Pencils of Promise: Building Schools, Building Communities

building schools in guatemala
Wendy Wecksell
Wendy Wecksell

Wendy Wecksell, Director of Partnerships for Pencils of Promise (PoP), recently returned from her first trip to Guatemala. While there, she was able to indulge in a new culture and witness the 51% of PoP’s mission of increasing access to education in the developing world.

There are certain things in life you just know. It is something you feel so viscerally that you can’t ignore, but more importantly, can’t quell.

Through out my life, my instincts for blind action have only sprung up a couple of times. Back in October, my gut screamed at me to accept the job at Pencils of Promise, which catapulted me into the most expansive professional learning experience. Most recently, that same core recognition acted out and said “Go to Guatemala!”

I didn’t know what to expect.

I knew I would see our schools. I knew I would meet our Guatemala staff. I knew I would spend some time experiencing the cultural offerings of a healing nation, but what I witnessed was so much more wholeheartedly comprehensive.

First of all, we don’t just build schools, but construct communities.

In Guatemala specifically, galvanizing around the construction of a school is a mini-miracleFor three decades, Guatemalans were warring against each other during a horrific Civil War that only recently ended in 1996. To see a community coming together to build a generation empowered is beautiful to behold.

Secondly, our staff deeply humbled me with their compassion, devotion, and sheer investment in education. I would sit in our office in awe of the incredible mentorship of our Country Director and the ingenuity of our local staff and PoP’s staff on the ground is 90% local.

Thirdly, Guatemala’s culture is so artistically sound that I couldn’t help, but be moved by their craft mastery. As a former theater major, I have a special place in my heart for various forms of artistic express, especially the physical incarnations of art like jewelry, rugs, and home design because they are skills I never acquired.

I left Guatemala in early January, but my learnings from the trip will continually resonate and positively affect my professional work and personal life, which are deeply intertwined.

Pencils of Promise builds schools in the developing world and trains young leaders to take action at home and abroad. The original version of this post can be read @

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