We believe in creating a better world by empowering people and organizations to fulfill their greatest potential.
The strongest way to empower is through education.
Open Circles Foundation supports organizations that demonstrate innovation and breakthrough in the educational field.
What you made possible
In 2015 Open Circles partnered with Pencils of Promise (PoP).
PoP works with communities across the globe who are deeply committed to their children’s education. Together they build schools and create programs that provide educational opportunities for children.
Since 2008 PoP has build more than 300 schools in Laos, Ghana and Guatemala. PoP fundamentally believes that a day will come when every single child will have access to a quality education, and work tirelessly in breaking down the restraints of today to enable the possibilities of tomorrow.
For this year, Open Circles committed itself to create an even bigger impact through active participation of its community. Therefore, a crowd funding campaign was set up to support Pencils of Promise’s (PoP) goals.
As part of the campaign, Open Circles Foundation pledged to double the amount raised. Through the generosity of the Open Circles community, sufficient means have been raised to build four new schools.
Open Circles is proud to partner with such a renown organization and be a part of making a difference in so many people’s lives and we owe it all to you.
Hat Khang Preschool and Primary School
At Hat Khang the students had to attend class in a provisional structure or shared classrooms. The third and fourth grade students shared one classroom and the two teachers conducted their lessons at the same time. They had enormous difficulties to keep students focused throughout the day. Also, the classrooms were small, there wasn’t enough furniture, there was no proper ventilation which meant sweltering a hot room during the day.
Hat Khang Preschool and Primary School
Open Circles’ support enabled PoP to partner with the local community to build a new, three-classroom school and two additional latrines. The school allowed the three grades, to move into their own rooms. The new latrines ensure students’ safety and hygiene. Also, they spend less time waiting in the bathroom line and more time in class. Open Circles contribution also allowed PoP to provide each new classroom with enough desks and chairs for each student and new chalkboards for the teachers.
The Long Lan school was an old, wooden building with a rotting foundation and molding walls. The classrooms were cramped and uncomfortable for students. The tin roof was rusting and when it rained, the sound of the water hitting the roof was so loud, teachers were forced to cancel class. The classrooms had no windows, were dark and dingy, which made attending class a very tiresome activity.
Together with the community, a brand new school with five new classrooms has been built. It is no longer needed to cancel class when it rains which, considering the five months raining season in Laos, means much more classes. The teachers are able to provide the students of Long Lan the quality education they deserve. Because of the changes, teachers report there is a higher levels of student attendance. To top it all off, the new school had a teacher’s room in which the teachers can work in preparation of class and store the materials.
Poung Lath Preschool and Primary School
The classrooms at Poung Lath were made out of bamboo, palm leaves and corrugated metal. The bamboo and palm leaves were decaying and covered in mold. There were no formal windows, but openings at the top of the walls. While this let fresh air in, it also allowed for dust, insects and rain to come into the room, creating an uncomfortable learning environment. The rooms had dirt floors and when it rained, the water would seep into the rooms and create mud puddles under students’ desks.
Poung Lath Preschool and Primary School
Open Circles’ support has enabled PoP to partner with Poung Lath’s community to build a five-classroom school and two formal latrines. Before there was a steady drop out rate, due to the provisional learning environment. Now the143 students have access to a formal, quality learning environment, which is safe and doesn’t affect the health of the children. The Poung Lath community is extremely positive towards the new facilities and has dedicated itself to put it to good use.
Don Xay Primary School
Students at Don Xay attended class in a dilapidated, provisional school structure. The classrooms were mage of wood, bamboo and tin. The walls were rotting and the roof was red with rust. There were gaping holes everywhere allowing dust and rain to come into the classrooms. There wasn’t enough space for every grade to have its own classroom. So all the rooms were divided with woven palm leaves, allowing multiple grades to share one room. However, noise drifted easily from one side to another, distracting the students.
Don Xay Primary School
Don Xay’s students and teachers have a passion for education and were committed to build a formal school. Community members have worked together to provide parts of the materials and labor for the build. As a result a new, four classroom school has been built in the community. Now the 94 students have access to a quality education environment, from which they can benefit for years to come.
Education is so much more
In developing countries 1 in every 3 children is illiterate.
It is an amazing thing to build schools and ensure the students have access to a quality learning environment. Through a collaborative approach, partner communities commit to providing 20% of the cost of each school build through labor and materials.
In 2015 over a thousand scholarships have been delivered to PoP students, making it possible for these students to further their education to secondary school.
The WASH program is teaching kids about water, sanitation and hygiene. Keeping them healthy and in school.
Teachers are trained and supported to ensure that students are learning effectively. Through workshops and coaching, teachers are equipped with innovative teaching methodologies and age-appropriate, dynamic materials used to enhance the national curriculum.
The power of a community
On a warm and hot Friday afternoon on March 11, 2016 I attended my first Open Circles Foundation and PoP school opening ceremony. As we drove towards the school, located in a small community called Hat Khang , the landscape outside started to change — with the curving roads came vast jungle vegetation on the high altitude of Laos. The landscape became harder and harder to navigate.
After my adventure in Madagascar I thought I’m adapted to off-road driving, but I was not prepared for these so called roads in Laos. About two hours later, we pulled up to the community. From the outside, the school appeared an unassuming structure. But upon entering the courtyard, we got a better view of this beautiful Open Circles Foundation-PoP building, with its six brand new classrooms.
The courtyard was filled to the brim with parents, children, community members and teachers — young and old, it seemed like the entire community had gathered to celebrate this momentous occasion. All of the teachers, along with many of the students, were dressed in traditional Laos outfit.
The opening ceremony began and to cut a long story short, let’s say it was long. Laos is still a communist country so there has to be space for the political party to say its message. But no matter who was speaking the main message was how significant this school is for the community.
The speeches were different, but each shared that common theme of the school as a “dream come true.” What I found especially important, however, was the fact that while many of the speakers mentioned what the school meant to them and for the community, they also addressed the obstacles they faced before it was built. They truly knew to appreciate the difference this school would bring them.
They spoke about how before the school was built, when it rained, the sound of the water hitting the metal roof made it too loud for students to hear their teachers. The structure was old and decaying and it’s started to pose a threat to student’s safety.
No matter where we are from,
at the end of the day we are all tied up together,
we all wish for similar things, health, growth, success and happiness.
They knew that without a better school parents would stop sending their children to school for safety reasons. They understood the value and the importance that education brings with it.
The ceremony kept on going and then came the artistic part of the program where the students performed in their country outfit their traditional dance.
As the ceremony ended we were all invited to lunch. It seemed as if the whole village worked for days to create this lunch. The poverty of this village was screaming from everywhere as we walked around, but nothing was spared when it came to creating a lunch in honor of the people that allowed this school to become a reality.
The lunch was a way of celebrating this important day in this community’s life. It was their way of showing us how grateful they are for what we have done for them.
To show their gratitude we were invited to join a traditional ceremony called a Baci ceremony, where each member of the community came around and tied a cotton thread to our wrist while blessing us and giving thanks.
As I sat there with my wrists full of cotton threads I realized how symbolic this is. No matter where we are from, at the end of the day we are all tied up together, we all wish for similar things, health, growth, success and happiness. And we all understand the power of education to lead us in that direction.
I’ve also came to understand that a school opening ceremony is so much bigger than one individual person, we all contributed together to this community.
The blessings this community gave Nisandeh, Stephanie, Femke and me in the Baci ceremony, were sent to our whole student community that contributed to building this school. We were only the channels in which they could send those blessings through to our students.
I’ve realized that this sense of community is what makes Open Circles such a unique and special organization. From an event in NBC Nieuwegein to a small village in Laos to our office in Amsterdam, the driving factor behind this organization is one that radiates togetherness and empowerment.
Open Circles doesn’t just build a school and leave a community to fend for itself. From the onset of any project or program, we look for organizations that would include the community in their efforts of empowerment and, as I saw firsthand with our cooperation with PoP, the communities include us in their joy, celebration and passion for education.
Open Circles Foundation is committed to transparency in sharing our financial information. Donors deserve to know where their money is going.
In 2015 the foundation raised EUR 53.067 from individual donors. The majority of the funds where raised through a successful crowd funding campaign dedicated to PoP in Laos. An amount of EUR 91.878 (or USD 100.000) was donated to the PoP Laos project using the funds donated by individual donors in 2015 plus an additional part of the donations received by the foundation in the previous years.
The total expenses in 2015 were EUR 7.227. These costs represent administrative, costs office costs and travel expenses to visit the project in Laos.
Open Circles Foundation does not have paid staff members, neither do the members of the board of directors receive a remuneration.
Donation to project Pencils of Promise Laos
Balance sheet as of 31 december 2015 in euro’s
(after appropriation of result)
|Cash and cash equivalents||54.405||87.130|
|Reserves and funds|
|Income and expenditure|
|Income from own fundraising||53.067||23.596|