a boy begging on the streets, and I asked what he would want if he could have anything and his answer was a pencil.  So I gave him my pencil and his face absolutely lit up. It was a powerful and transformative moment. There I realized that the thing that was going to make the world a better place was education, and not education as in aid or charity type of education, but education that was in the hands of locals that they owned.”

From that one simple gesture grew a movement that has now broken ground for its 39th school and has gathered a supporter base of nearly a quarter of a million people. The Web site shows a vibrant organization that knows how to use all the power of the Web and social media to gain the support needed for the ambitious vision. Recently Braun teamed up with Justin Bieber (see video below), whose star power helped Pencils of Promise raise $291,830, enough to build 14 new schools.

One pencil. That’s how it started. So what are we waiting for? Let’s change the world.


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