It started with a ride on a yellow taxi to outside the city of Calcutta sometime in the sultry month of June in 2012. I ended up in a school run by who else but the taxi driver himself – but that is another story. For now, let me take you along on my journey. 40 miles away from the city towards its south.
A grey and brown village where electricity had reached just about a month earlier, in spite of being so close to a bustling metropolis. 250 children – wide eyed and trusting in the world around them. That if they were to just do what we told them to their dreams will come true.
Join me in the ride and perhaps later, if you are still around with me, I will tell you how it lead to Crayons of Hope.
We scrambled fast afterwards. Raising money from friends to help the children make their grey world a little more cheerful. We put together a small program to give them a year’s supply of color. Soon, we were working with another bunch of 100 children in another part of the city – handing out crayons, hanging out with them, waiting for them to finish their drawings, telling them how to draw lines and boxes and landscapes in the way adults do and mostly having a blast ourselves.
And then one day, we realized we had a problem. We were having a blast. The kids were too. But we were having a bigger blast. We were telling them what to draw and how to do it the right way. Was it about us?
I have considered the idea of hope for myself. Every time the question has been frightening. I have asked hard and many times what it really meant for me and I realized in a moment of panic when I didn’t really have a good answer that for me, hope meant the hopes of other people. For these children hope meant a tremulous future. They had started to bond and make friends with us and for them friendship meant that we will be there every week. That was not possible.
We needed a way where we were in the background, invisible if that could be, where we were not telling them what to think and write and draw and help them make friends with somebody who would be around for longer than we ourselves could afford.
And that is how Crayons of Hope came to be. The idea that if we connected one child to another in some other part of the world, give them questions and issues to think about and ask them to express in their own way to each other. We realized that this would be a way for them to make friends, share perspective and learn from each other.
This was it. Using just a box of crayons and twelve postcards we could connect the world’s children two at a time helping them learn from each other in a powerful new way.
Today we are leading a global mission to connect a million children. We work with hundreds of them, growing every day working with more children than we can really handle. You have to experience it for yourself. Let us know if you wish to.
As for the kids they are making new friends and having a blast with each other. We are invisible. We have become a Post Office.