All the programs associated with Connecting Countries are interlinked.

Take for example the Pen Pal Letter Exchange Program. With each letter exchanged, students’ global awareness expands, allowing North American and Kenyan students to build friendships and exchange cultural information. Thousands of letters are exchanged each school year linking North American students with those who attend primary schools affiliated with Connecting Countries located in Kenya’s Nyandarua County. The program builds literacy skills, furthers global citizenship education, enhances multicultural understanding and allows fundraising to be more personal.

This month, a class at Palermo Public School in Oakville began their Pen Pal Program. Letters will be exchanged between one classroom at Palermo and one classroom at Kirima Primary School in Ol Joro Orok Kenya.

As part of the Pen Pal Program, Connecting Countries visited the grade 8 class at Palermo Public School to present to the students how the program will work. The theme of the presentation stressed to students that through their pen pals, they will realize how Kenyan schools and students are similar in slightly different ways to their own situation. For example, both North American and Kenyan schools have lockers: here, lockers are metal boxes; in Kenya, trees conveniently located next to a classroom serve a similar purpose.

Another point stressed in the presentation was for students to view their Kenyan counterparts as equals. Letter correspondence on both sides will be in one common language, since the language of instruction for Kenyan students is English. There is also to be no computer-generated letters, instead all North American letters will be hand written in order to support the writing expectation stressed in Kenyan classrooms. John Smith, founder of Connecting Countries, emphasized in his presentation that exchanging letters builds empathy and tolerance for another culture… the building blocks for mutual caring.

Connecting Countries’ Pen Pal Program is a great example of exactly what the charity’s name hopes to promote – a bridge connecting Canada to Kenya, and what better way than through the next generation.

A group of Kanguu students holding a Canadian flag in front of new latrines

The Pen Pal Program generally results in North American students wanting to assist their new friends in other ways. This simple request has given rise over the years to school sanitation, personal hygiene and school supplies programs designed by Connecting Countries. In short, this program emphasizes the power of the written word on a global scale.