Visionaries series: Pencils of Promise

Founder Adam Braun is proving the power of the pencil in his mission to educate children around the world.

We think the world is great and all, but, let's be honest, it could also use some serious changing. We admire the innovators who blend business with philanthropy, and, in so doing, change the game for their industries as well as millions of people in need around the world. In this series, inspired by the great work of our friends at Warby Parker, we attempt to see the world through the eyes of some of those leaders. Should their stories not be incentive enough to do your own part this season, let it be noted: Studies have shown that giving back can boost your immunity, lower your risk of heart attack and release endorphins. Not too shabby. Check back weekly to be inspired by more of our favorite Visionaries.

How Pencils of Promise betters the world:
Pencils of Promise builds schools, programs and global communities around the common cause of education for all. In four years we will break ground on 100 schools across Africa, Latin America and Asia. We believe every child deserves access to quality education, and will continue to work until we see that become a reality.

How he was driven to start an organization that enacts change:
Years ago, while traveling through the developing world, I asked a young boy begging on the streets what he wanted most in the world, and he told me "A pencil." It illuminated the plight of millions of children around the world, who lack access to even the most basic elements of a life-changing education. PoP started by buliding schools, now we're also training teachers and educating parents, students and entire communities on the value of educating their children. It started with one child requesting a pencil, and that pencil still serves as a motivating tool for us every day.

One story of someone impacted by Pencils of Promise:
While recently visiting Guatemala, we came upon a community named Guadalupana. The community had no school, so the children held hands and crossed a six-lane highway every day to get to one nearby. A man had recently been struck by a truck and killed while making that crossing. One of our spokespeople, Sophia Bush was there and vowed to raise $30,000 for her 30th birthday to build them three classrooms. She more than doubled that total, raising almost $70,000 and we're now building them a brand new school that will not only change lives, but also save them.

The most significant thing you've learned through your work:
That the single most powerful thing in the world is an inspired, empowered human being.How his life been changed by his work:
My life has been radically changed by Pencils of Promise. Every day presents enormous challenges, but when we overcome them it's tremendously fulfilling. I've met some of the most generous, inspiring people through this work. I've learned the difference between those who talk and those who do, and those who do are the ones that challenge us as an organization to live up to our full potential every single day.

A typical day in your life:
I'm usually up before 8am. I start my day emailing at home, then get into the office and usually meet with a few PoP staff members. The rest of the day is really spent dreaming up a future in which every child has access to quality education and us working with supporters, partners and staff on the ground across Africa, Latin America and Asia to help move the world closer to a day in which that becomes a reality.

Your vision for the world:
I deeply believe in a world in which every single child has access to quality education. We have every resource necessary to make this a reality. We're not searching for a mystery vaccine or mineral that might not exist, we have everything we need to educate every child on the planet. It's simply about people investing in that vision, so it can become a reality for the most marginalized children in the world.

The accomplishment of which you're proudest:
I'm most proud of the work we do on the ground, and the results that it has produced.

What you wish more people knew about implementing change:
Implementing change happens slowly, but through the people who aren't willing to wait.

The individuals or other organizations you find inspiring:
The person who inspires me most is my grandmother. She's a Holocaust survivor, and the joy she brings to life every single day after the hardships she once endured reminds me to always enjoy the little things, and to tell those around me how much I appreciate them.

The message he'd send the world with one request (in 140 characters or less):
Every single child in the world can be educated, it's up to us to make that a reality.
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