Seldom do we have the opportunity, sometimes even as adults, to connect with people from across the world, to understand how they live and to share our lives with them. Fortunately, for the students of PYP1, one such amazing opportunity was presented to us by none other than one of our awesome parents, leading to an enriching and almost magical exchange, between two continents.
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It all began when, halfway into our inquiry of ‘Where we are in place and time’, we received an intriguing suggestion from Mrs. Loden. Now, Mrs. Loden, is the CEO of a charity called ‘Giving Africa’ which dedicates its efforts to eliminating poverty in Africa, through education. She and her team work relentlessly on projects that empower the people and the children of poverty-stricken Burkina Faso by, among other things, making education more accessible. One such project is the Bethel School Project which seeks to ‘develop Bethel school into a ‘model of excellence’ for secondary school education in Burkina Faso. Her work, often takes Mrs. Loden to the Bethel School and it is before one such visit, that she had this marvellous idea. She suggested that the children of MBIS, PYP1, could write a letter to find out about the shelters and about the way of life of the children studying at the Bethel School. She would then deliver our letter to the children and bring back their reply.
Always game for an adventure, the children of PYP1 enthusiastically drafted a two-page letter, sharing a bit about themselves; their homes, their school life, their play preferences etc. We included some pictures from around the school to show the spaces that we frequent daily including the cafeteria, the football field and the Jungle Gym. Our letter was read out by the English teacher to the teenagers of the ‘4th Form’ at Bethel School, who laughed, wondered and were absolutely amused at some of the things our children had to say. They, in turn, drafted their response and as their teacher wrote the letter out on the blackboard, each of the children copied the words on separate sheets of paper, thoughtfully provided by Mrs. Loden.
Upon her return, Mrs. Loden promptly sent to us all the students’ letters accompanied by pictures and information about the typical shelters found in Burkina Faso, which her daughter, Emily, shared and read out to her classmates. The letters from Bethel were also read out, making this experience now more real for the children. They saw how different and yet, in some ways, how similar their lives were to those of the kids from Africa. We learnt that it wasn’t easy for them to get to school every day; while some of them rode to school on bicycles, most of them walked, usually setting off very early to cover the long distance from their village to the city. We realized how fortunate we are to have air-conditioning when all that they have are glassless windows to provide for ventilation. We were pleased to know that though they don’t have a swimming pool, they do have a playground. We were especially excited to learn that they love playing football and volleyball and that they eat spaghetti! Driven by curiosity, our children naturally had many questions – How old were the children who wrote to them? Did they have paper and rulers? What were ‘babenda’ and ‘gaore’, their favourite foods? How did they play their local game ‘kere-kere’?
The exchange continues with Mrs. Loden delivering our queries and their answers back and forth and our children developing a deeper insight into the lives that others live. One hopes this exchange will enable them not only to learn about how other people live, but will also help them to realize just how privileged they are and if not now, then at some point in their lives, fill them with empathy and inspire them to reach out, to share, to give and to co-exist peacefully, as responsible citizens of tomorrow’s world.
We are extremely grateful to Mrs. Loden for this wondrous opportunity and for this incredibly humbling and invaluable learning experience. Thank you.
PYP 1, Ms. Karishma and Ms. Sangtei