In February of 2008, over 650 orphaned children fled to a village outside of Nakuru for refuge after presidential elections led to widespread ethnic and political violence. Some of them returned to their homes, but many remained in the village and now attend local primary schools. In an effort to connect with these children, students in public and private schools in the United States are invited to write a “message of mercy” that begins “Dear Friend,” encouraging the student receiving the letter to continue working hard in order to receive a good education. Several public and private schools in central Vermont and Pennsylvania have been reaching out to kids in Kenya in this way, helping students in both countries to feel connected, important and needed.
Participating students in Moretown, Vermont
The program has already made a big difference in the lives of children on both sides of the globe. For example, in America a child became so enamored with the thought of having an African “sister” that her family plans to travel to Kenya when she is older, simply to expose their daughter to a culture other than their own. In Kenya, a first-grade teacher spoke about an orphaned child who used to leave school at lunchtime and not return:
Kelvin would just go home at lunchtime and not come back; you know he had no reason to be excited about education. But when he learned that there was someone in America who cared about him, he started to show up in the morning with his face washed and hair brushed, his clothes were neater; even his sho-sho [grandmother] said he had a new attitude about coming to school. Now even his grades are improving. (Teacher – informal conversation)
Orphaned students at Lanet Umoja Primary School in Kenya (Kelvin is holding the red backpack)
A teacher in the USA wrote this letter after her seventh and eighth graders participated in the program:
Dear Dr. Young,
Many, many thanks for coming to our school to share information about the Messages of Mercy program, and to hand deliver the letters from Kenya. I can truly say that the day you came was one of the most moving – and ultimately important days of my career as a teacher. But the most important thing of all was the response from the students, not what happened to me. I have never seen students so engaged with their work and so moved by what they learned. Your calm manner and thoughtful approach reached deep into these students’ hearts and minds.
Once again, thank you very much for your visit to our school. I will never forget it. I hope you can come again next year. (Teacher – Personal communications)
Letters can be mailed to the address below. These letters will be sent in bulk to the head teachers at one of the three primary schools in Kenya where they will be distributed to the students with the greatest need.
IMPORTANT: Please include your name, address, and the name of your school/organization. A response is not guaranteed, but someday you may hear back from a friend in Kenya!
• Please write letters on a standard 8 ½ by 11” piece of paper.
• Send all letters in flat envelopes. Boxes will not be delivered.
• Please do not send candy, money, or any items except letters, otherwise people receiving the letter will have to pay a duty tax. Thank you for your interest and concern for the children.
Mail or deliver your letter to: Ruth Young, Ed.D. Messages of Mercy Writing Program 19304 Cole Road Conneautville, PA 16406