A Handwritten Letter

When was the last time any of us received a handwritten letter?    Nowadays people almost never take the time to write a letter or note.  It’s so much easier to send a quick text or email.

The Activity

This past month William Aludo held a mentorship camp for students from his hometown of Rongo in western Kenya.  One of their activities was to compose a handwritten letter to send to students at Harwood Union Middle School in Duxbury, VT, rebooting our Messages of Mercy Writing Program between students in the USA and Kenya.

A Handwritten Letter: April 2019 Mentorship Camp (William Aludo in the middle)
April 2019 Mentorship Camp (William Aludo in the middle)

The students who wrote these letters come from varied backgrounds, but they hold a few things in common.

All of them speak at least three languages: English, Kiswahili and their native tongue.  They enjoy football (soccer), basketball, politics, acting and singing.  Several of these students have lost if not both, then at least one parent, and almost all of them have faced the challenge of coming up with sufficient funds for school. Each one of them have dreams and ambitions far exceeding those I had at age 14 or 15.  Some have large families that include cousins who have lost their parents and have nowhere else to go.  Many say they want to help others who are in need by building health centers, feeding the hungry and helping people who have less than themselves.

Joyce - another Mentorship camper who sent a handwritten letter
Joyce – a Mentorship camper who sent a letter.  She enjoys acting, playing basketball & singing.

William scanned their letters and photos to me, and this week Tracy Guion, EC’s new Messages of Mercy coordinator brought the letters and photos to students at Harwood to introduce them to friends on the other side of the world.  William even wrote one to Ms. Jacki McCarty, the classroom teacher!

Tracy Guion a handwritten letter Messages of Mercy coordinator
Tracy Guion – Messages of Mercy Coordinator

The Update

Tracy called to give me a quick update after the presentation was over.  She said she had put all the scanned letters from Kenya into envelopes and printed photos of the students who wrote them.  When the Harwood students began to open their letters, the anticipation in the room went from excitement to engagement.

a handwritten letter - two Harwood Union middle schoolers reading letters from their pen pals in Kenya
Harwood Union middle schoolers reading letters from their pen pals in Kenya

One of the letters opened was from a 14 year old boy named Martin, the youngest in a family of five. Both of his parents are gone.  His hobby is fixing electrical equipment and he says that he wants to become “one of the greatest electrical engineers in the world”.  He can speak and understand three languages and is learning a fourth. Martin knows that his career choice needs creativity and perseverance.

Martin - one of the students who sent a handwritten letter
Martin – one of the students who sent a handwritten letter
Martin's handwritten letter page 1
Page 1 of Martin’s letter
Martin's handwritten letter page 2
Martin’s letter page 2

The Impact

Tracy walked around the room, asking students what they learned about their pen pals.  She heard comments like: “Wow, this is beautiful handwriting!”; and “She loves novels, I already love this girl”; to “He speaks three languages!”; and “She loves to sing and dance, which are my my favorite things too”.   By the time she left the students had already started to write their replies.
students at Harwood Union Middle School reading their handwritten letters from Kenya
students at Harwood Union Middle School reading their letters from Kenya
Tracy spent a year teaching in Thailand, so true to her profession, she has given them until this Friday to respond, and hopefully sometime next week we will be able to scan their replies to Kenya.
I’m pretty excited to get this program off the ground again.  I’m also very glad to have found someone who loves to see connections happen!
a handwritten letter - Lavender Achieng - a Mentorship camp student who wrote a letter to a student at Harwood
Lavender Achieng – a Mentorship camp student who wrote a letter to a student at Harwood
Tracy contacted me again at the end of this week to tell me that the Ms. McCarty at Harwood Union held parent conferences this week.  All of the parents were supportive and grateful that their children could participate in this work, and kept thanking her over and over for the opportunity.      
reading a handwritten letter
reading a handwritten letter
If you would like your young adult to write a letter to a student in Kenya, click here and let us know and we’ll help you get connected.  Friendships like this can last a lifetime.
Blessings,
Ruth