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Gift of a single pencil led to program that aids thousands

Tom Affleck started a charity that provides school supplies and builds schoolrooms in Nicaragua.

The Donor: Tom Affleck

The Gift: Creating SchoolBox

The Reason: To support education programs in Nicaragua

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A few years ago Tom Affleck had finished some development work in Nicaragua and felt at a loss with little to offer.

On a whim, he took a trip to a small village in a remote corner of the country.

While there he ran into two young girls and gave them each a notebook and pencil. The girls were delighted and one of their fathers said: "Now you can go to school."

The comment touched Mr. Affleck, who realized how such a small gift could mean so much.

Education in Nicaragua is a struggle for many children and it is impossible without school supplies, which are the responsibility of students.

The delight of the girls "was really an epiphany for me," he recalled from his home in Almonte, Ont., southwest of Ottawa.

He remained in Nicaragua and in 2006 launched SchoolBox, a registered Canadian charity that provides schools and supplies for students.

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The charity started slowly with just $8,000 in donations and Mr. Affleck sleeping on the floor of a friend's place in an impoverished part of Managua.

Over time, SchoolBox grew and today it has given supplies to more than 15,000 students and built 40 classrooms.

The charity works with government officials who identify areas of Nicaragua in need of schools.

It then partners with the local community, builds the school, stocks it with supplies and turns it over to the government, which provides teachers.

Mr. Affleck, who has worked on development projects in Guatemala and Peru, raised about $550,000 this year to finance the charity, roughly $100,000 more than in 2011.

"It has been quite a mission," he said.

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"We have been blessed. It is amazing how many people have rallied around these children."

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About the Author
European Correspondent

Paul Waldie has been an award-winning journalist with The Globe and Mail for more than 10 years. He has won three National Newspaper Awards for business coverage and been nominated for a Michener Award for meritorious public service journalism. He has also won a Sports Media Canada award for sports writing and authored a best-selling biography of the McCain family. More

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