about betahaus
Alice Nell
October 29, 2015

Startup of the Month | Pen Paper Peace

betahaus supports several NGOs by providing them with a free desk and meeting space. One of them is Pen Paper Peace, a small NGO that works to improve the living conditions and educational opportunities for kids living in Haiti. We asked Michaela Westphal a few questions about the Pen Paper Peace organisation and its endeavours.

Hey Michaela! Can you tell us a bit about Pen Paper Peace?

Yes! After traveling to Haiti in 2008, German actress Alissa Jung resolved to advocate for the children and young people in Port-au-Prince. In collaboration with nph (Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos), she initiated the project Schools for Haiti. Haiti differs from every other Latin American country because it doesn't offer free public education.

Our two schools in Haiti are free of charge, so children whose parents can't afford regular Haitian education get the chance to go to school. Besides education, our schools provide the kids with medical care and a safe place they can always come to.

Following the earthquake that devastated Haiti in 2010, Alissa Jung and other fellow volunteers developed the Schools for Haiti project into a full-fledged NGO: Pen Paper Peace.

Sounds like you had an interesting and valuable journey. But not very comparable to most startups here in betahaus. Are there similarities between Pen Paper Peace and other startups in betahaus?

Our NGO has many similarities to start-ups here. We're small, we have relatively little hierarchy and a very entrepreneurial, dynamic way of working.  From our founding in 2011 to today, we’re constantly learning new things “on the job”. That might be the biggest similarity.

Only a couple of weeks ago you came back from your trip to Haiti. What did you do there?

Our two schools St. Nicolas and St. Emma were destroyed in the earthquake in 2010. Thanks to donations from people in Germany, we were able to buy two new plots of land and rebuild the schools - this time earthquake-safe. We were thrilled to travel to Haiti recently to see how the schools are doing and to attend their inauguration parties! More than 500 kids now have a school to go to, to learn and play.

Most startups spend money on things like design, usability, marketing & sales...What do you spend most of your money on?

Thanks to the voluntary work of our NGO members, we keep all costs to a minimum. Pretty much all our money goes into the schools directly - to school supplies and learning materials, books, and our teachers. No matter how efficiently you run a school, they cost a lot of money.

If one of our betahaus startups or members decided to give you a big sum of money, what would you use it for?

Right now, we're waiting for new money to come in so we can continue to cover costs for the children's daily meal. We used to provide them with lunch, but as things are getting more expensive, we're no longer able to do so. It's quite ironic that now we have two brand new school kitchens, but no food to cook for the kids. Also a drinking water treatment plant is necessary.


How else could people in the betahaus community get involved or help out?

We are always happy for new spirit on the team! Apart from me, everyone works voluntarily. Everyone helps with whatever they are good at, or do professionally elsewhere. Please send me an e-mail if you're looking for good karma!

pen paper peace 3

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