The Conversation: 'Pencils of Promise'

Unique charity builds schools for impoverished children around the world.

ByABC News
January 28, 2011, 1:08 PM

Jan. 28, 2011 — -- What kind of charity is endorsed by everyone from Archbishop Desmond Tutu to teen pop idol Justin Bieber?

The answer is a unique non-profit organization, "Pencils of Promise," which tries to harness the passion of the millennial generation to give impoverished kids around the world a chance at education.

Adam Braun founded the organization when he was just 24 years old, and just two years later it already has raised more than $1 million and built some two dozen schools around the world. But the mission started out much more modestly.

"I was a college student traveling on this round-the-world trip, and I had a habit of asking a kid in each country, 'If they could have any one thing, what would they want most?'" Braun told ABC News' Linsey Davis in today's Conversation. "As an American, you expect to hear these really lofty answers, and I found this street beggar in India who said, 'A pencil.'"

That comment inspired Braun to start "Pencils of Promise," which he hopes will be the defining non-profit of his generation. The bulk of donations in the charity's first few years have come in small donations -- $15 or $20 at a time. But every dollar makes a difference, Braun said, because 75 million kids around the world do not have access to basic education.

"People don't acknowledge it because it's not in front of our faces, but there is a global education crisis," Braun said. "I'm hopeful that, one day, we won't need to be here. But until that point, we're going to be doing everything in our power to help out those kids."

For more information, go to

Click here for more "Conversation" videos.