Teaching Children About Global Education and Development
Entering “pen pal in developing country” into a search engine will display results with at least five different organizations that offer this type of service. Parents and teachers may do this to find pen pals for their children and students, while at the same time trying to teach them about global education and development for those who are much less fortunate than they are. However, Virginia Fresne who is Director of programs for the nonprofit organization Flying Kites, says that this is not always mutually beneficial or educational for either writer.
Founded in 2007, Flying Kites believes that the way out of poverty is through education. They run a leadership academy in the foothills of Kenya’s mountains where they help some of the world’s most desperate children. Flying Kites believes that education is a human right; they believe in children, and they believe in children’s rights and dreams. They invite others to “believe with us.”
Fresne says that she often receives letters written by people who hope to become pen pals with her Kenyan students. However, she feels that “letter exchanging with ‘disadvantaged’ children in an effort to remind our own children to appreciate privilege doesn’t work for our students in Kenya.” Students may not know enough about the person who they are writing to, specifically about their vulnerabilities. This can lead to the use of phrases such as, “I’m sorry you are poor.” According to Fresne, wording such as this, “would be confusing, offensive or hurtful to our students in Kenya.”
Instead, she suggests other methods that she feels are more effective in teaching children about global education and development. One is having children write to their state representatives about issues that are affecting the world’s poor. To do this requires them to first learn about some of the challenges and difficulties faced by people who live in poverty. Another way is sponsoring a student, with the help of an adult, using an organization such as Flying Kites. This supports the education of a student in need and may initiate correspondence between the student and the sponsor, depending on the level of sponsorship.
Among Fresne’s other suggestions for teaching children about global education and development are helping them to coordinate a bake sale to use the proceeds as donations, or encouraging them to read about global poverty. They can then take what they learn and teach others, spreading awareness. Fresne notes how much braver this generation is, and says, “They will be a force in this world, but it won’t be because they sent letters to ‘poor children.’”
– Kristin Westad