Many times children are reduced to desperate measures to pursue an education. In Monrovia, Liberia 80% of girls resorts to prostitution to pay for school supplies and fees, according to Save The Children. In Tibet, thousands of children escape their homeland every year because they are denied an education there, and they become refugees in Dharamsala India for the right to an education. They arrive with nothing but the clothes on their backs, and a backpack of school supplies delivered by The Pencil Promise makes it possible for them to attend school. If children don’t attend school they don’t receive an education, and without an education they can never break the cycle of poverty, and realize their potential.
Education is the key.
PHOM PHEN, CAMBODIA // The People Improvement Organization (PIO) School
The Pencil Promise story began here. The People Improvement Organizaiton (PIO) School inspired founder of The Pencil Promise, Susan Barron Trenk to start a one-for-one backpack company after she witnessed children scavenging through garbage to support their families. The school, founded by Phymean Noun, now serves over 800 children a day and offers both academic and vocational opportunities.
DHARAMSALA, INDIA // The Tent School
In Lower Dharamsala, the Tent School is based in a slum called Charan Khad. The entire community survives solely through begging and scavenging in garbage. From birth, children are taught to beg, where they can earn up to 500 Rupees (about $10 per day) in the nearby town. Compared to the $2 per day made by adults working on a sponsored highway maintenance projects, this income is substantial.
With the introduction of the Tent School founded by The Tong-Len Charitable Trust in 2005, these children now have access to an education. A stipend is offered to families for every child enrolled in school, presenting a viable alternative to begging.
DHARAMSALA, INDIA // The Hostel School
The students of the Tent School in Dharamsala India, at the Charan Khad slum, who show special interest and aptitude are invited to attend the Hostel School. Here they live in a boarding school setting yet only 15 minutes walk from the Charan Khad slum where their families live. For all of these students The Hostel School is the first time they have lived with electricity and running water, proper bathrooms, and proper meals, and have slept in proper beds. The Pencil Promise visited with these amazing students of the Hostel Schools and delivered a bckpack filled with School supplies to each and every child.
SUJA, INDIA // The Tibetan Children’s Village
In Upper Dharamsala, where the Dalai Lama lives in exile, there exists a completely different group of children in need. These children are Tibetan refugees, who take a treacherously journey for four months over the Himalayas, past Chinese border guards, into India in pursuit of an education.
The Tibetan Children’s Village School, started by the Dalai Lama’s sister, provides shelter and education for Tibetan refugee children, many orphaned and destitute. Once they arrive in Dharamsala, India, they are placed in a Refugee Reception Center until their transition into a school can be arranged. While their basic needs such as food and accommodation are met, supplies such as backpacks, notebooks, and pencils are in desperate need for school-aged children.
NAMBAK, LAOS // The Nambak Orphanage
Although Laos provides free education through primary school, there are few schools in remote areas of the country, preventing many children from attending. There is no public transportation or viable access roads available and with schools an average distance 30 to 40 miles away, walking is not an option.
If students live close enough to attend, they have to pay for uniforms, school supplies, and modest enrollment fees, which their families cannot afford. In Laos, 35% of the population lives under the poverty line.
One of the only alternatives available to parents is to send their children to orphanage schools. At the orphanage schools, the government provides 2 to 3 cents a day for each student for food, shelter, clothing and education, more than parents are able to afford. This pays only a fraction of living costs, let alone classroom supplies.