Thursday, September 26, 2013

Building a Bridge Between Chumey and Chapeau

What an exciting morning! After waiting an agonising 3 months, finally our parcel of penpal letters has arrived from Canada.

Running a penpal project here is not an easy feat. First, we don't have access to the internet for students in Class 6, so we had to write paper letters. Still, there is something very special about writing real letters which has allowed the kids to draw pictures and post little mementoes like coins and photos to each other. Just one small problem: the snail-like speed of the postal system! While our letters made it to Canada in about 5 weeks, the letters coming this way took 3 months!

Can you believe that barely a day has gone by in that time that the students haven't greeted me on my way to school with 'Have our letters arrived yet Madam?'
Lately I had started preparing them gently for the possibility that the letters may have been lost in the mail somewhere. But this all added to the drama and built up a huge excitement in all the students when I could finally say 'The letters have arrived!!'.

The students in Canada are from Dr. Wilbert Keon School in Quebec. Their teacher Allison is a friend of mine from way back when we completed our teaching internships together on Thursday Island in the remote north of Australia. When Allison heard that I was teaching here she immediately wondered how we could collaborate and how her school could raise money and send resources for my students. Earlier in the year they contributed to the funds I used to buy books for my school and Umsang library and also much needed sports equipment.

Today, as we contemplated the large box in my lap, we knew we had been sent more than just letters!

What could be inside the mystery box??

It felt a lot like Christmas when we opened the parcel and oohed and aahed over all the contents.Stickers, pencils, magazines, books, maps, paper, soap, teaching materials, game pieces, pencils and marker pens were all squeezed in along with the coveted letters and photos.

As students read their letters, I spread out all the goodies on the table for them to look at, and we will enjoy using these items in coming weeks in our library lessons. I'll teach the kids some easy card games, and use the paper plates and paint swatches for a craft or literacy activity.  But the very first thing we'll do next week in our library time (I only have this group of students for one 50 minute session a week) is start writing our letters back so that they'll make it by Christmas.


The students love finding Bhutan on the map!

Was it planned or a coincidence that the pencils sent were yellow and orange - the colours of the Bhutanese flag?

A Canadian coin was very special!

 A new bracelet

No time was wasted swapping pencil stubs with a new Canadian pencil!

I had the chance to read some of the Canadian letters, and I have to say that although on one hand there are huge differences in the lives of these children, it was amazing and heartwarming to read how there were so many more simililarities than you would initially think. Students wrote about their families, their love for the beautiful nature of their countries, the freedom and safety of life in their small town, the favourite school subjects, music and movie stars. Kids are kids all over the world and I am so happy to be part of building a little bridge between Chumey and Chapeau!

Here are Class 6 in their classroom this afternoon.

Some interesting science (biology) projects on display.

Students bring their lunch to school everyday in these baskets and thermoses: usually rice and potato chilli curry.

Students decorate their class with images of the current and former Kings of Bhutan and Buddhist deities.

Thank you so much to Allison and your colleagues and all the students for not only your letters but also organising to fundraise to buy thoughtful gifts, cover postage and donate cash so that we could buy much needed items to enhance learning in our school. A huge Kadinche-la from Bhutan to you all!


  1. I am so glad that the letters and treats made it The children look as pleased as punch too Excellent exchange that finally came to fruition Well done Andrea

    1. Thanks, even if we only manage one letter each way it will be worth it!