Pencils are one of the most iconic symbols of education and are often the first learning tool we receive as children. Now, imagine what your school experience would have looked like if you didn’t have access to pencils or other school supplies. According to DoSomething.org, 13 million kids in the United States don't have access to basic school supplies, with tens of millions more children around the globe facing this same reality.
With a lack of available school supplies as one problem for the advancement of global education, I founded KITE (Kids Inspiring Tomorrow’s Education), a “one-for-one” business that aims to empower consumers to help those in need by turning basic, instruments of learning—pencils—into weapons of change.
Lack of access to school supplies comes down to one common factor: poverty. Both abroad and in our own backyard, millions of families do not have the funds to buy the most basic learning materials. According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, as of 2012, nearly 46 million Americans live in poverty, and 40 percent of kids in the United States are not prepared for primary schooling.
While schools are increasingly adopting technology, like tablet devices, for learning, the pencil remains a universal tool across the world. It’s one of the most enduring, pervasive education technologies ever invented, yet still elusive in many poverty-stricken communities. It’s easy to take such basic instruments for granted, but they are engines of confidence, propelling us on the path to literacy.
For many consumers, buying a pencil is an act so casual we rarely think to consider the brand or even price. But what if such casual decisions could impact someone unable to enjoy the basic pleasure and opportunity a pencil can afford? Adopting the proven “one-for-one” model, that’s exactly what KITE strives to do. For each pencil pack purchased, we provide one to a child in need.
KITE is currently in its pilot phase, running production of 1,200 pencil packs and providing our first round of pencil donations to two schools, KUVA (Kipp Ujima Village Academy) in Baltimore, Maryland, and the Oloomongi School (in partnership with the Anne K. Taylor Fund) in Kenya. KUVA is a public charter school serving 470 students in grades five through eight, most of whom are under-resourced. The Oloomongi School, attended by 120 elementary students in the Masaai Mara, has little access to basic school supplies due to widespread and extreme poverty.
While it’s in its early stages, KITE’s long-term goal is to provide kids in need with the necessary tools to attend school and be productive learners. A lack of school supplies can negatively impact a child’s opportunity for academic achievement and places children at greater risk of abandoning school altogether. KITE is starting with pencils, but our dream is to develop a full line of school supplies, and in turn, help to make the dream of education a reality for millions of children around the world.
This project is part of GOOD's Saturday series Push for Good—our guide to crowdsourcing creative progress.