@writefullyhis // East Africa
Because of the simple act of breaking a pencil. WritefullyHis was created.
Travel back with me two in a half years ago. I was studying abroad in the Southern part of France in Aix-en-Provence. I chose to live with a family, rather than an apartment so I could soak in all the French culture that I could. What seemed like a simple decision at the time I later realized it had a huge impact. I found out rather quickly, my host family did not speak a word of English. And did I mention that I did not speak the language of love either?
Many afternoons I found myself going to a park after class, stretching out over a blanket, watching the locals and reading. Let’s just say I had a lot of “me” time. One of the first books I read was, “Start Something That Matters” by Blake Mycloskie, the TOMS founder and one-for-one movement guru. The concepts of giving back through companies fascinated me so I delved deeper and found more books to read on the topic.
A couple of months into my trip, my favorite travel companion and best friend, my sister came to visit me in Aix-en-Provence. As I shared with her what I learned and discovered she told me about a story she had heard about parents breaking pencils just a few weeks before.
This immediately sparked my interest so I found the book The Price of Stones, Building a School for My Village. The story was about a man named Jackson Kaguir. A Ugandan citizen and Heifer International Hero who was recognized in Time Magazine’s ‘Power of One’ Series and a co-author of the book. Jackson stated “he owes everything good and positive and productive of his life to his parent’s willingness to buy and to break pencils. I want to share with you his story and how it changed the direction of my life.
We were five brothers and sisters. My childhood memories are about waking up in the morning and finding that my dad had gone and purchased a No. 2 pencil – which for us as a family, was a lot of money. That is why he could not afford 5 pencils – one for each of us children. However, the school rule was that you had to have a pencil – used or unused – it did not matter – to attend our school. We would be turned away if we did not arrive at school with a pencil. So dad broke this No. 2 pencil into 5 pieces and handed each of us 5 children one fifth of a pencil stub. With a fifth of pencil, I didn’t have to sneak into school and risk being kicked out.
This act by my father launched my schooling. It is my father’s simple and profound act of breaking No. 2 pencils. If people in America and elsewhere want to understand the depth of educational need in Africa, they need to stop and think about this one fact: There are many children in Africa who cannot attend school because their families cannot afford the price of admission, which is one-fifth of a pencil. Let me repeat that: There are children in Africa today, who do not go to school because they do not have one-fifth of a pencil.” From all of my reading and time spent journaling I began to research education in East Africa and found this to be true.
WritefullyHis actually had it’s beginnings as a pencil and a piece of paper that rested on a café table in France as my sister and I huddled over it- we brainstormed and jotted down ideas on that one piece of paper with that one pencil for hours. I knew that day, I would follow my passion lead from God to take His vision on that scrap piece of paper and follow it wherever it would take me. Once I had it, I could not sit on it. I acted. I read. I researched and I proclaimed it to people in my life that this was my calling in life -to be an advocate for the children in this world who do not even have 1/5 of a pencil.
In the Fall of 2012, I began my senior year at Wofford College with only whispers of WritefullyHis to friends and family not knowing what the next step should be. And honestly quite scared of putting all my passions on the line and not knowing how I could make a difference in East Africa. Just knowing that it was constantly on my mind and in my heart. Little did I know just a couple of weeks into senior year, with a leap of faith I launched WritefullyHis’ website. I can promise you I didn’t have all the answers, I was not even sure what the next minute, hour or day was going to bring over the last two in a half years.
My first line of stationery was a simple hand-stamped set of cards that I stamped and packaged from my mother’s kitchen table. September of 2012 was our first month of business and we were able to send a check to buy paper and pencil for school children in Jinja, Uganda. By the end of the year, we were able to supply paper and pencil to our first school for an entire term.
Today, WritefullyHis contracts with thirteen graphic designers across the country that help with the creation of the different collections. We support 9 schools across East Africa for full terms. We are also expanding and have started the journey toward opening the first WritefullyHis School in Tanzania. With the 20%, paper and pencil are purchased locally in the village markets to aid sustainability for the local community. We have created the WritefullyHis Fund, which has allowed us to give back to the following countries in East Africa: Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda.