Old Fashioned Pen Pal Letter Writing Connects Cultures A World Apart

All of Ms. Farrell’s 7th grade health students at Stimson and first period health class at Whitman wrote letters to the students in Uganda. thumbnail114430
All of Ms. Farrell’s 7th grade health students at Stimson and first period health class at Whitman wrote letters to the students in Uganda.
Stimson students from left to right with their letters. Top row:  Valecia Richardson, Emily Goldberg, Adriana Nunez, and Sienna Hansberry. Bottom row: Mackenzie Magee, and Eliana Kazin. thumbnail114431
Stimson students from left to right with their letters. Top row: Valecia Richardson, Emily Goldberg, Adriana Nunez, and Sienna Hansberry. Bottom row: Mackenzie Magee, and Eliana Kazin.
While the main part of town, shown here, contains small buildings, most of the villagers live in the outskirts in mud huts with no electricity or running water. thumbnail114432
While the main part of town, shown here, contains small buildings, most of the villagers live in the outskirts in mud huts with no electricity or running water.
The children embrace the game of Chess as a fun challenge, and gives them the opportunity to join Chess Clubs and visit other parts of Uganda.  For the teachers, it's a very effective means to teach logic and problem solving skills. thumbnail114433
The children embrace the game of Chess as a fun challenge, and gives them the opportunity to join Chess Clubs and visit other parts of Uganda. For the teachers, it's a very effective means to teach logic and problem solving skills.
Half of the children in Kagoma Gate and Busoga are deaf due to contracting Malaria.  thumbnail114434
Half of the children in Kagoma Gate and Busoga are deaf due to contracting Malaria.
Getting a ride to school. The Giving Circle has made Kagoma Gate home and its village family. Today while Kagoma Gate is profoundly poor it is no longer Uganda poorest village and no longer forgotten. thumbnail114435
Getting a ride to school. The Giving Circle has made Kagoma Gate home and its village family. Today while Kagoma Gate is profoundly poor it is no longer Uganda poorest village and no longer forgotten.

Over February break, Stimson health teacher Ms. Candice Farrell traveled to Busoga, Uganda with the nonprofit organization, The Giving Circle, and a team of 6 teachers from the Greater New York area as part of an innovative project.    Together, educators from The United States and Uganda started a venture to create a global learning community built upon a foundation of respect and collaboration to improve education and foster human connections.

This past December, schools in Queensbury, NY welcomed four education leaders from Uganda for three days as part of the needs assessment process for this project.   The Ugandan education leaders toured the schools and gained a greater picture of teaching strategies and techniques they would like implemented in their schools.   Then, a team of 6 US teachers traveled to Uganda where they toured their schools and led a conference for over 70 Ugandan educators covering topics such as lesson planning, group work, team teaching, assessments, and teacher observation.

“The opportunity to connect my students at Stimson and Whitman to the students in Uganda is exciting,” said Ms. Farrell.   “My goal in health class has always been to encourage global health awareness and citizenship by teaching students about cultural norms, ways of life and health concerns in different areas of the world, including Uganda.  Finally, I had the opportunity to travel to an area of the world that I have been teaching about for 18 years.”

To begin a human connection for her students, she brought letters written by her students at Whitman and Stimson to the students in Kagoma Gate and Busoga Schools.  These students then wrote back, officially becoming pen pals with our South Huntington students. 

“As I visited these two schools, I took pictures and video which helped give my students a finer understanding of life in this extremely poor area of Uganda,” said Ms. Farrell.  “I learned valuable information and lessons about cultural norms, perspectives, gender disparities, and health concerns relating to sanitation, nutrition, disease, unclean water, and shelter from the local teachers and children.”

“Upon my return, I shared what I learned while in Uganda.  After reading their Pen Pal letters, my students conceived the idea of holding an "Adopt A Class" fundraiser to help their new friends have a more positive classroom experience.  Students have donated money, books, pens, pencils and other classroom supplies to help meet the educational needs of their new friends.  It is exciting and very gratifying to see our South Huntington family join with the children, teachers, and families in Uganda for an invaluable experience of human connection and learning.”