ILS Zimbabwe Pen Pals
History of ILS/Zimbabwe Pen Pals:
It all started with the ILS PTF Annual Auction Fundraiser. Both the Rost and Cole Families were winning bidders of the Week Long Stay at the Zulu Nyala Game Lodge in South Africa.
The Rost’s went on their trip in October, 2014. After their stay at Zulu Nyala they went on to visit Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. While there they stayed at the Heritage Lodge downriver of Victoria Falls. Part of the package of staying at the lodge, they got a tour of the village, a homestead nearby and the local Chisuma Primary School.
The country of Zimbabwe is so poor, that they do not have their own currency; they use the US dollar as their currency. One reason they are so poor is the government owns 51% of any new business that opens in the country. The lodge owners asked the village people if they could build a lodge on the village land. In turn the lodge would only hire village people to staff it.
While visiting the school, the 5th Grade Teacher of Chisuma School, Ernest Nyathi, asked Teresa Rost if the ILS 5th Grade students would be interested in becoming Pen Pals with his 5th Grade Students because their son, Zachary Rost, was an ILS 5th Grade Student. When the Rost’s came back to the US, they asked Mr. Aho if he would be interested in having this as a 5th Grade Service Project and he agreed to it. A week before the Cole’s left for Africa, the ILS 5th Grade Students 50 letters and pictures from the 5th Grade Class in Zimbabwe. Each ILS student got 2 Pen Pals because there were only 25 students in their class.
Each ILS 5th Grader wrote a letter to their 2 Pen Pals and sent a picture along with each letter. The Cole’s offered to hand carry the letters to the Victoria Falls School. It was also decided that each ILS student would put $5 in each of their Pen Pal letters because some of their Pen Pals could not afford to buy a school uniform and that was how much it costs to purchase one. Money donations were also gathered to give to Mr. Nyathi for his class school supply needs.
When we arrived at Victoria Falls in December of 2014, the students at Chisuma Primary School were also on Christmas Break. We arrived at the Lodge the night before we were to visit the school. In talking to the manager of the Lodge, the teachers did not know we were coming to visit them even though I had sent an email to them. The email had not gone through. The manager knew some of the students and teachers and she offered to let them know we would visit the school the next morning.
When we arrived at the school in the morning, half of the class showed up to meet us to get their Pen Pal letters from the ILS 5th Grade Students. They were all dressed up in their Sunday best clothes. They all had to walk from their homes to the school because they had no other means of transportation to get there. The sign in front of the school said “In God We Believe”. I have a picture of the sign. We also met the School Headmaster, Jairos Mpofil, who had to leave because it was the rainy season and he had to plant his crops which supplies the food for his family for the whole year. We also got to meet David, the 6th Grade Teacher. Mr. Nyathi was on Christmas Vacation but we did meet his wife as we passed their house while walking to the school.
When the children opened their letters and saw they got a $5 bill, they were so happy they shrieked with delight!!!! We took pictures of the students opening their letters. Many of them had never gotten a letter before. One girl sang a beautiful song for us in her language. We did not understand what she sang, but we recognized the name of “Jesus” when she sang.
(Christopher took a video while she was singing.) Christopher got to meet one of his Pen Pals, Themboni Ngwenya and I took a picture of them standing next to each other. His other Pen Pal was on Christmas Vacation, but that night her father, who worked at the lodge, came over and introduced himself to Christopher. After we left the school, we visited the homestead where one of the students who received a letter lived. After leaving the homestead, we drove to Victoria Falls and passed Christopher’s Pen Pal walking home after meeting Christopher at the school.
After we got home, the ILS 5th Grade Students received handmade gifts from their Zimbabwe Pen Pals. Some items included were hand carved wooden and stone rhinos and hand embroidered cloth items. Christopher received one of these which showed a scene of a homestead house with a fire in front of it and a woman carrying a large jug on her head.
To thank the Zimbabwe students for their gifts, Mr. Aho had this awesome idea of sending extra soccer and basketball uniform shirts to them. These shirts were all in very good condition, but were not being used by ILS because PTF raises enough money to always update the ILS sports uniforms on a regular basis. These were very fitting gifts because the uniforms say Immanuel on them, which means “God is With Us”.
Fifty soccer and basketball uniform shirts were sent to each Zimbabwe Pen Pal at Chisuma Primary School along with a picture of the ILS soccer, girls’ basketball and boys’ basketball teams.There was a question on how to send that many shirts to Zimbabwe. If people in that country get a big package from overseas, they have to pay $200 in an import fee to retrieve the package. We knew they could not afford to pay that fee, so we sent 25 padded envelopes, one from each ILS 5th grader, with 2 shirts in each package. Because it cost approximately $15 to send each package, PTF kindly offered to pay the postage to send them all to Zimbabwe.
As of now, Mr. Nyathi has emailed that all of the students have received their shirts and they were very grateful because they were about to start their new sports classes. The parents came to attend a blessing ceremony the school had to bless the new uniforms the ILS 5th Graders sent to them. They are now writing thank you notes and preparing to send gifts to their Pen Pals at ILS. We can’t wait to see what they send. We hope that the now ILS 6th Grade Students and Current 5th Grade Students can continue with this Zimbabwe Pen Pal Project.
Excerpt from an Email by Mr. Ernest Nyathi on 5/29/15:
"Surely am at loss of words to express how I feel. Only God can testify my joy. Your gift will bring a lot of joy to my pupils and the entire community. This term we are having ball games and the package will be a motivating factor. Thank you very much for the idea of thinking to assist our schoolchildren. Please extend our gratitude to the Parents Teachers Association for the splendid job. May the Lord bless you and all who contributed towards bringing a genuine smile on our faces. Many thanks to your pupils and Mr. Aho. God bless you all. ...... Thank you once more. Ernest."
Excerpt from an Email by Mr. Ernest Nyathi on 6/26/15:
"We really thank you for the shirts and sweets. Our pupils and their parents asked me to extend their sincere gratitude to you and your colleagues for the great work you are doing in bringing joy in their lives. Many thanks go to penpals (Christopher and his classmates), may Lord guide and guard them so that they have a prosperous future. Extend mu profound thanks to the man of God Mr. Aho, may our dear Lord bless him and his family abundantly. Finally I thank the Cole family once more. I will definitely send Mr. Aho a group photo of pupils clad in their marvellous shirts. God bless you all."
Excerpt from an Email by Mr. Ernest Nyathi on 7/8/15:
".....Parents were really pleased to see their pupils receiving presents, they came and graced the presentation ceremony and they made a prayer for all the people who were involved in making the donations a success. Many thanks to you and your family, Mr. Aho and his pupils and all who helped towards such an amazing gesture. I will send group photos in our next mail. Say hello to everybody, we love you all."