Pen Pals with the UKRAINE
PEN PALS with the Ukraine
It was a wonderful opportunity for the Sixth-grade students in Mrs. Jennifer Chapman’s class. At the beginning of this school year, Meghan Brown, [former Sayville Graduate (2005) and daughter of Middle School Nurse Donna Brown], reached out from the Ukraine, where she currently teaches English as a Peace Corps TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) Volunteer, in search of Pen Pals for her students.
“When Meghan asked if I wanted my class to be Pen Pals with her students in the Ukraine,” Mrs. Chapman said, “my students were very excited about this prospect. They immediately began writing letters.”
Serving in the Peace Corp since September 2009, Meghan Brown has been living and working in a town of 25,000 people within the Western Ukraine “state” of Khmelnytska Obslast. Her school is one of seven in the town with 370 students from First to Eleventh “forms” or grades. Although English is a required subject from Second to Eleventh form, Meghan has realized that, for her students in grades five through ten who speak predominately Ukrainian and Russian as their first languages, English is more often their third, fourth, or even fifth language.
“My Pen Pals are all students in the Sixth form, and they have been very enthusiastic about the program,” Meghan wrote. “Some ask me everyday when their next letters are coming! Most of these students have not had much experience with foreigners (I'm usually the first they've met) and do not have the opportunity to travel widely. The opportunity of communicating with and building a friendship with an American student their own age is very exciting, and one they will remember and value for years to come.”
In the United States, the Sayville students have exchanged handwritten letters several times this year and have learned a lot about their Pen Pals. “There are many differences in their way of life, but also many similarities.” Mrs. Chapman noted. “They have exchanged pictures with each other, currency, and other small gifts. Many of my students enjoy writing with their Pen Pals so much that they are going to continue this long distance friendship over the summer.”
While Meghan will finish her Peace Corps service in December 2011, having this Pen Pal opportunity to connect with home also fits well with the Peace Corp’s mission and its three basic goals, which are:
1. Helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
2. Helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
3. Helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.
“This Pen Pals program,” Meghan added, “incorporates our second and third goals in the Peace Corps that is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and 20th anniversary in the Ukraine.”