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Rego Park girl helps school kids in Africa

By Michael Gannon, Queens Chronicle

776 days ago   Article ID# 1479207
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The Pencil Project

REGO PARK, NEW YORK (Queens Chronicle) - Rachel Manheim has the instincts and heart of the excellent teacher she hopes to become one day.

And while it may be some years before she stands at the front of a classroom, she will be making learning somewhat easier for thousands of children in the African nation of Malawi through her work for a charity called The Pencil Project.

Rachel, 13, is the daughter of Ken and Amy Manheim of Rego Park, and attends Russell Sage Junior High School. And she was looking for some sort of service project in recognition of her bat mitzvah.

“I wanted a project that had to do with education because I want to be a teacher,” she said. “My mom and I were looking through some magazines and we saw an ad.”

The Pencil Project was founded in 1998 by a writer who had lived in Africa as a child, after he saw a picture his mother took of a small boy in a crowded class who treasured the small broken pencil he owned.

In an exchange of emails with the organization, Rachel learned that if she was able to collect 1,400 pencils, she could provide one treasured pencil for every student in each of two schools in Malawi.

She decided not to stop at one.

Rachel reached out to family, friends and neighbors. She and her mother spoke of Rachel’s idea with Rabbi Gerald Skolnik of the Forest Hills Jewish Center, who helped them set up a collection box for assistance from the congregation.

At the end, she had collected nearly 3,500, and began looking into ways to offset the high cost of shipping them to Malawi. Then the Manheims had the idea of contacting Office Depot to see if they would be willing to help.

“They agreed to pay for the shipping,” Rachel said. “And they contacted their pencil suppliers.”

In an email from the company, Kevin Peters, president of Office Depot’s North American operations, said Dixon, which manufactures Ticonderoga pencils, and Sanford, which makes Paper Mates, joined the parade, bringing Rachel’s total to 11,000 pencils.

“At Office Depot, we believe that we have a responsibility to be good corporate citizens by supporting nonprofit organizations from around the world and making a positive impact on many lives and communities,” Peters said.

He said once Rachel shared her story about collecting 3,500 pencils for school children in Malawi, company officials were moved by her passion to help children across the world.

Peters said they wanted to not only help her by shipping the pencils she collected through their corporate shipping service, but to reach out to Dixon and Sanford to add to her collection.

Rachel’s favorite subject is English, and she plays trumpet in her school’s band. She wants to become an elementary school teacher, and is not looking to focus on a particular subject area just yet.

This past weekend, Rachel went into Manhattan to finish her project off.

“We watched them put the box on the UPS truck,” she said.

Copyright 2014 Queens Chronicle   (Copyright Terms)
Updated 776 days ago   Article ID# 1479207

The Pencil Project    Visit Website

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