Terezin to Darfur:
The Power of Pencil Stories
Pencils in the hands of children can create powerful pencil stories.
Between 1942 and 1944 fifteen thousand children under age fifteen passed through the Terezin Concentration Camp. Fewer than 100 survived. Their pencil drawings are featured in the book “I Never Saw Another Butterfly: Children’s Drawings and Poems from Terezin Concentration Camp”.
With a heavy heart I have more than once encountered the delicate testimony of the longings, dreams and experiences of the Terezin children.
I still read the poems of the children from Terezin.
They are full of longings for a world different from the miserable life they led, a longing for games and freedom, for gentleness and beauty.
— Vaclav Havel
In his Afterword to this collection of drawings and stories, Vaclav Havel writes tenderly and with a heart aching love about the children in Terezin Concentration Camp between 1942 and 1944.
I also look at their drawings.
There is only a shadow of grief and anxiety in them, there is much more about dreams of spring, of flowers, of butterflies, birds, and also a great longing to be happy and carefree.
— Vaclav Havel
More recently, in 2005, my friend Olivier Bercault, a human rights lawyer, was working with Human Rights Watch in Darfur, Sudan. He tells the story in my interview with Olivier on this website:
I was in Darfur to conduct interviews with the parents of children who had witnessed extreme violence at the hands of the Janjaweed militia.
On one of my trips there, I was accompanied by a Dr. Annie Sparrow, who had the foresight to bring along supplies of color pencils and paper for the children.
While I was busy interviewing the parents of these children, the children, unbeknownst to me, spontaneously started to draw their experiences of the violent episodes.
— Olivier Bercault
Currently, in 2018, former Pencils for Africa (PFA) Editor-in-Chief Nicolas Meringolo, as the CEO of One Pencil Per Child is working with pencil companies to send pencils to children in African slums.
He will launch the initiative by sending pencils to children in the slums of Kibera, Kenya.
Nicolas wants to read and understand the pencil stories of children in the African slums.
We shall all be enriched from the caring work of enterprising young people like Nicolas.
Powerful pencil stories of children whose voices we should hear must never be silenced.