Students Like These Are My Heroes

Heroes of Optimism from Leslie Engle Young, Pencils of Promise Director of Impact

Leslie Engle Young copyBy: Leslie Engle Young, Pencils of Promise Director of Impact

At Pencils of Promise (PoP), we celebrate education by building primary schools in the rural developing world. In small communities across Ghana, Guatemala and Laos, we make sure that kids have a safe and appropriate space to learn, that their schools have clean water and private bathrooms and that they learn how to read and write.

That said, there are 250 million children around the world who lack basic reading and writing skills. This is an enormous problem, yet despite the challenges we have to overcome, it’s easy for me to stay positive and optimistic about our work. At at the end of the day, we all share the same vision and we remain endlessly hopeful about the possibilities that an education can bring into the lives of communities around the world.

I think I speak for everyone at PoP when I say that our heroes of optimism are the children and communities that we serve. I’ve been a part of PoP since the early days, and one of the things that blew me away then, and now, is that whenever I go to the field, I find happy, excited children who remain that way even under the most challenging of circumstances. Kids just want to be kids, everywhere.

Ibrahim & IreneOn a recent trip to Ghana, I met a two young students. Talking to them about their future aspirations, Ibrahim (on the left) told me she plans to be a medical doctor and Irene (on the right) looked directly into my eyes and told me that she will be a journalist. With an education, despite coming from poverty, these two girls — future leaders — have a chance to succeed. Students like these are my heroes; they are boundlessly hopeful about the possibilities that a quality education can create, and they inspire me every day.

At PoP, we’re able to stay positive about our work because of students like Ibrahim and Irene, whose education allows them to become people like Jorge Bolom, our Guatemala Country Director. Growing up in a small jungle village with no running water or roads, this Mayan boy learned Spanish, finished high school, came to the U.S. for his college degree and now devotes his life to helping other children who live in the same circumstances he grew up in. Every day that I see Jorge leading PoP in Guatemala brings me so much joy, because it’s proof that what we’re doing changes lives — I know that by giving children a proper education, we’re replicating Jorge’s experience, creating endless possibilities for children around the world.

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Your Impact in Ghana from Pencils of Promise on Vimeo.