William Holden Wildlife Foundation
 
 

Mutual concerns with wildlife
and conservation form the basis
of our Pen Pal Program.
Uniting young people from distant lands
with a common interest serves
to reinforce in all the participants
the importance of their own
valuable resources as seen
through the eyes of students
half a world away.

History

William Holden Wildlife Foundation Pen Pal Program
WHWF President Stefanie Powers with the
Ascott Heath Infant School students (circa 1989)

The pen pal program began at the inception of the Rural Outreach Program. Our first library was built in the village of Kahurura located at the forestry station on Mt. Kenya.

In this first effort we partnered the students of Kahurura School with the children of the Ascot Infant School in Ascot, England. The program was inspired by Roselle Cameron, who had a son named Duncan who was a student at Ascot Infant School.  Ms. Powers and Mrs. Cameron discussed creating an activity to link the students of Duncan’s class with our students in Kenya, and together they came up with the idea of a pen pal program. At the same time, the William Holden Wildlife Foundation was building its first rural library at Kahurura and it seemed a perfect opportunity to attach a Pen Pal Program.

Long after Duncan graduated from Ascot Infant School the Headmistress of the school so loved the program that she personally continued encouraging pen pals between our students and hers. Sadly, Mrs. Cameron has passed away, but her son and her husband continue to be great supporters of our work and the Pen Pal Program that she inspired carries on in her memory. Today our policy is to have at least one pen pal class per rural outreach school.

Procedure

Because school semesters and holidays are somewhat different, our pen pal correspondence begins in either January or September for United States (US) students and January and July for Kenya students. All members of overseas classes and those in Kenya who wish to participate in our Pen Pal Program will have their photographs taken individually and will write an introductory letter about themselves, their school, their community and the importance of wildlife and of environmental conservation in their lives.

When the US pen pals have completed their introductory letters and had their photographs taken to accompany the letters, the supervising teacher should collect the letters and send them to our office in California for forwarding to Kenya.

When the US letters arrive in Kenya our education center’s education coordinators will work with teachers from the participating rurual outreach schools to match the US students with their Kenyan counterparts. Once the selection has been made and the pen pals matched, photographs of the Kenyan participants, along with their letters, are sent back to California to our office for distribution to the various US schools. At the same time a list of the names, ages, genders and paired students is created by our education center’s education coordinators and copies are sent to our California office and to the participating schools.

In the event the Kenyan letters arrive to the US first, the California office of the foundation will notify and forward the letter to the supervising teachers from the US schools who will match the pen pals following the procedure above.

It is crucial that all the letters are processed with speed due to delays in the international postal service. The schedule for all exchanges of letters should be carefully coordinated to the school terms in Kenya and in the US.  It is therefore recommended that the first letters arrive by the end of January, the second set of letters be exchanged in May, and the third exchange in September. Kenyan schools begin in June and letters can be written to the students in the US for them to receive in September. Letters should be sent to Kenya before the school break in November then the exchange can follow the regular schedule.

In the event the Pen Pal Program is begun in September the exchange of letters will occur before the November school break in Kenya and resume with an exchange in January. There may be more exchanges within the school year but that depends upon the motivation of the individual schools and their teachers.

Our education coordinators and / or the teachers must guide the students in the appropriate content for their letters, staying within the range of topics as follows:

            Cultural differences

            Lifestyles

            School activities and curriculum

            Civic issues

            Environment and conservation

            Biodiversity and renewable resources

Final approval of the content of the letters is the responsibility of the teachers and our education coordinators.

Students from Kenya greatly enjoy having a pen pal in the US and we encourage the students to stay in touch with one another. It is important to remind the US students that in general the standard of living of the students they will write to is very different from their own, with considerably less privilege than they have. In addition, the technologies we in the US enjoy are, in most cases, not available to their Kenyan counterparts and US students should approach the exchange of ideas with that understanding.

It has proven to be interesting for pen pals to describe what they do when they wake in the morning on an average school day as a comparison of lifestyles, as well as an interesting exercise in personal observations of their own world and the world around them.

To the best of our abilities we partner age groups, however much depends on the sophistication of the students in Kenya who tend to be less worldly than their US counterparts.

Current Participants


Ridgefield Christian School in Jonesboro, Arkansas
corresponds with
Guara Primary School

Segerstrom High School in Irvine, California
corresponds with
Ngenia Secondary School

Stone Gate Elementary in Zionsville, Indiana
corresponds with
Nyariginu Primary School

Wedgwood School in Fort Worth, Texas
corresponds with
Ngenia Secondary School

If you are a teacher who would be interested in having your class of students participate in our Pen Pal Program, please email us at mail@whwf.org, or call our office at (310) 274-3169, and we would be happy to answer any questions you have and send you our Pen Pal Protocol document for review. We will then see if we can match your students to a class of students at one of our rural outreach program schools

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