Chiefs Connect with Haiti’s Orphans

A new pen pal program offers English language learners a chance to write to orphans in Haiti.


Courtesy of Ms. Behbe

Members of the Haiti Mission Pen Pal Program send letters to teen orphans.

Shuruq Daas, Staff Writer

If Valery Joseph, who was born in Haiti, ever feels homesick, she can now write a letter and send it to teens in Haiti. This pen pal program sends letters to teenagers in Haiti and Haitian orphanages. It all started when Ms. Behbe was selected as a star teacher in the past summer for the ARM National Loxahatchee Refuge. There, she met Serena Ritcher and both sparked the idea of a program where students can improve their writing by writing to others. Ms. Behbe shared this idea with principal, Mrs.Robinson, and started the pen pal program. This program helps Creole speaking students strengthen their English skills, writing skills and communicate with teens back in their country.

The orphanage where the letters are sent to is in a remote area in the mountains. Because there is no postal center in the proximity, Ms. Behbe scans the letters and sends them to another station which passes the letters on to the orphanage, where the kids are aged 12-16.

Back home at Santaluces, English Language Learners and ESOL students get to stay after school on Tuesdays and Thursdays to share information of their personal lives with these teen orphans. Sharing everything from their favorite foods to their favorite hobbies, this gives the orphans in Haiti a taste of American life. After they finish writing their letters, they go to English teacher Mr.Connolly’s room and learn how to edit their writing.

”Eighth grade was fun because I had a lot of friends and they weren’t bad influences,” said Freshman Valery Joseph. “Now I’m a student at Santaluces High School and speak fluent English.”

Apart from just writing letters and sending them to Haiti, this pen pal program builds friendships. Having someone you can talk to in a place where conditions are not perfect and life is difficult is therapeutic.

”Hopefully this pen pal program gives students a better learning and writing skills,” said Ms. Lipton, Santaluces ESOL Coordinator. ”This program will inspire and motivate the teens back in Haiti to do better.”