Lisa Perrone (far right), District Aide for Congressman John Larson, and Riccardo Regina, Legislative Aide for State Senator Joe Markley, flank Planting Pencils’ founder and middle school student Ishaan Patel and his mother Dr. Alpa Patel when they donated new school supplies to the grateful students at Trinity Academy in Hartford, CT, on Mar. 2. (Alliances by Alisa Media Relations)
A Connecticut middle-schooler hopes to sow the seeds of change with his new charity called Planting Pencils. His goal is to help schools in India and around the world by donating school supplies and computers. (#Philanthropy, #PlantingPencils, @PlantingPencils, #IshaanPatel, @IshaanPatel, @Siliconeer, #Siliconeer, #HelpingSchoolKidsinNeed)
I am 13-year-old Ishaan Patel. Having emigrated from India in their childhoods, my parents both work in Connecticut as doctors specializing in pediatrics and internal medicine. All of our lives they have always told my sister and me that nothing we see came easily. My mother often shares stories of childhood homes in India with no running water and crumbling foundations. She has always encouraged us to help others.
Two years ago, my aunt, Hema Shah, volunteered to teach impoverished children in Jaipur, India. Hema shared stories about children who were eager to learn but lacked the basic tools that they needed to do their work.
She showed me pictures and told me stories about under-funded schools where there was just bare ground and a simple chalkboard. The students attended class with no desks, no pencils, and no books. I was like Wow!, look at us here where we have all of these things. I attend a private school called Kingswood-Oxford School in West Hartford, CT, where lessons are taught on smart boards and assignments are completed on laptops. When I saw the pictures, it made me want to actually do something. She asked my friends and me to donate school supplies. She described her students’ joy and delight when they received something as simple as a pencil.
That’s when I decided to create a new charity called Planting Pencils. The charity will raise money and collect school supplies for underserved and underfunded schools in our nation and the world. We are the next generation to come and I see it as the job of us privileged students to help those students who are not as privileged.
After doing some research, I found that less than 2% of humanitarian aid goes towards education. More than 700 million adults in the world are illiterate and do not have the skills or awareness to improve the living conditions for themselves or their family. According the United Nations Report in 2014, 57 million children around the globe do not have access to a school.
My parents helped me submit a 501c3 IRS application and create a Web site. I was able to establish a permanent collection site at a Staples store in West Hartford, CT, to ensure steady donations of pencils, pens, crayons, rulers, calculators and used computers, laptops and books. In honor of Read Across America day on Mar. 2, we delivered the charity’s first donations to two non-profit schools in Hartford, CT.
On Feb. 5, I was recognized and honored for my efforts by the Milan Cultural Organization at the Republic Day Celebration held at the Connecticut Legislative Office building in Hartford. Additionally, the Syracuse University Graduate Student organization has chosen Planting Pencils as the beneficiary of its annual weekend fundraising MBA Olympic games from April 1-3. I will serve as a guest judge for the competition and will speak at the event dinner. The university has already placed supply collection bins around campus.
One day, I hope to build a school, in India, where problems such as malnutrition and lack of clean water prevent children from learning.
At the school, I plan to supply clean water for showering and drinking, and to serve students breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I believe that if students are healthy and comfortable, they will benefit even more from the Internet access and computers I plan to provide for them.
If we provide food and water in the schools, they wouldn’t have to worry about that during school or back at home. If people are educated they’ll be able to be self-sufficient.
I am currently planning a trip to a school in India for a potential partnership with Kingswood Oxford. I hope to provide the students with the technology needed to have a digital pen-pal here in Connecticut.
I think that if students in India can communicate with my classmates over Skype, they can offer each other tutoring, and peer support, and that it might inspire my classmates to give back to those less fortunate. I hope I can help students everywhere become “up to speed” with their peers at schools such as mine.
Education for every child would mean a brighter future for the world as a whole. It is my belief that with one pencil, one book, one child at a time, we can make a difference.
Planting Pencils is a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to raising awareness and collecting school supplies to improve access to education in underserved parts of the world. The goal of the charity is to use the seed of education to grow empowered children. The founder believes that education gives a person power; power to change his or her destiny, power to protect one’s family, power to enlighten, power to fight poverty and hunger, and power to fight hatred and bigotry. For more information or to donate visit www.PlantingPencils.org. Follow us on Facebook, or Twitter.