São Leopoldo Students Send Video, Letters to Children in Dadaab Refugee Camp

Students in a Dadaab schoolroom. Photo: LWF/DWS Kenya-Djibouti
Students in a Dadaab schoolroom. Photo: LWF/DWS Kenya-Djibouti

Extending a Tree of Friendship from Brazil to Kenya

(LWI) – “Hello, friends! How are you? Today we are showing our school routine! We hope you enjoy it,” says Arthur Blasi de Souza speaking into the camera, accompanied by the waves of his classmates in the background.

Arthur is talking to Somalian children, who live in Dadaab, the largest refugee camp in the world. Located on the border of Kenya and Somalia, the camp was established in 1991 to receive refugees from the civil war in Somalia, but it is now home to around 500,000 people of all ages.

Since 2010, students at Colégio Sinodal, a school in São Leopoldo, Brazil, have been exchanging correspondence with Somali children at a school in Dadaab. When they were still in the last year of pre-school, “Africa” was simply a topic to study because of the World Cup in South Africa. But the pupils soon decided that they wanted to find out more about the continent.

The Reality of Somali Children

“When they were in first grade, we came up with the idea of showing them the reality of the Somali children who travel for days to reach the camp in Dadaab. We talked to the teachers and decided to create a tapestry called “the friendship tree,” says Arthur’s mother, Marcia Blasi.

“Each child drew one of their hands on pieces of fabric. After the pieces were sewn together by a group of mothers, the children wrote messages and drew pictures.”

Blasi, an adviser to the Lutheran World Federation’s (LWF) Council, was one of the people responsible for contacting the camp in North Eastern Kenya. In partnership with UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency, the LWF provides education, community services and sustainable livelihood support to people living in the Dadaab camp.

“With the help of many people at the LWF, we sent the tapestry to Kenya. The answer came the following year. The students there sent photos of the tapestry on the wall of their classroom, along with letters,” she says.

The Gift of Friendship

Now in the fourth grade and on their way to the fifth, Arthur and his fellow pupils wanted to thank the children from the camp for the latest correspondence received from Kenya in December 2014. As a result, they are prepareing to send their letters, drawings, photographs and a video about their day-to-day activities at their Brazilian school.

To teacher Andressa Neis, it will be New Year’s gift called “friendship.”

“We want to send them a moment of affection wrapped in the material we are organizing. It is an unassuming gesture, but it is loaded with good wishes for those who need it,” she explains.

Blasi agrees. “The children in Dadaab are joyful – they play, run, go to school and want to be happy. They don’t need much, but they do need love and friendship.”

(By Vanessa Botega, journalist)