The Anglo-Ethiopian Society

Project Pencil Case

Author - Arabella Stewart

Project Pencil Case "Supporting Ethiopian Students" is a personal initiative. I spent my childhood in Ethiopia from 1963 until 1974 as the daughter of broadcast journalists and went back as a volunteer teacher earlier this year. My love and attachment to Ethiopia was immediately rekindled when I returned as an adult.

Project Pencil Case
Photo © Arabella Stewart - Project Pencil Case

Project Pencil Case came to life in 2008 when my teenage son presented me with numerous pens and pencils he had never used while clearing his room. I decided to purchase inexpensive plastic pencil cases, fill them up and during the course of three trips in 2008 and 2009, I distributed them at random to children on the streets of Addis.

In 2009 the local primary school in my town (Bluecoat Primary School in Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire) became involved generously donating pencil case supplies and I was able to hand deliver over 50 pencil cases to needy kids in Addis Ababa.

Initially inspired by the experience I had as a volunteer teacher for a vocational school in Addis Ababa, I quickly became aware of how dedicated but impoverished many schools and students in Ethiopia are. The teaching experience for me was a wonderful and enriching time but supplies were extremely limited and absolutely nothing was taken for granted. I used a tiny chip of chalk and a board eraser which had only a thin layer of felt left.

I was constantly impressed that every child I met fortunate enough to attend school values education - whether at a free government school or small private school. As I walked along the colourful and vibrant streets of Addis and encountered these children (half of the population of Ethiopia is currently under age 21), most were keen to practice their English and told me with pride which grade they were in or how much they liked school.

Project Pencil Case
Photo © Arabella Stewart - Project Pencil Case

Each encounter with a child is special and encourages me to want to help even on the smallest scale. To see a child's face light up with a smile is reward enough but for these kids to have their own pencil case which is both useful and positive is the real satisfaction.

Project Pencil Case also has goals to link schools in the UK with schools in Addis Ababa in other ways including schemes to Adopt a School, Class or Student - full details can be found on the website or by contacting me by phone. If you know about a school, group or individual that might be interested in donating or collecting supplies, please get in touch.


First Published in News File Winter 2009

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