Reflections after a visit with Paola

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Reflections after a visit with Paola

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Paola Gianturco (pictured above with the PFA Team) at Saint Hilary School

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Reflections by the Pencils for Africa Team after a visit with

Paola Gianturco, Member of the Pencils for Africa Advisory Board

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Charlotte, Co-Editor-in-Chief, Pencils for Africa

I was inspired talking to Paula, she always makes me want to do more and be the best I can.

I loved how she talked about all the girls from Akili Dada. They all sounded so amazing with their projects to help their communities and give back. My favorite was the first girl, her name was Claris. She lived in the slums in Africa and her project was to build a library for the children.

My favorite was the first girl, her name was Claris.

She lived in the slums and her project was to build a library for the children.

She found a space and was donated 300 books. She had a couch and a book shelf. The children would come in and read the books on the couch after their school.

It was a very inspiring story and I want to learn to be more like those girls.

— Charlotte

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Lucia, Co-Editor-in-Chief, Pencils for Africa

Seeing Paola for the third time was very special, it was like seeing a family member who has been traveling in the world, representing all of us.

The main topics we talked about were:

1. Girls who are making a difference in their community.

2. What is smart?

Seeing Paola for the third time was very special, it was like seeing a family member who has been traveling the world, and representing us here in Marin County.

One girl started her very own library which is inspiring and a very smart way to give back to her community. There is a perception that just because you come from Africa you do not have the intelligence that children have in Marin County.

Here we may think that “smart” is knowing your math or how many words you can spell, but really “smart” can branch off into so many different categories (book smart, street smart, nature smart).

There is a perception that just because you come from Africa you do not have the intelligence that children have here in Marin County.

Being smart comes from the individual person, not the school. It is the opportunities that are offered to you that can help you develop your knowledge.

Paola is making a difference in our lives at PFA by opening up the conversation about woman and girls and their empowerment in the world. She is making a real difference in our world today. Paola is someone who all young girls and woman look up too, she is a real mentor.

Lucia

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Carly, Co-Editor-in-Chief, Pencils for Africa

After meeting with Paola, I learned that nothing is impossible and that opportunities can change someone’s life. Akili Dada works with talented girls in Africa, to give them the opportunity to get a good education and in turn, they will work to help their community.

First, Paola shared the story of Claris, who identified that the problem in her community was that the school kids had no local access to books. Claris worked to solve this problem by setting up a library in an alley way, open to help all kids in her community.

Next, Paola shared the story of Helen.

Paola shared that all these girls, when talking about future goals, all said: “This is not about hoping, this will happen.”

The Pencils for Africa community will be motivated by this simple, but powerful quote throughout the year.

When Helen went back to her community, she noticed that families didn’t have enough land to grow their own food. To solve this problem, she taught them how to grow kale in bags used to transport rice and grains. This action helped her community use what they had around them to grow healthy food, with little land needed. These two stories, and many more, are great examples of empowered girls who found solutions to challenges in their home communities.

These girls are examples of how an opportunity can truly empower and change someone’s life.

Finally, Paola shared that all of these girls, when talking about their goals for the future, said:

This is not about hoping, this will happen.”

The PFA Community will be motivated by this simple, but powerful quote throughout the year.

Carly

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Ella, Deputy Editor, Pencils for Africa

When Paola Gianturco visited the Akili Dada students, her view on the definition of intelligence was broadened, which in turn broadened my own view as she came and talked to the PFA group.

She showed us women who riled their communities to build libraries, start gardens, grow tree nurseries, build chicken coops, and mentor children.

Most, if not all of the women grew from deeply impoverished situations.

A common stereotype associated with poverty is that impoverished people are not very smart.

Paola fortunately proved us wrong.

I learned that day that being smart is not measured in a test or wealth, but in the things you can accomplish.

A common stereotype associated with poverty is that impoverished people are not very smart. Paola fortunately proved us wrong as we saw through her eyes the intelligence of the women to accomplish such tasks. I learned that day that being smart is not measured in a test or wealth, but in the things you can accomplish. I hope to learn more from Paola as she continues her journey to inspire young women the same way she inspired me.

Ella

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Josh, Assistant Editor, Pencils for Africa

I thought it was great to meet with Paola.

It was really amazing to meet with such a cool woman and learn about what she did.

She was very kind and had lots of information to share with us.

To me it was very interesting to learn about some of the women she talked about and how they got to where they were. Some of them started off with almost nothing while others had more, but all of them were very smart and wanted to start something new.

Sometimes people like us here in Marin County, people that have basic necessities, people that have all conveniences, still struggle to find motivation.

I can’t remember all their names off the top of my head, but I know that some of these women started libraries. They all had a passion for books and an interest to learn. They wanted to be able to start something for the future generation, and to me, that is really inspiring. To think that people like them, people that are not as fortunate, can still stay positive and change the world is inspiring.

Sometimes people like us here in Marin, people that have basic necessities, people that have all the conveniences still struggle to find motivation.

I hope that I will be able to do something in my life that helps to change the world.

It’s great to see that there are organizations that are looking to help these kinds of people.

They want to be able to provide an education and the resources they need to start a movement.

I hope that I will be able to do something in my life that helps to change the world.

Josh

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Cole, Assistant Editor, Pencils for Africa

Paola told me many things about the young girls she went to Kenya to study at Akili Dada.

The most important message I learned was that all the girls were very smart and caring for the people who needed it. I feel that Akili Dada is a wonderful program and so important to help give young woman an opportunity in education.

Cole

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Kyle, Assistant Editor, Pencils for Africa

When me met with Ms. Gianturco, I was amazed at the Akili Dada program she spoke about.

I already knew a bit about conditions in Kenya because I had watched movies on Africa with my sister Shannon, especially the movie “On The Way To School”, about two children in Kenya struggling hard to make their way to school.

I already knew a bit about conditions in Kenya because I had watched movies on Africa with my sister Shannon, especially the movie “On The Way To School”, about two children in Kenya struggling hard to make their way to school.

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My favorite girl that Ms. Gianturco talked about was Clarisa.

It is amazing that when she was 10, Clarisa used scrap metal to make money by selling it to be recycled. She started a library. I can’t imagine what it was like for Clarisa to have her first book when she was in 8th grade. I am in 6th grade and we give our old books away.

My first book was in Pre-K.

It is amazing what these girls have accomplished.

Kyle

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Charlie, Assistant Editor, Pencils for Africa

Akili Dada is a program that helps women from the ages of thirteen to nineteen in Kenya.

They have many girls apply, but only a lucky few are able to receive the wonderful opportunity.

Akili Dada gives these girls a scholarship to a private high school in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya.

Once they graduate high school, they go back to their home towns, which are usually very poor, and are tasked with finding a solution to some of the major problems in their community.

I think that Akili Dada is an amazing social enterprise!

These powerful women are modern day heroes in Kenya, and all over the world. If we could use them as role models, it would teach us many things like perseverance and how powerful education can be.

In many parts of Kenya, there is no infrastructure, so these tasks can be very challenging.

Another very important detail about these girls is that they are all certain of what they want to be when they grow up. During our meeting we learned about five of these powerful young women, and in the paragraphs below I will tell you about them.

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The Founder of Akili Dada, Dr. Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg

The first young woman we learned about was Claris.
Claris lived in a very poor village in Kenya.

 

Ever since she was a young girl, she loved to read.

When she was in 8th grade, her teacher made her in charge of all of the books for her class.

This excited her greatly, as it let her read whenever she wanted to. After getting through high school, she thought back to her days as a child, and realized that what her community was missing is a library. Her library has been very successful so far and has over three hundred books in it. Now, all of the children can read all of the books that they want when they want.

We may not realize it, but education is a weapon that strikes back at poverty.

We may not realize it, but education is a weapon that strikes back at poverty.

When children living in a poor area are able to learn and read, they are striking back at poverty.

Here in the United States, we can take the power of a book for granted, but in the slums of Kenya, where there are very few books, the children give a lot to be able to read.

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Akili Dada students in Kenya

The next girl we learned about was named Helen.
Helen lives in a very rural part of Kenya.

 

The land that she lives on is very good farming country, and the people there use donkeys for transportation and to carry heavy objects.

When she finished high school and came back to her home town, she decided to teach her people to learn to grow food in plastic bags because the villagers did not have any land to grow food on.

She taught all of the villagers how to grow kale in the plastic bags, and now the villagers do not have to worry about not having enough food. In America, we almost never have to worry about our food. We always know that we can just go to the grocery store and buy our food, but in many of the rural parts of Africa, they have to grow their own food.

It would be a very difficult life to live if you could barely feed your family, so Helen’s efforts to help her townspeople have made a great impact on the way that the people in her village live.

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After we learned about Helen, we learned about another young woman named Lia Likibi.

 

In her village, all of the trees were cut down. This causes a very big problem in the ecosystem.

Lia decided to grow seedlings to help regenerate the ecosystem and to bring back the scenery to her village. She also decided to build a library in her town. Her library does not have as many books as Clarisse’s, but is still very successful.

At first, she had the library operating out of her aunts house, but then it became too successful, so her aunt made her move to a new place. Now the library is operated in the local church. After school, all of the children sit in the chairs and read their books. When Lia was visited, she made sure all the children were reading their books to show everybody how successful her library was.

I think that Lia is very powerful because she not only fixed one problem in her village, but two. That is very difficult to do with such little infrastructure and in such a poor area.

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Akili Dada students in Kenya

The next girl that we learned about was a girl named Brenda.

 

Brenda’s village is near the rift valley. She mobilized the youth group, and working together they were able to build a chicken coup for the town.

Her plan is to have the chickens lay eggs, and to have chicks.

Then they will sell the eggs and the chickens to make money for the town. She will also teach the villagers how to grow kale, so that they can sell the kale, and use it to feed the chickens.

I think that being able to get the youth group to have one common goal of building a chicken coup to better her entire village was extremely impressive.

It is very difficult to get people to work together on a small task, but uniting many of the children to build a chicken coup from scratch is amazing. If we could learn from her on how to work together better, we would be able to be more efficient and altogether happier.

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The final girl that we learned about was named Cynthia.

 

Cynthia lives in a town called Nanli. After finishing Akili Dada, she decided to run empowerment for all of the children in her village.

She primarily talks to children about goal setting and in believing in yourself.

Once during the school break, she tried to find a class to teach.

Finally, in the next village she found a school that was still in session. She asked the principal if she could teach the students. The principal said yes, and later that day, she taught all of the students about goal setting. I think that Cynthia is very powerful because she teaches children about really important things. If we did not set goals, we would not get anywhere. If we did not believe in ourselves than we will not get anywhere. The children that she teaches will now work harder to better their lifestyles, and set goals for later so that they can make a difference.

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I think that Akili Dada is an amazing social enterprise!

They are giving back to the society, and almost double.

They give many young girls an education, and in turn, those girls better their societies with their knowledge and fix many of the problems such as lack of books, deforestation, food, and empowerment programs. If all of us could give back to our society even half as much as these girls our society would be a much better place. These powerful women are modern day heroes in Kenya, and all over the world. If we could use them as role models, it would teach us many things like perseverance and how powerful education can be.

Charlie