The Himalayan PenPal Program
OVERVIEW OF THE PENPAL PROGRAM:
To learn why this program is so needed, and has been so successful, please see the following short video created by reporter Susan Glairon.
THE NEED THIS PROGRAM ADDRESSES:
As home of the Himalayas, Nepal relies heavily on tourism. Those children who leave school in these areas being able to read and write in English have options to prosper by working in lodges or working as guides. Those who can’t operate in English — have far fewer opportunities. After finishing school, they often have to resort to working as porters on expeditions, which is a backbreaking, low-paying (under $5/day) activity and can often end in injury or death. Often the only other option is to try to eek out a living as subsistence farmers on frigid or high altitude land that is not conducive to growing crops.
HOW IT WORKS:
Our PenPal Programs are usually set-up at a remote rural school in a village heavily frequented by tourists, trekkers, or climbing expeditions. They might have a few computers (or we will supply them). Then we bring in an Internet connection; hire a PenPal coordinator/English teacher to run the program, give each student an monitored email address, and then match-up Nepali students with American PenPals (often employees of the sponsoring companies or with a student at a sister school in the US).
Through these weekly email exchanges, a student’s ability to converse in English quickly goes from a few broken sentences, to fluent conversation. You can see an example here.
BENEFITS TO THE AMERICAN SPONSOR
Through these short, monitored weekly email exchanges, the American pen-pal not only enjoy the satisfaction of serving as a Nepali students surrogate teacher, giving them the avenue, motivation, and fun way to learn to read and write, but they also get to learn about what life is for those on the other side of the world and develop a ongoing connection with a child from the project they are sponsoring.
BENEFITS TO THE NEPALI CHILDREN
A weekly email exchange with a foreign sponsor offers a practical application of reading and writing skills, and motivation to continue practicing those skills. Gaining fluency in English not only gives them opportunities in their village, but the option of continuing their education in one of Nepal’s English-medium school to become doctors, accountants, or join another profession, where they can afford to feed their children and contribute back to their village.