One of very enjoyable parts of Peace Corps service is the opportunity to connect students from various countries through the World Wide Schools (WWS) program. As noted in the WWS Match Handbook, “The program is designed to engage students in an inquiry about the world, themselves and others in order to broaden perspectives, promote cultural awareness, appreciate global connections and encourage service”. Through a “pen-pal” exchange that works along with WWS the students learn about places in the world as seen and described by their peers, developing new friendships along the way.
We thought you’d enjoy reading excerpts from some of the letters from students just received this month. They give you an idea of the terrific relationships that have started to develop between children from opposite sides of the world. The following letters are a reply from students at Guy Benjamin Elementary School in St. John, US Virgin Islands to letters received from students at St. Dominic Primary School in Lesotho.
“Dear Friend, I am ten years old. So I am around your age. Where I live we have different food then you do. We have hamburgers, hotdogs, pizza, rice, meat, fish and a lot of other things. I have a question. What is papa?…I have a couple of hobbies. I like to collect shells, rocks, and I also love to play soccer. What are your hobbies? I also like to read. Do you like to read? Your Friend, Kaitlyn”
“Dear Friend, My favorite hobbies are steel pan and baseball. I love steel pan because they make music and I like music. ..I loved your letter. It was very interesting. You are a true friend. I hope I hear from you again. Your friend, I’lon”
“Dear new freind (sic), I am well. How are you? Do you dance? I like Peaches too. That is so cool that you have Peach Trees in your school. We have a Sugar Apple Tree. I like Sugar Apples. I like animals. I have a dog. I like dogs. His name is Bandit. Your friend, Gabe, Grade 5”
“Dear Friends, We are very glad to write this letter back to you guys. I enjoyed your letters. I hope you enjoy this letter that I am sending to you. In this school we are doing Ballroom Dancing. The dances are called the Merengue, Waltz, Swing, Rhumba, Fox-Trot and other dances. For the Merengue you have to shake what your Moma gave you. The waltz is Romantic, the Swing is a fun dance, the Rhumba you have to have Cuban motion…Your new Friend, Cheyenne, Grade 5”
“Dear Mosonngoa, It’s me! DeJanique! How are you doing up there? Are you having a good time? I will because summer break is coming up and school is ending!…your Friend, DeJanique”
“Dear Friend, My name is Keegan, I love to play soccer and I would love to come to Africa to play. Is there a spot where you can go to watch soccer and the World Cup? My favorite soccer player is Ronaldo, what’s yours? Do you like school? My grades are very good. I am an A student, are you an A student? My favorite subject is reading. My favorite food is dumplings and rice. I also like meat. Africa is so pretty. I’ve never been there but I’ve seen pictures. Please write back soon! Your friend, Keegan, 6th Grade”
Aren’t these great? There are about 15 more in this mailing. If it’s a month when the kids are still working on their letters I will write in their place to describe my experiences and what I am learning about Lesotho, I will also send music CD’s and fabric samples and email photos to the teachers. The teachers can incorporate our letters into lessons on geography and history, and classroom discussions designed to increase student awareness of cultural diversity around the world. Again, well stated in the WWS Match Handbook, “Big questions, such as “how does culture shape how we understand ourselves, others and the world?” and “How am I connected to the world?” become the focus of classroom discussions. Students begin to ask themselves, “What does the common good mean and why does it matter” and “How far am I willing to go to make a difference?” Such serious topics they can discuss while they are having such a good time sharing stories. Special thanks to Cristina Kessler, RPCV, author of children’s books, and friend, who is the driving force, motivator and contact for communication with the teachers and students at Guy Benjamin School.
While this specific program is designed to work with Peace Corps volunteers and US schools, see www.peacecorps.gov/wws , pen pal programs can be used anywhere and we encourage any reader who would like to link their local school with one of the 4 other Primary Schools the Secondary School or High School in Lesotho that are assisted by the Maliba Community Development Trust please send us an email. We’d love to hear from you. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For this, my first article in the Blanket Wrap, I’ll sign off as inspired by the students,