Our speaker Monday was Robin Mednick, President & Executive Director of Pencils for Kids.

Robin has a degree in Law from Osgoode Hall and an MA in Politics and Economics from Oxford University. After having 4 children in 5 years she stayed home to look after her children, but found returning to law was not suited to a mom of 4. She was a tour guide of Toronto for a  while and she worked as a volunteer in the Olympic Bid office for 18 months. She was then given paid job in the Olympic Bid office for another 18 months. In December 2005 she was speaking to Dan Gailbraith, a photographer for the Canadian team of athletes who had just returned from the Games of La Francophonie in Niger, Africa. Dan was distraught about the poverty he had seen in Niger, particularly in the schools where they found 30 children in one classroom sharing one pencil. Robin suggested to Dan they not talk about it, but do something about it.

Robin contacted the Canadian Embassy in Niger who put her in touch with Amadou Madougou, Mayor of Libore. He spoke no English and Robin's French was lacking, but fortunately Amadou's son had been educated in the US and spoke English. They sent her a "wish" list.

Armed with this list Robin went to the local Office Depot and explained to the manger what she was doing. He walked her up and down the aisles and donated items from the list, and asked to be on her team. He is now one of the VPs. Staples did the same. The only shipping company that could be trusted was DHL. Robin soon found that it was going to cost $500-$600 to ship one box. She contacted the President of DHL Canada and he offered to ship this shipment for free.

The Mayor and people of Libore were so excited when the box arrrived, he called the Canadian Embassy and requested someone come and witness opening of the box.

Office Depot then came up with 100 school bags filled with school items, and DHL shipped this for free also.  The Mayor decided that these should go to the top 100 children and he called in the local TV for the presentation. At this time Robin decided she needed to visit Libore and see things for herself. On one of the small flights she took to get there, and English man gave her $100 US towards the needs of the schools. On this trip she talked to the people at the Canadian Embassy to see if they had funds she could use. They did, but the deadline was in 3 weeks. She took people from the community to the Embassy and the funds ($69,000) were approved for a school to be built. The Mayor took her to  the middle of nowhere to meet with village people and see where the school could be built. At this time she gave him the $100 from the Englishman on the flight and he said they would engrave his name on the first desk. She called the Englishman and told him. He has continued to raise funds for P4K.  

Robin's husband went with her to witness the opening of the school. He is an ophthalmologist and he took with him $40,000 of ophthalmology equipment. when they returned home he contacted Orbvis and they are now involved there.

P4K started a sewing centre for girls who make baby clothes and sell them to the community. Their most recent project is Trees for Kids. They graft wild trees with a domestic fruit tree. Their aim is to graft 1000 trees.

Robin ended her presentation with a heartwarming video of the opening of the first Pencil for Kids school.

For more information on Pencils for Kids go to www.pencilsforkids.com.