East End students hope to make friends in India

East End Primary Year 1 students with their letters to children in India. – Photo: Jewel Levy

Students at East End Primary School are writing friendly letters to children in India to show their love and support.

On Tuesday, Emma Winter’s Year One class gathered in front of the school to show off their letters labeled “boy” or “girl” that will go to India in the hopes of promoting a cultural exchange with youngsters in the city of Mysore. The letters were all dropped into a big envelope, taken to the East End Post Office and sent off to the Mysore Foundation who are overseeing the program in India.

The eager 6-year-olds, who do not know very much about India or speak the language, did their best to convey in their letters how much they cared about learning about their new friends.

In her letter, Alexandra Rankin told her new pen pal that she is six years old, lives in the Cayman Islands and likes swimming and playing, and that she wanted to be her friend.

Summer McLaughlin told her pen pal she loved to go on the road with her daddy in his car, and asked the child receiving the letter, “What do you like doing?” and signed it, “Love, Summer.”

In their letters, Traeshawn Seymour said he loved swimming with the fish and his brother, while Kieon Bodden told his pen pal he liked to read storybooks.

Ms. Winter said the letter writing initiative came about as a result of her own experience of spending three months in India last year with the Mysore Foundation.

While there she helped to donate food and other products to slum dwellers in Mysore. “The Mysore Foundation was launched last year by U.S.-based yoga practitioner Brice Watson as a way for the yoga practitioners who traditionally travel from all around the world to Mysore’s Shri K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute to give back to the community,” explained Ms. Winter.

“The people who train at the institute customarily donate many items like food and toiletries to the most needy of Mysore, but the Foundation was started to go a bit further by raising funds to provide items like books, pencils and school uniforms for families living in the slums.”

Ms. Winter said that while in Mysore her teacher instinct kicked in, and she came up with the pen pal idea as a way to help school-age children who were studying English.

“The letters not only provide a way for these children to connect with children from other parts of the world, but they also serve as an exercise that allows them to practice their English skills.”

Ms. Winter’s Year 1 class had been working hard all year on building their writing skills, and Ms. Winter was delighted that by the end of the year the class was ready to compose letters to the children in Mysore.

She hopes opening up this line of communication will teach the children in the class not only about another culture, but to also understand the different levels of privilege children around the world have.

“I wanted to teach the children about charity and what it’s like to be poor,” she said.

In the last seven days of school, Ms. Winter said she managed in that very busy time to squeeze in the opportunity for the class to write quite sweet letters, color a picture of a Cayman animal to include and show on a map where Cayman is in relation to Mysore.

“It proved to be a good way to put their new writing skills into action, as well as to learn some geography as we tracked on a map how the letters would get all the way to Mysore,” said Ms. Winter.

“The children in Mysore may not have a lot, but it’s happiness that makes you feel rich, and the class is now doing their part in making other people happy, which helps so much.”

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