THE past 18 months have been something of an adventure for one Hammersmith teacher.
As the founder of educational charity Pencils For All, Iwona Macalka has travelled to south-east Asia in her quest to provide children with basic educational tools, such as crayons, notepads and pencils.
Determined to help disadvantaged youngsters get the best start in life, in 2011 the 42-year-old decided she would spend her spare time drumming up funds to help impoverished Bangladeshi communities.
After several eye-opening trips to the town of Utrail in the north west of the country, she stepped up her efforts and last year managed to raise enough to provide the area with a projector, which has since become a vital social and educational tool.
Her latest endeavour has been to raise enough money to provide a computer for the boys at the missionary-run Don Bosco hostel, which she hand-delivered at Christmas.
Now she is planning to raise £7,000 for the mission to help create adequate sporting facilities, which they currently do not have.
Ms Macalka, who lives off Fulham Palace Road, in Hammersmith, said: “I’ve always taken part in charity projects and before I set up Pencils For All I travelled quite a bit.
“I always noticed that the children in schools didn’t have pencils and pens.
“I thought if we started to help with the basic things we could then move on to the bigger things. That’s how it came to life.
“We then decided to dedicate our time to this mission in Bangladesh. The charity committee, which is me and two friends, came together and decided that if we focused on one place, we could do more to help.”
A teacher at Bayonne Nursery School in Paynes Walk, Ms Macalka is working alongside Father Pawel Kociolek, who runs the 400-capacity mission.
Father Kociolek’s 2011 visit to the St Andrew Bobola Polish Church, in Shepherd’s Bush, inspired Ms Macalka to set up the charity and together they continue to help the disadvantaged children of the area.
Ms Macalka has been nominated in the Charity Worker category at the inaugural H&F Heroes Awards.
Since setting up Pencils For All she has been overwhelmed by the support shown to her by the community and by parents and teachers at the school.
She said: “It’s been amazing. Before I set it up I didn’t know what to expect, it was a very new thing for me.
“It’s really amazing and I just hope I can continue with the project and continue to help disadvantaged children.”
n Sid’s, of 70 Fulham Palace Road, has kindly agreed to donate trophies for the awards.
With more than 20 years of experience, Sid’s can take care of shoe repairs, key cutting, trophies and engraving, as well as locks, grilles and gates.
How to nominate
n You can nominate your Agilisys H&F Heroes by visiting www.lbhf.gov.uk/heroesnominate, or paper forms will be available from Hammersmith Town Hall in King Street, or from the Chronicle’s offices at Broadway Chambers, 20 Hammersmith Broadway.
Nominations close on Monday, April 15.