As a college student, Pencils of Promise founder Adam Braun backpacked around the world. He made it a habit to ask children in each country what one thing they wanted more than anything else in the world. When he asked this question to a child in India, he was surprised when the child said, simply, “A pencil.” It seemed basic enough, but the implications were far greater. Pencils of Promise was founded on those implications: that providing education to children in developing countries is one of the greatest gifts a person can give. For their role in activism, bolstered by their attractive, informative, and interactive website, Pencils of Promise is nominated for the South by Southwest Interactive Award in the activism category. The winner will be chosen at the awards ceremony to be held during the SXSW festival on March 15, 2011.

PoP’s mission is clear: 51% of what they do is providing education for students in developing countries who might not otherwise have that opportunity. According to their website, over 600 children are now receiving an education that would not have been possible without PoP. The other 49% of their mission is to focus on young people in order to get them to reach out and get involved with doing social good in their communities and all around the world. And indeed, as the website says, ten thousand lives have been positively impacted by Pencils of Promise — not just the lives of the students, but certainly also the lives of those who are working to provide them with these opportunities.

When PoP began, Braun placed a mere $25 into a bank account in the hopes that it would someday turn into enough to build one school. While supporters such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu and even Justin Bieber have made considerable contributions to Pencils of Promise, 98% of donations in the first two years have come in the form of $100 or less. Today they have raised over one million dollars and are working to open their twenty-third school.

The organization provides so many ways to get involved that it’s possible for anyone to offer his or her money, efforts, or voice. The more people who become involved, the more children it’s possible to educate. As of this posting, PoP has 17 established projects, 6 current projects, and 4 that are forthcoming. Curious to see how your money, efforts, or voices are being used? The website aims to “revolutionize donor transparency” by allowing you to see for yourself. You can take a 360-degree tour or view the GPS Google Maps of the villages where the schools are located. Pictures allow you to take virtual tours. Hours could be spent on this website, but they would be hours well-spent and never wasted.

In an interview with ABC News last week, founder Adam Braun said that he’s hopeful that one day there will no longer be a need for Pencils of Promise, but until then, they’re going to do everything in their power to help out those kids.

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