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On the Ground With Pencils of Promise (Video)

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By now, many of you have probably heard of Pencils of Promise and it's dynamic founder, Adam Braun. Due to Adam's charisma and inspiring story, he's been asked to speak at some of the most influential conferences and forums this year. PoP now has had several successful campaigns in America like Schools4All and this summer's Leadership Institute, which are both apart of what PoP calls their "49%" -- the half of their mission that focuses on empowering this generation to take action. Not to mention the love and support of one of the most famous celebrities in the world, Justin Bieber.

This summer, Journey of Action had the privilege of being the first film crew to capture the other 51% of PoP's mission: build schools in the developing world. PoP has raised more than $2 million and broken ground on more than 40 schools in Laos, Nicaragua and Guatemala. We joined Adam in Panajachel, Guatemala, where PoP just completed the construction of their first school, broke ground on another school, and signed a contract for their third.

On our first day in Panajachel, we went on an adventure with Adam to find Joel, one of the people who inspired Adam to create PoP, and to eventually come back and build schools in Guatemala. While backpacking through Central America 4 years ago Adam met Joel, whose one request of Adam was to teach him English so he could then be able to teach his children and the rest of his village.

Empowering locals so they can continue educating future generations is one of PoP's core values. We went with PoP's on the ground team, who are all Millennials: Noah Marwil, Latin American Director, 28 years old, and PoP Fellows Appy Patankar, 23 years old, and Marina Yalon, 24 years old, to witness how PoP works with local communities. Their goal is to first serve the communities who need it most, but getting to those communities isn't always easy, they are usually in very remote places. PoP's on the ground team often has to take motorbikes and walk long distances in order to find these villages. In order to consistently and objectively assess a site, PoP uses rubric scoring in the areas of need, sustainability, cost efficiency, impact and local commitment. Once they decide on a location, they meet with the Education Ministry to approve building plans and confirm the assignment of a trained teacher. After sites are government cleared, community planning begins. PoP works with local contractors and meets with the village to set a budget. The village forms a 'Promise Committee' of eight individuals, four men and four women. This committee signs a contract agreeing to oversee the support and maintenance of their school through each phase of the process, from clearing the land and supplying the labor to encouraging attendance and supporting the teacher. As part of the local buy-in, each village contributes 10-20% of the total construction cost in the form of labor and local materials. They dedicate their time and their goods to the creation of their school, ensuring that it is not a handout, but rather a standing source of local pride. The remaining materials are sought out locally, injecting money into the local economy and creating minimal environmental impact throughout the building process.

Though this process takes a lot of time and hard work, it is what makes PoP sustainable. PoP's goal is to build 100 schools by the end of 2012, and after having an intimate look into the workings of PoP, we have no doubt they will be successful.

See Pencils of Promise's work on the ground for yourself: