A pen pal project that connects kids around the world
Children make new friends and experience the joy of receiving letters.
It’s always exciting to receive a letter in the mail. Even today, when the world is digitally connected, receiving an actual letter in your mailbox from a distant land is a great way for children to make new friends.
The Peaceful Pen Pals Project is a beautiful initiative that blends together global connection and self-expression. The project is part of the nonprofit Kids for Peace, founded by Jill McManigal and Danielle Gram in California, in 2006.
The Kids for Peace mission is to “empower kids to create peace through hands-on service, global friendships and thoughtful acts of kindness.” Letter writing is most certainly hands-on and helps strengthen relationships throughout the world.
The Peaceful Pen Pals Project is open to all children, ages two through 17. To date, there are 1,500 children from 17 countries participating in the program according to the organization. Currently, all letters are written in English. When children sign up, they can select if they would rather be matched with a domestic (USA) Peaceful Pen Pal or an international one.
Each child is then assigned a pen pal of a similar age. This establishes a point of connection right off the bat for the children and facilitates a stronger bond. If the letter writers are in the same grade, they can chat about school, their teachers, and what they are studying.
They can also compare and contrast what different states or countries learn about and how the dynamics of the classroom are, whether socially or academically. Children may also be more inclined to write about issues they are having if they feel like they are speaking to a peer in a similar situation.
In terms of the initial letter, children are given a template they can follow. The template includes: their age, grade in school, where they live, and a picture of themselves. This helps create a personal connection since their pen pal can now put a face to their name.
They also write about the local weather, who the letter writer lives with, and their favorite things to do at home. This will give the pen pal a good sense of the writer’s home life and they may relate to certain aspects, such as divorced parents, number of siblings, or if they share a room.
Although pen pals may live in different countries, they may find common ground according to this information. Additionally, the writer lists their favorite activities to do outside, plus what they like best and least about school. This gives the writer an opportunity to vent and receive advice or feedback from the pen pal. Lastly, they explain what they want to be when they grow up and they write down their favorite book. They end the letter with three questions for the pen pal to answer.
In addition to the unique connection these pen pals can make, there are excellent benefits when it comes to letter writing and having a pen pal in general.
“Hearing first-hand stories from an international pen pal can encourage tweens to take someone else's perspective and to think outside of themselves,” writes Rebecca Fraser-Thill on Very Well Family. Having a foreign pen pal can also encourage interest in geography, politics, and history.
Taking the time to sit down and write a letter teaches children patience, in contrast to the immediate gratification of receiving a text message or WhatsApp. Very Well Family adds, “having a pen pal promotes many key skills, including reciprocation, empathy and mutual concern.”
The Peaceful Pen Pals Project provides children around the world with an opportunity to make a new friend and connect with someone they may not have met otherwise. These pen pals become confidants and can rely on each other for advice or a good story. Not to mention what a great feeling it is to receive a letter or postcard in the mailbox!