Lalafofofo.org Launches Penpal Program to Correspond with Tanzanian Students

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Lalafofofo.org has launched a penpal program for students in grades 5-8 to exchange letters with students in Tanzania. The aim is for students in the U.S. and Tanzania to connect and learn about another person who has a very different way of life.

penpals, international penpals, tanzania, Tanzanian aid, African Aid

Lalafofofo.org Penpal Program

Tips for the Lalafofofo-sponsored penpal program range from dealing with language barriers—members of Maasai tribes speak English as a third language, while Maasai and Swahili are their native and secondary languages—to deciding what to write about.

MENLO PARK, Calif., March 22, 2016—Lalafofofo.org, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization established to raise funds for affordable, small-scale service projects in the Kilimanjaro region of Tanzania, has launched a penpal program for 5th – 8th grade students in the U.S. to connect and correspond with Tanzanian students in a Maasai tribe living near Mount Kilimanjaro to learn about others whose lifestyles are different from their own.

The Lalafofofo penpal project facilitates the penpal exchanges, and offers students tips and guidelines for sharing letters with students at the Mlima Shabaha Shule (school), Sanya Station Shule and Tindegani Shule, located in a remote area in East Africa. Most likely, students in both countries know little if anything about each other’s cultures and lifestyles. According to Laura Vaughan, founder and executive director of Lalafofofo, the penpal program is a great way for students to learn not only about their peers halfway around the world, but also about a culture and way of life that is different from their own. It can also help establish greater global awareness outside their own experiences.

Tips for the Lalafofofo-sponsored penpal program range from dealing with language barriers—members of Maasai tribes in Tanzania speak English as a third language, while Maasai and Swahili are their native and secondary languages—to deciding what to write about. For instance, U.S. students are reminded that most Maasai students have never ridden in a car, never seen a city and never been more than a day’s walk from their village. Their homes have no electricity, so they do not have a TV, WiFi or computers, and drinking water is pumped from a well or a river and hand carried to their homes.

Students in Tanzania most likely know little to nothing about life in the U.S., but they’re interested in learning about American culture, just as U.S. students are interested in learning about Tanzanian culture. Lady Gaga, video games and Pizza Hut are as foreign to Tanzanian students as shukas, uji and boma are to American students, but addressing these differences can encourage children in both countries to learn more about each other, and possibly establish long term friendships.

Lalafofofo’s penpal tips encourage U.S. students to write about their favorite holidays, a favorite book or story, or where their ancestors came from. They also encourage writing about ordinary things, such as the chores they do at home, a typical school day or the wildlife around their home.

All letters are to be mailed by teachers to Lalafofofo’s U.S. base in California, and in turn they will be sent via Federal Express at the expense of Lalafofofo to Moshi, where they will be delivered to one of the participating schools. Once the first batch of letters arrive at a Moshi school, a penpal match for each will be made with a Moshi student.

Innovative approaches to teaching children about the broader world, like Lalafofofo’s penpal program, are important for helping children gain exposure to international topics, cultures, history, the differences between places and people, accurate cultural knowledge, and help to improve their writing ability. Similar programs have been found to play a role in helping children overcome stereotypes while providing them with a broader world view.

To learn more about participating in Lalafofofo’s penpal project, visit the lalafofofo.org website, email info(at)lalafofofo(dot)org, or call 650.218.3027.

About Lalafofofo.org:

Lalafofofo (a Swahili expression for “sleeping peacefully”) is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization created by Laura Vaughan of Atherton, Calif. Lalafofofo is set up to be a source of affordable, small-scale service projects in the Kilimanjaro Region of Tanzania, East Africa. Lalafofofo links individuals, youths, families and groups directly to much needed projects in Kilimanjaro, ranging in cost from $500-$2,500 for financial sponsorship.

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