My journey began with a single pencil.
While traveling through India in 2006, I asked a boy begging on the streets, "If you could have anything in the world, what would you want?" and he answered me with two words:
Luckily, I had one in my pocket, and in the second it took me to give it to him, a defining dream was born. I could see the sense of wonder wash over his face, as I gave him the small tool, and in that moment, I instantly recognized that a pencil is much more than just a tool for writing. That little piece of wood and graphite, the one we all take for granted, could also be an instrument of global transformation.
I returned home to the U.S. energized and inspired, with a passion of purpose that manifested in the birth of a for-purpose organization like no other. This marked the birth of Pencils of Promise, the first step of an incredible journey -- one on which I've now been joined by hundreds of thousands of activists, donors, and fellow dreamers.
In only 3 years, PoP has taken an "impossible" dream and transformed it into a global reality. We've broken ground on 50+ schools, acquired the largest social media following of any nonprofit started in the last 4 years, and delivered more than 1,000,000 education hours to those children who need them most.
Our mission is simple: to build schools in the developing world and to inspire tomorrow's leaders at home and abroad.
However, as the founder and executive director of an organization that works to transform many lives, it's my job to keep dreaming too. How can we expand our programming? How can we serve more children? How can we inspire more leaders, young and old? How can we reach those who haven't yet heard our story? How can the PoP movement grow from relative, domestic strength to definitive, transnational power?
Whenever I'm at an organizational crossroads, I go back to that first, fateful moment on the streets of India. A child, a pencil, and me. Except now I ask myself a question,
"What can a pencil do for all of us?"
Amazing things. It can write transcendent poetry, uplifting music, or life-changing equations; it can sketch the future, give life to untold beauty, and communicate the full-force of our love and aspirations.
And then a realization occurred -- a single pencil could also build a school.
And with that, it is my pleasure to unveil PoP's newest initiative, Made with Pencils.
Made with Pencils has enlisted the support of the world's leading artists, thinkers, and cultural curators to produce original works that are each made from a single pencil. These one-of-a-kind creations will be auctioned off on our innovative, online, auction gallery, and all funds will go towards building schools in communities that have none.
We have already enlisted the support of Shaq, Mariah Carey, Coldplay, and others, and we're excited to work with other iconic thought leaders from a variety of backgrounds to grow our movement, build new schools, and inspire more young, global leaders.
Our goal is as simple as it is audacious: we plan to raise $1,000,000 to build and sponsor 40 new schools in the developing world.
Made with Pencils is grounded in the creativity of a few, propelled by the financial support of many, and most importantly, it's empowering generations to come.
A simple idea, a heartfelt desire, and a world of possibility.
A pencil, a promise, and a dream.
Will you join us?
SLIDESHOW of celebrity drawings: