The Victoria-Taiama School Project
The Victoria-Taiama School Project is a penpal project with a focus on developing responsible global citizens. Children ages 6 to 12 in Canada and Sierra Leone have been exchanging letters, gifts, and information since 1993. The children make personal connections and learn about life in each others’ countries. Canadian children learn about their similarities and differences with children from a very different culture and economic situation. Questions about the lifestyle and living conditions in Sierra Leone have led to appreciation of the culture of Sierra Leone and discussions about underlying causes of the disparities. Empathy and compassion for their friends has led to fundraising projects to help provide them with school supplies.
The history of the project goes back to its origins as a penpal exchange club, founded by Maureen Mark and Eric Sama in 1993 with students from their respective schools, Campus View Elementary in Victoria, BC, and Ahmadiyya Primary School in Taiama, Sierra Leone. The two founders had met in 1974 when Maureen was a volunteer with Canadian Crossroads International and Eric was a young student. The friendship continued through the years, and when Eric also became a teacher they both saw the educational possibilities of children exchanging letters. The ten-year civil war disrupted the program for three years, but was re-established in 2001. The letter-exchange program transferred from Campus View Elementary School to Marigold Elementary School when Maureen transferred schools in 2006.
A charity, the Victoria-Taiama School Project, was formed in 2003 to promote community fundraising to help rebuild the school, which was destroyed during the war.
For photos and further information, please check the website www.taiama.org.
Submitted by Maureen Mark, teacher, Marigold Elementary School, SD 61