LearnServe Fellow 2011, LearnServe Paraguay 2011
When is a crayon more than just a crayon?
It all has to do with the art of perception – the ability to look at something not just for what it is, but for what it can be.
Right now I’m holding up a crayon. What do you see? Do you just see a used piece of wax? What else can this crayon become? I want you to look at this crayon not just as something to discard, but as something to repurpose and reuse.
Color My World began with a simple family visit to Outback Steakhouse, and the box of kids’ crayons they had placed at our table. I put the crayons down after my meal, barely used, and I saw the waiter pick them up and toss them in the trash. I talked to the waiter, and she said they’re throwing out hundreds, hundreds of crayons. And it’s a shame.
I wondered, what if we collected the crayons from the restaurant – took them away from the landfill, and donated them to public schools and early childhood centers. 90% of the schools we contacted actually needed crayons and art supplies. So we started at just one restaurant, to try it out. We wanted to make sure it was a realistic idea.
In just two months after placing the first bin in that first restaurant, we had collected more than 700 crayons, most of them unused. Three years later and we have collected and donated more than 250,000 crayons. We are working with teams in 17 states and have partnered with more than 100 restaurants.
I had always wanted to create a social venture, but I never had the resource or the backbone of where to start. Even so, I struggled to get my venture off the ground – I happened to be one of the last LearnServe Fellows in my group to put together a plan for moving forward.
But I stumbled across Color My World and decided to run with it, and began to feel more confident with my idea. There’s a beauty in watching a social venture grow from nothing, from just an idea.
I’ve learned that you should never do anything by yourself. You need a team. With a team comes fresh ideas that can help you get to the next level. As we added restaurants we could use them as referrals. LearnServe helped us put together a business plan and timeline that would lay the groundwork for our future plans, and launched us with a seed grant. We found the more people, the more partners, the more passion involved – the easier it is to grow.
A lot of people think “Crayons, what’s so important about crayons?” Well, like I said small changes can make a big difference. One crayon can stimulate a child’s mind, creativity, and imagination. Those things are huge!
Yoni Kalin graduated from the LearnServe Fellows Program and LearnServe Paraguay Program in 2011. Yoni is a graduate of the Field School and is currently a student at the University of Michigan. He is founder of Color My World.
LearnServe 10×10 interviews and profiles compiled by Melanie Barlow (Fellows 2010) and Julia Peck (Fellows 2011). Additional reflections shared in an interview with Nathan Bynum for LearnServe International (2011) and by Yoni Kalin and teammate Gawan Fiore at TEDxRedmond (2012).
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