April 25, 2016 9:00 am

Microsoft and Pencils of Promise partner to build 10 new schools

By / Director of Social Good Marketing, Microsoft Philanthropies

All month long, Windows has been celebrating Pencils of Promise, a partner in Upgrade Your World that believes education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world. Together, we’re spreading the word of PoP’s work far and wide, and supporting the creation of 10 new schools in parts of the world where access to quality education is scarce.

Students from Sieta Vueltas

Students from Sieta Vueltas

There is nothing more powerful than being in the field with an organization to truly understand the impact they are making on the ground. That is why I was thrilled to join Pencils of Promise in Guatemala, where they are working in 155 partner communities to bring quality education to Guatemalan children, who typically only attend school for four short years.

As a partner, we invested $500,000 in PoP’s work to increase educational opportunities in the developing world. This included support for the construction of 10 new PoP schools.

Pencils of Promise school dedication

PoP school dedicated by Windows in Nahualate

While in Guatemala, we traveled to five rural communities to unveil and dedicate some of these schools. We met with students, teachers, principals, and community members. There was music and dancing, flowers and fresh coconuts.  And, in more than one community, fireworks.  Mostly, there were smiles – hundreds of warm, appreciative smiles.

The rock-star greetings we received were moving on several levels.

First, these communities knew and LOVED Pencils of Promise. This was evident in every interaction I experienced. They valued not only the promise of an education for their children, but the people who work alongside them as community partners to make it possible.

Siete Vueltas students

Students in Siete Vueltas join Pencils of Promise volunteers for a game of soccer.

Second, there was so much hope for the future.  While only 3 out of 10 Guatemalan children currently finish 6th grade, that is changing. The kids I met had big hopes and dreams and plans for their future, enabled and inspired by their access to quality education. With programs like Pencils of Promise, they are on the path to make those dreams a reality.

A school in Nahualate

Jorge Bolom, PoP Guatemala Country Director, and Elisa Willman, Microsoft Philanthropies, dedicate a school in Nahualate.

Finally, there is potential to achieve even more. As part of our support, the local team is using Surface Pros with Windows 10 to monitor and evaluate their programming. Technology helps them track literacy and learning results for each child to ensure PoP can optimize their approach and make a real difference for even more kids.

The organization that started in 2008 with a gift of one pencil from founder Adam Braun to a young boy in India has grown to over 344 schools around the word, changing the lives of nearly 34,000 students. Including the lives of many of my new friends below.

Students in Nahualate

Students in Nahualate prepare for a dedication performance for PoP supporters.

As we continue to work at Microsoft Philanthropies to empower a more inclusive world, I reflect often on my trip to Guatemala and the real people behind this work. Thanks to a handmade weaving and handwritten note from a grandmother I met in Barrios I on my desk, I’m reminded each and every day that our mission is being achieved one person, and sometimes one pencil, at a time.

Updated April 25, 2016 9:34 am