Pen pal letters, pennies and prayers.
This past school year, students at St. Peter’s Catholic School in Forest Lake embraced a Catholic school in Ganjala, Kenya.
Students at the two schools communicated through written correspondence, videos, photos and the Internet. Some of the money raised by the annual St. Peter’s penny harvest was sent to Ganjala. And the St. Peter’s students prayed for the Kenyan students, many of whom have lost one or both parents to HIV and AIDS.
The start-up Catholic school in Ganjala is part of the Border to Border Christian Fellowship organization.
Border to Border supports the education system of Kenya by encouraging village children to enjoy reading, exposing them to a variety of reading resources.
Third-grade teacher Maureen Peter, who spearheaded the project in Forest Lake, said she learned about the Kenya school two years ago from the aunt of a St. Peter’s student who worked for the Border to Border mission.
To give back to their community, she said, the Ganjala children sing for weddings and cultural celebrations. Sometimes this involves walking 4 or 5 miles each way, while carrying drums.
“Education is so valued that the kids do that without reward,” she said.
The organization was looking for a pen pal school in the U.S. From St. Peter’s students, they got letters throughout the year from each grade level.
The letters sent to Forest Lake from Kenya, Peter said, were remarkable for their penmanship. The beautiful handwriting was an incentive for the local students, who realized “it does make a difference, and people notice.”
St. Peter’s students sent CDs of their Christmas and spring concerts, and received a video of a wedding at which the Ganjala students performed.
All the pen pal letters were written in English, which helped the Kenyan students practice their second language. The CDs were a valuable addition, especially for the younger Kenyans, who were just beginning their study and could not yet read or write in English.
Through the letters, kids from both parts of the world learned about their similarities and differences, such as the length of the school day.
St. Peter’s teachers also incorporated information about Kenya in the classroom. To teach a little Swahili, Peter used “Jambo Means Hello: Swahili Alphabet Book” by Muriel Feelings.
Writing letters, sending aid and praying for the Ganjala school taught St. Peter’s students to think about the larger community.
“One of the main attributes of our school is that we focus on different types of service projects throughout the year. These projects not only provide assistance to others, but also help our students realize they are part of a global