Pencils of Promise: School Update!

Many of you followed my 10A class’s fundraising campaign to raise $25,000 in 25 school days with the goal of building a school in partnership with Pencils of Promise. At the conclusion of that campaign, we had raised $28,501, which we pledged towards building a school in Adaklu Torda, a community located in Ghana’s Volta region.

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In case you missed it last time, below you will find a couple images of the current learning environment in Adaklu Torda. According to Hannah, one of my contacts from Pencils of Promise: “Kindergarten students [here] currently do not have a classroom of their own. The students attend classes under a tree and this makes the learning process very difficult. When the build is complete, there will be a 3 unit classroom that will replace the tree where the the kindergarten students currently learn. The community is friendly and the students are eager to learn. As a direct result of your support, Pencils of Promise now has the capacity to change the community and build a school for these students.”

Ghana Pic 1 Ghana Pic 2

I’m excited to report that some great progress has been made! A representative from Pencils of Promise recently sent me the below two sets of pictures of our school. The first three photos show the school’s foundation while the second three show that some significant progress has been made on the frame and structure as well! One thing that I love about this organization is that they select communities that are “deeply committed to their children’s education,” and are willing to demonstrate that commitment by contributing 20% of the build efforts through labor and materials. That’s right, community members not only collect materials, they also actually help build the school. This is a great way to instill a sense of community pride and ownership.

Foundation #1

Foundation #2

Foundation #3

Starting to look like a school!

Looking good!


Soon to be: Adaklu Torda Pre-School and Primary School

Thank you to the many readers who donated money and/or helped spread the word about this project! Thanks to you and the hard work of my 10A class, 78 students and 10 teachers in Ghana will have a place to learn and teach. I will share more pictures and updates as I receive them!

Wooooooah, we’re halfway there!!

I was in a pretty good mood when I left school yesterday. That kind of good mood when you can’t help but smile even though nobody else is around. The warm sun encouraged me to shed my jacket and what I’m told are colorful blossoms (yup, still colorblind) were starting to bud on the trees in our schoolyard. Normally I would walk home on such a beautiful day, but I was eager to get home and out on my porch overlooking the Danube River as quickly as possible. Looking at the pictures below, can you blame me?


Afternoon view from my balcony


Sunset from my balcony

I made small talk with my taxi driver, never passing up on the opportunity to practice my Bulgarian. As if he sensed my good mood, he rolled down the windows, cranked up the music, and insisted on serenading me in Russian. He actually had a fantastic voice, and I expressed my frustration that I didn’t know the words to sing along. I think he was enjoying himself too because what is normally a three minute taxi ride took closer to ten as we crawled along at less than half the speed limit. My driver didn’t seem to care that cars were honking and passing him, as he slowed down even more every couple of blocks to wave at a friend.

While climbing the eight flights of stairs to my apartment, I reflected on the day. Today was special because it marked the halfway point of 10A’s fundraising campaign. The reason for my good mood was that we had already passed the halfway point of our $25,000 goal, and appeared right on track to raise the entire amount to build a school in partnership with Pencils of Promise. As I write this today, we have raised $14,571 with donations from 171 different contributors. I’ve been especially pleased with the number of Bulgarian contributions, as members of the community seem inspired by my students and supportive of our cause. Engaging the local community was one of my personal goals for this project, so watching that come to life has been especially rewarding.

In class today, we continued planning our big fundraising concert scheduled for next Tuesday, 4/21. This event is important because it will give my students the opportunity to use their talents to directly impact our campaign. It will include a combination of band performances, ballet, folk singing, rapping, and if we raise enough money, I’ve even offered to embarrass myself in front of the entire audience.

Tomorrow afternoon, we are holding a press conference at the school to give an update about our project, announce our concert, and answer questions from the media. I’ll give a brief overview of what we are aiming to accomplish while my students translate my words into Bulgarian. After that, I’m excited to watch my students in action as they’ll be the ones responding to questions from the dozen or so media outlets we have invited. We are hopeful that the press conference will both increase the attendance at Tuesday’s concert and add even more fuel to the media engine that’s been helping spread our cause here in Bulgaria. I’ve included a couple of examples below in case you want to practice your Bulgarian!

And finally…an exciting update! Starting NOW (11 a.m. EST on Thursday, 4/16), an anonymous donor will be matching the next $1,000 worth of donations. That means your donation will essentially double–$50 turns into $100! But don’t wait, because this opportunity will expire in exactly 48 hours!

A HUGE thank you to the many blog followers who have already contributed. Your support has played a big role in helping inspire a generation of Bulgarian youngsters that monumental change is possible if you work hard and have a vision. Not to mention…YOU ARE HELPING BUILD A SCHOOL FOR KIDS WHO DON’T HAVE ONE!