Kay’s Journal: Pencils for My Birthday


Kay Adams

The merry month of May is my birthday month (the 12th), Mother’s Day (I was born on Mother’s Day!), and now the birthday (May 7th) of our family’s newest addition, Elam James Schroeder, son of my niece Kelly and her husband Jeremy. So far Elam is a little love bug who weathered a 36-hour labor like a champ (as did his mom!) and now can’t get enough of snuggling in the crook of his mama’s neck.

Elam James, 5 days old

My family has been asking me what I want for my birthday, and I never know what to say because I have simple tastes and minimal material desires. But now I know what to tell them! I want pencils, please!

This year (ending May 31) I am donating my birthday in support of a nonprofit, Pencils of Promise. I’ve supported this organization with my own donations for the past year. Since 2009 PoP has built 438 schools, trained 919 teachers, and educated 88,325 children in Laos, Ghana and Guatemala — all because of the vision of one Adam Braun, who, while in his early 20s, had a life-changing experience. Here’s Adam’s story:

It began with a question. A small boy begging in the streets of India. “What do you want most in the world?”

“A pencil,” he replied.

I reached into my backpack, handed him my pencil, and watched as a wave of possibility washed over him.

A smile erupted and his eyes brightened. I then saw the profound power and promise brought through something as small as giving a pencil to just one child. Over the next five years, I backpacked through more than 50 countries, handing out thousands of pens and pencils across six continents. These pencils, these small pieces of potential, led to powerful conversations with local parents and children across countless cultures and languages. From years of listening to their words, it became clear that there was a need for an international nonprofit that was led on-the-ground by a staff of locals from within each country, required village participation in each school, and deeply supported, trained and tracked each student to ensure their success. These are the guidelines on which Pencils of Promise was founded in October 2008.

A Ghanan school built by Pencils of Promise

Since starting with just a $25 deposit, we have now built more than 400 schools.

In the process, we have learned a lot. We’ve learned that education is a living, breathing entity that with the right nurturing, evolves into something spectacular. We’ve learned that every piece of its growth is a challenge and that each pencil, each dollar, each supporter is essential. Pencils of Promise is now a global movement of passionate individuals, many of which are the most dynamic and impactful leaders we have ever seen. They are committed to supporting a world with greater educational opportunity for all. Thousands have joined us, making contributions through acts both large and small.

–Adam Braun, Pencils of Promise

The mission of the Center for Journal Therapy is to offer education and training in the art and science of journal writing to all who desire self-directed change. It is now time to expand our mission to include education in literacy and numeracy for children who desire the promise of a pencil. Will you join me in celebrating my birthday by helping to actualize the promise and potential of young minds? Other than Elam, I can’t think of a better gift! Thank you!


7 Responses to Kay’s Journal: Pencils for My Birthday

  1. Peggy Heller May 10, 2018 at 12:09 pm #

    Your blogs always inspire, dear Kay. This one shimmers! Happy birthday my friend.
    Love, Peggy

  2. Kay Adams May 10, 2018 at 6:22 pm #

    Thank you, Peggy, my wonderful friend and forever mentor!

  3. Carol Roberts May 10, 2018 at 7:12 pm #

    Sounds like a wonderful idea and happy birthday! I’ll look them up.

  4. Cyncie Winter May 14, 2018 at 4:11 pm #

    Dearest Kay,

    When I was a Fulbright Scholar to Egypt in 2005, I gave a pen to a young barefooted Egyptian boy, who was absolutely delighted by the gift. We take so much for granted, and your increasing our awareness about this opportunity to make a contribution is just like you, and in perfect synchronicity with all that you have manifested in your life.

    Thank you for donating your birthday to such a lovely cause!

    • Kay Adams May 14, 2018 at 4:51 pm #

      Cyncie, what a beautiful story. And THANK YOU for your generous donation! (I wish I could THANK personally those who are donating anonymously…..so if you’re one, please know I’m deeply grateful.)

  5. Linda Barnes May 14, 2018 at 5:25 pm #

    In the years when I taught Human Potential (using as text How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinvi), I gave each student a Black Warrior pencil. The pencil is one of the things that made the Renaissance possible. Never under estimate the power of pencils, and writing.

    • Kay Adams May 25, 2018 at 1:56 pm #

      Linda, what a brilliant context for a simple pencil. Pencils change the world. I know one changed mine.

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