Worldwide friendships: Introducing Roots & Shoots Global Pen Pal Program

“She likes music and her friends. The music she likes is Billie Eilish – she is the best singer of her life. She writes very well too. I want to say hi to the Jane Goodall group, and thank them for allowing me to join this because it is interesting and enjoyable.”

~Roots & Shoots Global Pen Pal Program participant, Uganda

Cross-cultural connections

The Global Pen Pal Program is an initiative run by Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots Australia with other global Roots & Shoots chapters, that started in September 2021. It provides primary, secondary and university students with a chance to connect to young people in other cultures, build friendships, develop literacy and communication skills, plus deepen global engagement.

Roots & Shoots members write bi-monthly letters to one another, sharing around key themes such as: environmental conservation; peace and wellbeing; family and culture; faith and belief; and their dreams for the future.

Beginnings: Australia to Africa

In May 2021, a group of Australian Roots & Shoots volunteers with deep connections to Uganda and Sierra Leone had the idea for a digital letter-writing program to link Australia with their roots in Africa. The goal was to support girls secondary education engagement across the African nations, after they were disproportionately affected by the consequences of the Covid-19 global pandemic.

Via a small fee for Australian parents, the program also raises vital funds for our Girls Empowerment project in Uganda – helping girls achieve a full education by ending period poverty.

Today: Creating a worldwide network

The current pilot includes Roots & Shoots chapters in Australia, Sierra Leone, Uganda and Tanzania. Later this year Turkey, Austria, Canada and the Democratic Republic of Congo will also join. The program provides a unique opportunity for global Roots & Shoots chapters to connect relationally as a global community.

“When I wrote my letter I shared what foods and animals I like. Foods which I like most are turkey, irish potato. The animal I like the most is the chimpanzee.

“My friend in Australia likes mangoes. I was so excited to hear that she also likes mangoes, as I thought that people from Australia don’t eat Mangoes.”

~Roots & Shoots Global Pen Pal Program participant, Uganda

Acting local, thinking global

By taking part in Global Pen Pals and building wonderful connections, Roots & Shoots equips members across the world to:

• Share their lives across cultures and languages with other students
• Make new friends across the world in various continents
• Improve their confidence in reading, writing and communication

The program is vital in:

• Building cross-cultural awareness and empathy across nations, cultures and continents
• Girls developing friendships by improving their relational and communication skills
• Increasing girls educational engagement in participating nations, improving literacy and language skills
• Building a global sense of identity as a Roots & Shoots community

Future leaders, trained today

The program continues to grow as new Roots & Shoots chapters join across the world!

A small team of Australian volunteer facilitators currently perform regular child safety checks as a global ‘Post Office’. This year, we aim to train additional global facilitators and develop a digital platform to assist in easy, safe and effective letter exchanges.

“I’m proud of the girls and this initiative. I’m very happy for those who started because it has really helped the girls and motivated their talent. They learn about plants, trees and natural things from other countries, plus how to read.”

~Royal Alinaitwe, Roots & Shoots Patron and Teacher, Everest High School, Uganda

Video Credit: Roots & Shoots Uganda