Pen Pal Project connects young Salvationists across the globe
By Melissa Landon –
Though The Salvation Army operates in more than 130 countries around the world, many young Salvationists have yet to visit a corps overseas. Western Territory Teen and Young Adult Mission and Communications Director Megan Villalpando and the Territorial Youth Department developed the Pen Pal Project to pave the way for youth in The Salvation Army in the United States to communicate with Salvationists who live abroad.
“Our goal is to connect our youth on a global level,” Villalpando said. “We would like to bridge the gap between our corps here in the Western Territory and territories overseas.”
The Pen Pal Project is new, but several students between the ages of 6 and 16 have signed up, and some are still waiting to be assigned a pen pal. “We have 17 youth signed up from overseas—from the Bedlington Corps in England—and 29 signed up from the Western Territory—the Santa Ana Temple Corps in California,” Villalpando said.
Youth who sign up for the Pen Pal Project will be matched with an overseas pen pal of the same gender and similar age. After signing up and getting matched with a pen pal, youth can use a template to send the first letter and get the conversation started. Participants are encouraged to discuss their hobbies, church and city, but leave out personal details like home addresses. Letters may be exchanged through the corps. Social media accounts and photos should only be exchanged with parental permission. Participants are encouraged to write back within two weeks, but pen pals can write to each other as often as they like.
Lucero Camacho, Senior Administrative Corps Assistant at the Santa Ana Corps, is eager for the girls in her corps to learn about Salvation Army corps outside of the U.S.
“I’m excited for them to be able to communicate and develop a friendship with fellow Salvationists,” Camacho said. “One of our girls who signed up for the Pen Pal Project wrote in her initial letter that she hoped to one day meet her pen pal in person, perhaps at an event. So I’m really excited for them to create long-time friendships.”
In England, several young Salvationists are preparing to send their first letters to their new pen pals in North America. Major Sheryl Clarke, Commanding Officer at Bedlington Corps, said, “One of my goals is to allow the youth here as well as in America to learn the differences they have not only in daily living but also in worship. I think it’s a great opportunity for the youth to interact with each other from around the world.”
Currently, the Pen Pal Project is only open to the U.S. Western Territory. “Someone from the USA Southern Territory signed up, and I encouraged her to go speak with her missions or youth department to see if they’d be open to coordinating something on their own,” Villalpando said. “I think it would be really cool if the Pen Pal Project served as a model for other territories who want to connect their youth globally.”