GHIC 2020: Global Health & Innovation Conference
April 4-5, 2020 at Yale University and the Historic Shubert Theater
New Haven, Connecticut

Unite For Sight's 2011 Global Health & Innovation Conference

Blog Report by Chung-Sang Tse, Unite For Sight Global Health Leadership Intern Alumna

"Strategies To Engage Schools and Community Organizations in Fundraising For NGOs," Karen King, MA, Teacher, Reed Intermediate School, Connecticut

Some years ago, during one of Karen’s summer visits to Limerick, Ireland, her friends pointed out to her a man named Paudy Power.  Nothing stood out about him at first – his appearance, his job, or his personality – but Karen later found out that he has a remarkable hobby. Driven by his desire to help the impoverished people of Kosovo, Paudy Power fundraises and collects supplies that he delivers annually on his truck to Kosovo. On one of the trips, a man donated a box of pencils for the children. Upon his arrival, he found that the district elementary school had burned down, and the children were relocated to different families’ homes for schooling. Nonetheless, each child in the area received a pencil, and photographs were taken to commemorate the exchange. Upon seeing these pictures, Karen was touched. As an elementary school teacher herself, this was a cause that she could relate to: education and children.

Upon her return to Connecticut, she told her students about Paudy. The students, quite frankly, said they had an overabundance of pencils – it filled their pencil cases, lay unused in desk drawers, and were abandoned on hallway floors. Realizing the disparity between their community and others, the students aimed to collect 10,000 pencils and send them to the children in Kosovo. Thus began the ‘Pencils for Peace’ project and Karen’s unwitting role in humanitarianism.  

Tying Pencils for Peace into the school curriculum was crucial to substantiating it. The students completed a ‘social studies’ assignment to brainstorm possible sources of donated pencils – local businesses, their parents' workplaces, stationary stores, and so forth. It became a ‘language arts’ lesson to write proposal letters to these potential donors and explain their cause. Refining the students’ communication skills was critical to telling others about the project at churches, temples, and service clubs.  Counting how many pencils were collected became a weekly ‘math exercise’ – especially when the number of donated pencils burgeoned to hundreds and thousands.

Kids asking for pencils – genuine and innocent requests – are hard to refuse. By the end of the school year, the wholehearted response from the community was clear – not only were 30,000 pencils collected, but also other supplies and $15,000.  It got the attention of the Chamber of Commerce, the local Rotary club, corporations (Pepsi, Toys “R” Us, Costco), and families. To bring all the collected items overseas, an airline company offered to ship it for free.

That was in 2004, and since then Karen King has embarked on other projects involving Haiti and Liberia. Each time, the motif of involving children in the fundraising process stays constant. Karen admits that without the children, she would not have achieved the same success. The community opened their hearts; they wanted the kids to learn about global awareness, empathy, empowerment, and school identity, and to partake in greater-than-yourself endeavors.
To close, Karen imparts these gems of fundraising strategies: