With all the avenues we use to communicate, the phrase "pen pal" almost sounds obsolete, but not for students at Crestview Elementary in the Frenship district.
At the beginning of the school year, the student body, kindergarten through fifth grade, were assigned pen pals with students at the Lulwanda Children's Home in Uganda, Africa. It's part of a project with Grace International, a non-denominational group of men and women who do work in the African nation. For the first time in Lubbock, the organization sent two students to meet their long-distance friends face to face.
"I think it's a once in a lifetime opportunity for them to be able to do this," Glenna Applewhite, a volunteer for the organization, said. "International travel is not something these kids would ever be able to do, would ever be able to come here, and our kids would never have known. Our students here would never know what an opportunity they have. When they grow up, they will look back on this and think, 'What an opportunity we had to be able to interact with and visit, and pen pal, and do all the things they do with the children at Lulwanda."
Siraji and Sarah, 12 and 11 years old, and both considered orphans in their community, shared their stories about growing up in Ugandan society.
"Our kids were so excited. When we announced to them that they were going to be here today, they were so excited," Joy Fields, a teacher at Crestview, said. "So, I know that it really means something to them. It's going to be something that they always remember, and I'm hoping that it will help our kids appreciate the education they get, and want to make a difference in the world around them."
It was an opportunity for these two pen pals to learn about American education as well.
"Here they have a very nice library with TVs and very nice books," Siraji said.
Complete with song and dance, a tour of the school, and gift baskets for both students, the visit is sure to be an unforgettable one.
"Talking with my friends and the singing, I was excited and was feeling at home," Sarah said. "I would like to say thank for allowing us to come to America. We are really excited and you really made a big difference in our lives. May god bless you."
Siraji and Sarah are bringing back with them a container full of letters and books for the other 104 students at the Ugandan children's home, and both will have a letter from their pen pals waiting for them when they arrive.