A large thank you to everyone who not only requested a letter, but wrote back to their Tanzanian penpal! The letters have been trickling in since late December. It was great timing since school had a month-long break from December to early January. I held my first letter reading in mid-late January. The students were overjoyed with their letters and even a few gifts that were sent. Even the students whose letters had not arrived yet enjoyed letter reading because it naturally ended up that everyone was showing their letters to everyone and passing them around. I provided dictionaries and Jon & I were there to help with certain words/phrases that were difficult for the students. Even though some words can easily translate to Swahili, the students are still not familiar with what the word is or means. Not only was it a great educational opportunity, it was an excellent way to share American culture with students. I held a second letter reading in mid-February to give the letters to the students whose letters arrived later. During the second reading, we showed 20 minutes of the Mighty Ducks because nearly 90% of the letters to my students involved hockey in one way or another. A former professor of mine from SUNY Plattsburgh even sent one of the students a Plattsburgh puck. Students loved learning about hockey and asked us to arrange for them to play. Obviously, there’s one major barrier to this: there’s no snow or ice. Some letters got lost on the way, some letters are on their way now. I will still return any letters that arrive after this because some students are still asking about their letter. I have a dedicated group of girls who are eagerly responding to several middle school classes in my hometown. This has turned into letter writing club for me. It is one of the most rewarding activities I have done in my Peace Corps experience and I want to thank each and everyone of my friends and family and even people who I never met spanning 4 continents who helped me with this project! I thank everyone who is receiving a second letter because my students requested to write again. Thank you for your time and energy to make letter writing a success! Some pictures are below!
Above: helping with some vocabulary or sentence structure
Above: the crowd of students looking at one letter!
(above: Jon showing kids the donated puck before a 20 minute video of hockey from the Mighty Ducks)
Above: Happy students