In 2013 we pioneered what we refer to as the Skype Pals program, taking its name from the old concept of Pen pals but using Skype as the method of communication. This program involves children from Hurstpierpoint School in Sussex and Singiti Hamauwa School in Colombo taking part in Skype Pals video calls twice a week and focuses on CFDC’s ethos of ‘Children teaching children’
Our objective is to give disadvantaged children the tools and support to build their confidence, experience and attitude to life, so that over time their prospects for employment are improved enough to take them away from the social economic problems of their home and local environment. Their ability to speak the English language and introduce them to new concepts, encouraging debate, presentation skills, public speaking and equipping them with overall interpersonal skills is the key to this empowerment.
SKYPE PALS 2014
It is for this reason that CFDC run the Skype Pals program, where students across boarders discuss their respective cultures, cuisine, music and other current world events. The Skype sessions are coordinated by teachers in both countries and structured around a curriculum of topics agreed by the teachers at the beginning of each term.
Skype Pals has been heralded a great success. We have seen dramatic changes in all the children, evident from the continuous conversation the Sri Lankan children can now hold with their counterparts in the UK, to the confidence gained by the children at Hurst. It is unlikely that this accelerated development and awareness of another culture could never have taken place by any other means.
Building on from Skype Pal conversations, true friendships were first realised in 2014 when CFDC took a group of Hurstpierpoint children and teachers to work with their Skype Pal friends in Colombo. This was the first time the children met in person. The group spent eight days painting Singiti Hamauwa School and illustrating canvases to encourage reading, writing and represent UK and Sri Lankan life. This experience was not only amazing to observe but truly touching in how children from the most diverse backgrounds can find common ground and embrace friendship.
Our second trip in July 2017, CFDC and Hurstpierpoint children and teachers once again travelled to Sri Lanka and this time the trip was focused on performing a joint UK/Sri Lankan play in Colombo and continuing our social work at the Singiti Hamauwa School.
Unlike our first trip to Sri Lanka with Hurst, the children on this second trip were very young, between the ages of 11-13. This in some respects dictated the purpose of our trip which was to build on the relationship between the Skype Pals and give them a common purpose during the trip to advance integration, learning and friendship. The play sold out with over 200 people crammed into a theatre for 175 and finishing with a standing ovation, absolute success.
SKYPE PALS 2017
The quote below from one of the Hurst parents is reward enough for any charity to make this program worthwhile.
In adult life, we may look back at moments in our childhood which we eventually come to realise actually had a huge impact on the type of person we ultimately became. How can any of the 12 and 13 year old boys and girls who have had the absolute privilege of being part of this trip ever be quite the same again. You have taken them out of their very privileged, protected community and delivered them in to a world they will have hardly been able to comprehend existed.
And sadly, it will perhaps only be in adulthood that those ten individuals will fully appreciate what it was that you gave to them – opportunity, insight and (albeit a much overused term) a genuinely life changing experience.
Words from children in our program
You have helped build up the confidence I needed to face the society and meet challenges
Have learned the value of humanity, sharing and caring through this program
Your programs have given us a new perspective of life and a circle of great new friends
We discovered that we had more in us than we first believed. Your projects brought out the best in us
This program made me realize the value of cooperation and unity within a team