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Children in Sierra Leone thrilled with pens from KOG cleaner Lamin

For almost ten years now Lamin Sow, a cleaner working at the Kamerlingh Onnes Building, has been collecting discarded pens he comes across throughout the day. When he returns to his home country he takes the pens with him as gifts for children.

This autumn he departed once again for a few weeks in Sierra Leone. This West African country is in the process of recovering from the devastating civil war which tore the country apart in the 1990s, leaving the country destitute.

'I wanted to do something for the people there', Lamin explains, talking about his last trip to Sierra Leone. For years he has been collecting all the pens that have been left behind at the KOG. He delivers them personally to schools in the capital city Freetown where he originally comes from. 'It's a waste just to throw them away and the kids there are really thrilled to get them.'

And that's clear from the photos he shows. 'Some kids go crazy with joy at getting a pen! Seeing them really makes it fun to do this.'

Most days he finds one or two pens that are still working, but since last spring when he appeared in Leiden University magazine Mare, things have really taken off. 'People come up to me with pens or they leave them at the reception for me. It’s amazing!'

He is keen to help the country with something tangible like pens instead of donating money for instance. 'The country is corrupt and that’s a huge problem. What you give, falls into the wrong hands. But with pens I can make a real difference for the kids living there.'

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