The Pen is Mightier: Myth-Busting through Pen Pals

Happy New Year to our Mugumo family! . . . Okay, I’m a little late, but the sentiment is still there. In the spirit of new years and fresh starts, I am excited to announce our latest creative initiative that embodies the Mugumo philosophy in every sense —an international pen pal program!

Not quite the shocking innovation you were expecting from an African-based non-profit? Me neither, but the results are invaluable. 

The seeds of this letter exchange were planted back in August with the help of Constance Muasa of Machakos Girls’ Rescue Centre and Shauna Hopkins of Fayetteville Urban Ministry’s Find-A-Friend program. The idea was simple: youth from different parts of the world communicating with each other, asking questions, and sharing experiences. It would be educational, easy to execute, and, most importantly, fun.

Cecelia to Nancy Wanja

Letter From Cecelia to Nancy.

Although I personally am a sucker for a handwritten letter, I was skeptical about this program on several levels. The idea is nice, but let’s be realistic—what do kids in North Carolina have in common with kids in Kenya? They don’t watch MTV in Machakos and there is no “Big Five” roaming around Fayetteville. Coming from two radically different cultures, would they be able to find any common ground? Plus, in between tweeting and snapping selfies, would the kids even want to pick up a pen and write a letter?

Genensis to Waylia Ndinga

Letter from Genesis to Waylia Ndinga.

Fortunately, my doubts have been proven 100% wrong. The letters that the kids have exchanged are incredible. Thoughtful. Funny. Considerate. Curious. Encouraging. Underneath those I’m-too-cool-for-this poker faces, these teens and tweens have some serious heart! 

Beyond making friends, improving writing skills, and promoting self-expression, our pen pal program yields an important benefit: myth-busting. The tragedy of “Africa” is just as invented and phony as the fantasy of “America.” There is so much more to Kenya than poverty and violence. Likewise, the United States consists of much more than material riches and Rihanna. Talking to people who come from different places fosters cross-cultural understanding. Through these conversations, both parties will gain a better understanding of how things are on the other side of the world. This type of knowledge is critical in today’s globalized and interconnected society.  

Elizabeth Robi I

Letter from Elizabeth Robi.

I invite you to take a look at some of these exchanges. Our hopes for this program are high and we look forward to seeing it grow. If you would like to invest in this simple, yet powerful initiative, please head to the Duka where you can purchase supplies, postage, or make a contribution of your choice.

Thank you for your continued support. Together we can do great things!


P.S. Judi is back at Nairobi Children’s Home after traveling west to visit her family for the holidays. The kids are all safely in their respective schools and ready to tackle this new school year. Charity has been running around Nairobi buying soap, shoe polish, trousers—everything a child needs to make it through the term. We are all in place ready to take on 2015!


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