The Anglo-Ethiopian Society

Project Pencil Case

Author - Arabella Stewart


Most school children in the west started school this year with a brand new pencil case filled with all the essential tools. Many school children in Ethiopia however are not that lucky - some schools provide students with one pencil for the school year while many others are expected to supply their own pencil. Most of these students however will simply be unable to afford a new pencil if it is lost or broken, and so will rely on sharing with a classmate.

Since the inspiration to start Project Pencil Case (PPC) in 2009 (after a visit back to Ethiopia in 2008 and where I was raised as a child), PPC has been busy researching and helping schools in need here in Addis Ababa. I also now run PPC with an Ethiopian born and raised teacher whom I met whilst teaching English in Addis Ababa. Mikele knows first hand about the struggles many schools here experience with limited resources - he himself attended an overcrowded primary school as a boy and never had the luxury of his own pencil case!

There is often a perception that because Addis is the capital and the most affluent part of the country (albeit still one of the poorest countries in the world) that perhaps the schools here are not doing too badly. We have been shocked to discover the depth of poverty that exists in schools just a stones throw away from streets displaying brand new and gleaming high rise hotels and offices - these children come from severely deprived homes and often they are orphans - from backgrounds too poor to be given breakfast and certainly bringing with them no lunch. However, we have also heard inspirational stories about schools funding feeding programs themselves from their own limited resources and often from their own pockets. PPC particularly aspires to help these schools.

In addition to ongoing fundraising for schools in need and being able to provide an entire school with pencil cases, PPC now also helps place volunteer teachers. Imagine a school library for example with no books! Soon we will be able to supply two school libraries with new books from a UK educational grant we received.

PPC works with Link Ethiopia on school twinnings and this summer we were really delighted with the response our PPC website attracted with volunteers and visitors coming to help PPC supported schools in need - offering their time and bringing with them supplies! We also had a wonderful visit with a twinned school in Yorkshire and were able to contribute to a class on globalisation and development offering new perspectives on Ethiopia, too often only synonymous with drought and famine.

Children with their new Project Pencil Case suppplies
Children with their new Project Pencil Case suppplies.
Photo © Arabella Stewart

As a way to remain sustainable, PPC is now delighted to be working with a long established and respected Addis Ababa based Ethiopian tour operator to be able to offer unique individual and group tours of Ethiopia - tailor made to suit the individuals' specific requirements and needs. By taking a trip to Ethiopia, maybe combined with some days or weeks volunteering or just as a holiday, you will also be helping schools and students in Ethiopia.

If you would like to help PPC from the UK in some way, we would really love to hear from you! There are lots of creative ways you can help us. Kingston Grammar Schools Year 8 recently held a cake sale for PPC, the proceeds of which will be used to buy pencil cases (now designed and made by a Women's Cooperative here in Addis). And Dundonald Community Market in Wimbledon raised funds for us from sales in August. PPC will also be selling fair trade and beautiful Ethiopian crafts from our website in addition to markets and events when we are in the UK. If you want to send an Ethiopian craft as a gift anywhere in the world, we can send the item with a card directly to the recipient. Please do look at our website and contact us for any further information.

Website: www.projectpencilcase.org
Email: projectpencilcase@gmail.com


First Published in News File Winter 2011

Opinions expressed in the articles are those of the authors and not necessarily the views of the Society.
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