Wednesday, June 8, 2016
I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives
Lexile = 790
The title of this one says it all. This true story of a school assignment made in seventh grade to write a pen pal letter really did change the life of both the writer and the receiver. Caitlin, a teenager in Pennsylvania, doesn't realize how privileged her life is. Martin, a boy living in Zimbabwe, really doesn't know how desperately poor is family is in comparison to the world. Martin is bright; the best student in his school that serves the slums of Chisamba Singles, a development built for workers near the city of Mutare. Martin lives with his family of six in a tiny room intended for a single man. He receives the coveted pen pal letter because of his status in the class.
While most students in Caitlin's class stop writing after only one letter, Caitlin continues her correspondence that becomes a lifeline for Martin and eventually his family. Caitlin sends a dollar bill in her letter merely to show her new friend what American money looks like. The money buys groceries for TWO WEEKS for the family. Later she sends a Reebok shirt for Martin's birthday. He is amazed at the fine quality of the clothing and saves it only for special occasions. Caitlin asks for a photo of Martin, not realizing that hiring a photographer requires hours of hard labor to earn enough.
Caitlin matures and grows through her relationship with Martin as well. Her chapters of the book reveal a typical American teenage life that when contrasted with Martin's chapters seems shallow and privileged. But Caitlin develops a true friendship and empathy for Martin. She becomes self-educated about Africa and worries for Martin and his family as political and economic crisis roll through Zimbabwe.
I wanted to know more about Zimbabwe as well. This book has a happy ending, but maybe it's not over yet. Martin Ganda is a pretty big deal in the world of emerging markets worldwide. And Martin and Caitlin are still friends:
Reading this memoir just might inspire YOU to change the world as well.