Pencils Change Lives

Plus One Agent, Tim Paulson has been a proud supporter of Pencils For Kids for more than 15 years. Now you also have the opportunity to support children by signing up for the golf tournament! 
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"I've known Retta Jitner for more than 25 years.  She was a client when I worked in advertising.  We were having lunch just over 15 years ago after my wife Jane and I had just returned from a trip to Malawi, Africa, with a group called the Global AIDS Interfaith Alliance.  Retta had just returned from a trip to Myanmar.  A young girl came up to her during that trip and asked her if she had a pencil.  Retta looked in her purse and took out a pen.  The girl's face fell.  She politely declined the pen.  She would not be allowed into school without a pencil. 
When Retta returned to LA, she founded her charity Pencils for Kids, which now gives more than 3,000 children in Bali, Thailand, Myanmar, and Mexico a backpack filled with school supplies and a uniform each year they stay in school.
I was amazed.  I told Retta that when we were preparing to go to Malawi, we asked GAIA what we should bring in case children approached us asking for something.  They told us to bring pencils!  Jane and I brought 200 pencils with us on that trip, and sure enough, we gave them all away.  I was a charter member of Retta's Board, and I have worked with PFK ever since.  Jane and I have traveled to Bali and to Thailand to distribute these backpacks personally to each child." - Tim Paulson

One day in 2007, Retta Jitner was on vacation in Myanmar when she was surrounded by several young children eager to practice their English. As they walked on together, a 7-year-old girl shyly asked Retta if she had a pencil to spare. Retta searched her bag and held out a pen. “No, thank you,” came the girl’s polite response, and she ran off. “Why did she have to have a pencil?” Retta asked a young boy. “Because,” he replied, “you need a pencil to go to school.”

From that inspired moment, Retta came home to found Pencils for Kids, Inc. (PFK) to make it possible for children in developing countries to attend school. Because the plain truth is, without a hand, many children won’t get an education or the future it can help realize.

In countries where families must pay for all of their child’s school supplies (even paper, crayons and, yes, pencils), costs can be prohibitive. The majority of children who attend PFK-sponsored schools either live in orphan homes or come from families who work hard to earn $1 a day. The $10 needed to buy a school uniform represents about 1/3 of a rural family’s monthly income.

In 2008, we launched our first mission to Bali. We followed that in 2009 with Thailand. And in 2012, we started our missions to Myanmar. Today, Pencils For Kids, Inc. hand delivers backpacks filled with essential school supplies and uniform vouchers to more than 2,500 kids a year in three countries.

This is a sustaining K-college program. As the children in PFK schools grow up, we pledge to return and provide each with a fully stocked backpack every year.




As a supporter of Pencils For Kids, Inc., you will make a lasting difference in the lives of children and families, and play a role in heart-warming stories like these:


At a two-classroom school in Thailand (K-2nd grade in one room, 3rd-6th in the other), children were sweeping the grounds when PFK arrived, their homemade brooms made of tree twigs and leaves. The grounds were immaculate, not a leaf, or piece of garbage to be seen anywhere. After we delivered backpacks to 77 kids, the Student Body President, a 6th grade girl, shared how she had stayed up all night praying to Buddha to keep our group safe. She couldn’t imagine why these wonderful people were bringing school supplies or how we found them in their little village, but she was so grateful. She had never imagined that anyone, other than her mother, would think she was important.


Driving down the road to our first PFK-sponsored school in Bali, we suddenly saw children pouring out of nowhere. They began chasing our caravan and running a long-side. When we walked into the school the rest of the kids were lined up perfectly and patiently waiting. The school principal told us that many parents reported their kids couldn’t sleep the night before, they were so excited about receiving their backpacks and uniforms — these would be the only presents they get all year.


Nearly all the children we support in this beautiful country are in orphan homes. They are either true orphans with no family, or they have been “given” to the orphan home because tragically their parents can no longer provide for their clothes, food or schooling. A few of the orphan homes are monastic nunneries, run by Buddhist Nuns, and filled with girls from babies to high school age. The girls have shaved heads and wear soft pink monastic robes, rather than school uniforms. We provide all with backpacks and new robes, which they immediately change into! They are so proud and grateful to have a new set of clothing, their smiles beam and their eyes shine with joy.


In Bali, schools tell us their enrollment increases each year as word spreads that children who attend a PFK-supported school receive much-needed school supplies and mandatory uniforms absolutely free. Children who otherwise would not attend school are now being enrolled, as parents who can’t afford to provide these essentials for their children will drive or walk an extra distance for their children to attend a PFK school.


As we are a sustaining program, we get to watch our kids grow up and, year after year, see the same beautiful, smiling faces proudly in line for school supplies. I mentioned to one parent (through a translator) how tall her son had become in one year. The mother smiled and said, because of PFK, “we eat chicken now.” Before, the high cost of school supplies meant that the family couldn’t afford to buy or raise protein. Instead, they subsisted on rice and vegetables that they grew.


For More Information on Pencils for Kids contact:

[email protected]