Creating Sustainable Education Facilities for Poor Countries
Leslie Engle Young, Director of Impact at Pencils of Promise, talks to Steve Adubato about how the organization works to bring sustainable education facilities to children in Laos, Guatemala and Ghana.
"Leslie Engle Young, director of Impact, an organization called Pencils of Promise. How you doing? I'm good. How are you? Good. If someone asked you what exactly is Pencils of Promise, you'd say? We are a four purpose organization dedicated to providing quality access to education to children across the globe. In what countries? We work in Ghana, Guatemala, and Laos. So it's so interesting, your background. I don't know how old you were, but you must have been pretty young. As a preschool teacher...? Yes. ...you go to Laos, and what happens? And I stay. [laughter] Which is... And I stay. I was a preschool teacher in Portland, Oregon, and I had previously traveled in Southeast Asia, and loved it, and had what you could call a quarter life crisis, to give you a clue as to how old I was then. Yes. And bought a one way plane ticket to Laos. And I stayed for four years. What is it...? What was it and what is it about Pencils of Progress that caused you to say, “Hey..."? Pencils of Promise, excuse me. "I want to be a part of this organization"? I would say it was, and it is, the energy. It's the energy of folks that feel really dedicated to making change. That people that feel very hopeful that change is possible. That there is... there is a world in which all children have access to education. And that we can achieve that. How many children are we talking about? Oh, we're working with a little over 30,000. 30,000 children? Correct. But the need is bigger. There's a lot. [laughter] Describe for us, Leslie, what happens? You go to a country. Guatemala? You find these children that do not have the education that they need? Mm hmm. How do you even set up a situation where they are being educated? Where are the... where do the teachers come from? How are they trained? Yeah. How does it work? So we work within the government, in partnership with the government. With the Ministry of Education. So we find communities in partnership with them, where they kind of say, you know, "We know of these communities that have kind of different situations where they're either going to school under a tree." So instead of a classroom, they have a mango tree. Or instead of a trained teacher, they have a local grandma from the community. And they say, "We need your help. Could you come in and partner with us?" So we go in then, and we kind of do our own due diligence. We understand, what is the need? What's the educational background of these students? And then we build something with the community. Really the beauty of what we do is it's with the community..."