Mission trip brings letters from Soda Creek students to Malawi
February 16, 2014
Steamboat Springs — By now, Madeleine Mason and her daughter, Liv, should have wrapped up two days of traveling that have brought them from Steamboat Springs to Monkey Bay, Malawi, Africa, along with 16 other members of Steamboat Christian Center.
Packed in with everything they'd need for more than two weeks in southeast Africa are about 200 letters from students at Soda Creek Elementary School.
Mason and Liv are bringing the letters along on their mission trip to start a pen pal relationship with the children attending school in Zambo, which is a 4-mile hike from Monkey Bay.
The children in Zambo attend a school built in part by the efforts of Steamboat resident Grace Hampton. Hampton stumbled upon the village of Zambo three years ago and found a group of orphan children who were without a building for their classes.
The money was raised for the school house about a year ago, and more than 60 children now use the building in Zambo.
The group from Steamboat Christian Center is traveling to Monkey Bay to continue Hampton's efforts to assist the residents of Zambo. While there, they'll work on gardens, water catchment devices, new buildings and compostable toilets.
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Mason and Liv, in particular, will join in with the learning going on at the school. The letters from Soda Creek will be used for English instruction and also to highlight the culture of American children in Ski Town USA. Mason is bringing along a map to help illustrate the distance and layers of continents, countries and states that separate Zambo from Steamboat.
The pen pal idea originated with Liv's fourth-grade teacher, Laura Kalmes, after Mason and Hampton spoke to the class about the trip.
"Madeleine let the kids know that they were bringing donations with them to give to the kids in Malawi, and that my students could help by bringing in toys or books they no longer use," Kalmes wrote in an email. "We also heard from Madeleine how the students in Malawi are learning English, and Madeleine and I had the idea to be pen pals with them to help them work on their English."
The letters brought to Zambo are from multiple classes and age groups at Soda Creek, and Mason hopes that the children in Zambo will be able to write back.
Kalmes' class also is pen pals with her sister's fourth- and fifth-grade class in Anchorage, Alaska.
"We have done some projects that we have shared with them as well as writing letters about twice a month," Kalmes wrote.
Liv is the second-youngest member of the Malawi trip, and she and Mason have other activities planned for the children in Zambo, such as making lavender-filled cloth dolls.
As she'll be missing the week after blues break, Liv had to make arrangements with her teachers at Soda Creek about how to make up for her absence.
Mason and Liv will keep a travel blog during the trip at http://blog.travelpod.com/members/masongirls, and Liv will put together a multimedia presentation once she gets back to show other classes at Soda Creek.
They also hope to Skype with Kalmes' class while they're still in Monkey Bay.