There are more than a thousand students at Escuela Cristo Rey, an elementary school in an impoverished community on the outskirts of Managua, the capital of Nicaragua. Families there earn on average $100 per month by piecing together odd jobs. Health risks are high, especially for children who drop out of school to work in the trash dump or nearby fields.
I first met the students at Escuela Cristo Rey in August of 2012. What struck me was the bright hope in their eyes, and how that contrasted with the grit of their surroundings. I’ll never forget that image.
Weeks later I presented some of the needs of Escuela Cristo Rey to a church group. Afterward, a school teacher approached me with the idea of a letter writing exchange. She created a simple English/Spanish worksheet and had her third grade class fill out one side. I took these to the kids in the 4th grade class at Cristo Rey and they loved it. The program grew to include all three 3rd grade classrooms at Carriage Crest Elementary, and the 4th and 5th grade classrooms at Escuela Cristo Rey.
Writing letters is nearly a lost art for many kids today. Yet for many children without access to email or social media, a letter from a child in another country can open her mind to other cultures and possibilities. And for students in the U.S., learning and sharing with a child from Nicaragua can expand her concept of the world, and may spark an interest in social justice and compassion.