English is most likely the third language that your penpal speaks. They first learn their tribal mother-tongue (which for this village is DhoLuo), then they learn Swahili (the main language in East Africa), and then they learn English. So please forgive your penpal if their spelling or grammar is still developing. Hopefully they will learn lots through the process of reading your letters and writing back.
Compared to Australians, the people in rural Kenya are extremely financially poor. It is important not to promise gifts of money, as handouts can be detrimental to empowering people out of poverty. It is much better to fund initiatives such as training in organic agriculture and co-create a permaculture garden. Give a man a fish, he can eat for a day but give him knowledge and tools and he can feed his family for a lifetime. Please let us know if your Penpal is asking for money or if you would like to support them in a specific way.
It can be hard to keep letters in good condition amidst the dust and rain of mud-hut village living so it helps if the letters and photographs that you send are durable. Try not to use fountain-pen ink or felt pen for writing as this runs very easily and they will no longer be able to read your letter. Pencil is ok but does fade with time. For writing, biro is probably best.
These guidelines are still being developed and will evolve over time. We welcome your questions, suggestions and ideas to improve the Rafiki Penpal Program
Frequently Asked Questions
What should we write about?
You can write about anything you like. Where you live, who you live with. What you enjoy doing for fun. All about your school, (or if you are homeschooled this is nice for you penpal to learn about too). You can talk about your favourite foods, colours, places, people. You can send photographs and draw pictures. Remember to ask questions too.
Why can’t we directly send letters to our penpal?
Firstly, the Kenyan penpals live mostly in mud huts and do not have an ‘address’, ‘letterbox’ or ‘postman’. Yet, everyone generally knows everyone else and through a local teacher, your letters will find their way to the right people. Secondly, we must protect the privacy and safety of children on the program.
Got another question? Post it in the Rafiki Penpals Online Learning Community forum.