Pen Pals Exchange Happy Thoughts

Wednesday 1 June 2016

Syrian children replied to their pen pals in Australia

From one side of the world to the other, letters travelled. The senders have never met the receivers, but they certainly have a lot to speak about.

Save the Children was the messenger, carrying 125 letters by students in Melbourne, Australia, to their pen pals in northern Lebanon, where Save the Children runs Basic Literacy and Numeracy programme classes for vulnerable Syrian refugee children to enable them to catch up on school years lost in the conflict.

“Children’s participation shows that children have competencies and capabilities,’’ said Leila Dahdah, Education Programme Manager at Save the Children Lebanon. ‘’Children who take an active part in their classroom work, for example, can influence their own learning and make their education more meaningful, relevant and enjoyable.’’

Expressing their thoughts and emotions on the themed ‘My Kite Message to Syria’ letters, Australian schoolchildren wrote about their hopes and dreams, confiding to their peers beyond the oceans about their favourite hobbies, cartoons, food and weather, and wished them happy life. 

‘’Dear Kids,’’ started one of deeply-thought messages. ‘’The first friend you have will guide you and help you and always be on your side. And the first friend will be your best.’’

Another letter read, ‘’Dear Someone, I hope you can stay safe and not get hurt. Make sure that you stay with family and friends. Be careful.’’

The idea came to mark the fifth anniversary of the Syria crisis and aimed to raise awareness on the situation of Syrian children among children and their families in Australia. Children were asked to react to the experience of having to flee one’s own home and leave school.

‘’Many of these children have fled the fighting in Syria,’’ said Sarah Ireland, Humanitarian Policy & Advocacy Advisor at Save the Children Australia. ‘’Some of them have missed years of schooling while their towns were being attacked and while they were waiting to be admitted to school in Lebanon. So, it is really important that we make sure we do not have a lost generation of children.’’

The letters reached their destiny, carried by Sarah and helped by the Education team at Save the Children Lebanon’s North office. A classroom of 17 students between 4-14 years old gathered to write replies after being introduced to their penfriends in a country where ‘’kangaroos that carry their kids in a bag.’’

‘’I like flowers and spring,’’ came one of the ‘My Balloon Message to Australia’ replies. ‘’I like to go hiking because mountains are beautiful. I feel so happy when I go up there. Thank you and I love you all.’’

The replies will fly back to Australia to reach the original senders. Save the Children’s unwritten message, meanwhile, will have also been delivered: wherever they are, children need to be heard.