A pencil for change

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By Ruth Brook

The saying goes; you are never too young to make a difference. For twelve year old Makéda Delvaux, that difference began with a pencil. Spearheading a project to provide students in Ethiopia with stationary supplies, Makéda collected more than 35 kilograms of pencils in Belgium to redistribute to school children in Ethiopia. The project entitled, “Les Crayons de Makéda” or “The Pencils of Makéda” was inspired by an everyday occurrence for the young student – homework.
“It all started one night when I was doing my homework. I looked at my pencil and the idea came to me,” Makéda recounted.
Born to an Ethiopian mother and a Belgian father, Makéda attributes this idea in part, to the stories her mother shared with her of life growing up in Ethiopia. Moved by her mother’s stories, Makéda took matters into her own hands and thus “The Pencils of Makéda” was born.
She recruited her classmates, teachers and principal; garnering both their support and admiration. So much so, that her friend Alyssa made a short video on the project encouraging their peers to contribute to the more than worthy cause.
“It’s partially this video that woke me up and opened my eyes to the potential of the project.”
It only took seeing her vehement efforts and drive to get her family on board. After receiving a message from Makéda’s Dutch teacher asking what supplies were needed for the collection, Makéda’s father understood his daughter’s dedication. Five people and ten suitcases later, the Delvaux family was in Ethiopia; distributing pencils to a rural school of 1,500 students in Tefki, in the village of Makéda’s maternal grandparents. Along with her two younger brothers, Makéda issued all the pencils by hand in four Level 1 classes and four Level 2 classes.
What ensued was a domino effect of success for the then eleven year old Makéda. In May 2019, she was recognized for her efforts by the Rotary Club of Braine L’Alleud with their first-ever citizenship award, as well as a cheque for one thousand euros. The following day, she appeared as the “Star of the Day” during the show “It’s Almost Serious” on the Radio and Television Broadcasting Company of the French Community of Belgium (RBTF), where she received 500 ballpoint pens. Closing off the month, three municipal schools in Braine-le-Château, Belgium, joined the distribution project.
A few months later, Belgian band “Les Binocs” reached out to Makéda to donate the proceeds of their concert to her project. The lead singer composed a song solely for this project.
“I didn’t think that it would turn out like this, I thought I would just distribute the pencils and that’s it. But it has grown so much and I am so happy.” Makéda said.
Following the success of the first distribution, further needs were discussed with the school director in Tefki; what began as 35 kilograms of pencils took on a new life and transformed into a large scale endeavor to provide students with writing pencils, coloured pencils, erases, pencil sharpeners, ballpoints, notebooks, paint and chalks in 2020.
“I would like to thank the schools that supported us, everyone who participated, especially my dad, he did so much. My friend Alyssa, if she hadn’t made the video, I wouldn’t have been able to reach the other classes. I also want to thank my mother, it’s her who gave me the idea, she supported me and this project, along with my father and my friends as well.”
A year after the first distribution, Makéda is back in Addis with her family, to continue their efforts together.
“Have I changed after the project? Yes, definitely. I have always been close to my family but this project brought us closer together.”
More information on the project and ways to contribute can be found on the Facebook page, The Pencils of Makeda.