It is so hard to believe how quickly this month has flown by! As y’all read a couple of months ago, I announced that I would be starting a pen-pal program with girls here in the United States and girls who are part of the clubs in Africa. Today I am going to dive into the program and share how some people have felt when receiving the letters.
I want to first emphasize the excitement. Everyone who I have heard from so far have been over the moon excited about getting a letter. As for the girls in Africa, I delivered the initial letters during my visit in March. Within just three days, 15 of the 25 club girls had already written back. Not only did they write, but many of them walked more than 40 minutes to hand deliver their replies to Auntie Procedure, so I could carry the notes back on the plane to the US. The girls were so excited!
Many of my friends here, both in Park City and around the country, were also thrilled to receive their first letters. I talked to some of them about what it meant and how they feel about having a pen-pal.
Taylor Graves, who lives in Atlanta, GA, has “always wanted to have a pen pal or connection to Africa.” When I talked to her, I asked about how it felt to receive her letter from someone in Africa. She shared “It is so exciting to know that I have a connection with another teenager so far away and that someone knows my name across the world.” Taylor went on to express, “I want to gain a different understanding outside of the stereotype we have today. It is amazing to me that she and I, two people from completely different worlds, can become such close friends by writing letters to each other.” Taylor has such a huge heart for others and I know that this relationship will go so far. While I was in Victoria Falls, I was actually lucky enough to introduce Taylor to her pen-pal Mariah. They clicked instantly and are a perfect match!
Another friend from Atlanta, Ashley Davidson, also had a very interesting perspective. Both of her parents are from Ghana (which is in western Africa) and her grandmother currently resides there. Although Ashley has a connection with Africa unlike others, she had not experienced something like having a pen-pal before. When writing her initial letter, she felt “It was delightful to connect with my roots not only through writing but also through a new perspective.” Ashley has not yet received a letter back but she explained to me that she is “eager to hear from a new friend all the way across the globe.” She can’t wait to see how her relationship develops with her pen-pal!
Additionally, a friend from Park City, Emma Schwartz, has gotten involved. Emma actually has a project of her own designing clothes - you should check it out! (https://thehuckproject.com/). She has actually traveled to Africa twice on Safari with her family and would “love to spend time with the girls and meet her pen-pal in person.” I asked Emma to tell me about her perspective on Africa after traveling there. Emma responded enthusiastically, “Africa was the most amazing place I have ever been to and I was so lucky to get to travel there in the span of just a year and a half. The people, environment and everything about it is magical. It will forever be my favorite place on this planet. I have only seen one side of the African experience - the luxury and animal sightings. But, the few moments outside of the game reserves and near the airports was mind opening. I would love, and hope, to get the chance to see the other side of the African experience.” Additionally, I asked Emma to share what excited her the most about having a pen-pal. Emma replied “Having a pen pal is something I’ve always thought about so I’m very glad this opportunity came about. I know it’ll take time but I really do believe that it is one of the more delicate and vulnerable forms of friendship. I can’t wait to keep exchanging letters and see the progression of both of us throughout the years. I can already tell that after one letter this is going to be something I’ll remember forever, and I hope my new friend agrees!”
Finally, I asked another dear friend from Atlanta, Julia Jamieson, for some of her thoughts and perspective. Julia was thrilled to get a letter back from her pen-pal and she immediately took a photo of the letter and she shared it via text with many friends. They were all amazed by the work being done and thought it was so inspiring. Seven of her friends instantly texted me asking for a pen-pal. It is so exciting to see how interested they were and that they so eagerly wanted to be involved. Just as Julia was so amazing to spread the word, you can too!! Please feel free to reach out if you are interested in being a pen-pal or if you know someone who might be! Julia also expressed, “I want to learn more about the girls and make a new friend. It is honestly so cool to have a relationship on a different continent and know that even if I have never met them, I feel a deep connection as if I have known them forever.”
As you can tell, everyone is so enthusiastic about their new relationships. I cannot wait to see where this goes so stay tuned! Speaking of staying tuned, there will be a Giving Circle donor conference call this Saturday, May 4th at 9 am PST / noon EST - dial 605-468-8005 and enter the code: 603003#. You should TUNE IN and learn more about all of the amazing work being done! I will have some pen-pals on the call sharing more about their reactions.
As always, never hesitate to reach out. Happy Spring!!