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Letters From Africa

About a year ago, a post in my Twitter feed caught my attention. Something about Africa and pen pals, re-tweeted by an educator (I think I'm remembering the details correctly…I was pretty pregnant and my brain was only kind of working…). I followed the link and found an organization that connects American students with students in Africa. Intrigued, I contacted the organization, Fitness for Africa.

After a couple of emails back and forth, I filled out a short application and hooked Brother-Bug up with a pen pal in Uganda! His friend is six, likes reading, and is in primary school. This has been fun and educational, to say the least.


Since we started writing to Brian in January, we've learned some African geography (namely where Uganda is and what the weather is like) and we've learned about some traditions for Brother-Bug's friend (he has a special chicken and rice meal for his birthday instead of cake). We receive and write one letter each month. Fitness for Africa suggests topics, but Brother-Bug and his friend seem to find plenty to talk about.

In a purely “school” sense, this gives us opportunities to practice writing skills – handwriting as well as letter construction, grammar, and niceties. In a larger sense, we are forging connections with someone on the other side of the world. This is an important step towards respect, understanding, and Peace.


“I've learned a lot about what African children do. I really like being his pen pal because it is exciting. I've really liked getting to learn about Africa.”

– Brother-Bug (6)

I have been really impressed by how easy Fitness for Africa has made this for me, as the parent and facilitator. Brother-Bug writes his letter. I scan it and email to the field organizer in Uganda. He prints it and gives it to Brian. The process then reverses, ending up with Brian's letter in our email in-box, and I print it out for Brother-Bug. We avoid the messy and unreliable postal adventures between here and Uganda! I get email reminders when the monthly letter is coming due.

The mission of the organization is to help children have full and complete lives. The founder says:

“The goal of this project came from the desire to create Healthy Lifestyles for as many children as possible … One aspect of a healthy life was the ability to have friendships and to learn about the world and other cultures … That’s how this idea sparked for me to start a PenPal project for Children.”

-Heather Parisi, Founder and Creator of Fitness for Africa

You can use this link to start a pen pal relationship for your child!

It's such a small thing – just writing a letter to someone somewhere else. But what benefits we see from this small thing!




4 responses »

  1. This is truly awesome cause you get the feel of the letter without having to worry about unreliable postal systems. As a kid, my Dad encourage me to have a ton of penpals. We used to go out and buy stationary, go the post office etc. He would help me buy little gifts for them that I could stuff in the envelope etc. It was truly amazing. At one point I had 6-7 penfriends from all over the world. What was even more exciting than posting the letter was waiting for the reply to come.The thrill of a letter from a foreign land. The smell of a different stationary. The wonder of different stamps. I would bug my postman tremendously by constantly asking him if he had mail for me. Infact, the post man ended up being great friends with my family and I due to those letters.As I grew up the number of friends dwindled but I did make one bestfriend who I am still in touch with and still talk to after all these years. Infact when I had my son, she was the first person to send stuff for him. The first clothes he wore as a baby were gifted by her, which is kinda special. I am so glad you have started you lil one on this amazing journey. I cant wait until Z is older and I can embark on his journey all over again.

    • Hi! Thank you so much for taking a look at Fitness For Africa and sharing your own experiences with a PenPal project! Your friendship today is the exact reason that I started this project for my niece and nephew and today just one reason I love seeing their friendships grow! Please do come back once your child is old enough to engage in this project! Thank you again – Heather Founder – Fitness For Africa

  2. I just spent the morning looking through this website, what a beautiful project to be apart of.
    This would be a great way for my older guys to keep up on their handwriting skills as so much is done strictly via computer/typing.

    • Hi Nico!
      Thank you so much for taking a look at Fitness For Africa — This has truly been a dream come true for me to open a school and truly help as many people as I can to understand that they too can live a healthy life! I would love for your kids to join the PenPal project — I do hope you fill out an application and start them on a journey of creating friendships overseas and opening their minds to a big beautiful world! Have a wonderful day!

      Thank you again!
      Founder – Fitness For Africa


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