Letters connect Indo-Pak hearts...

Updated on Jan 31, 2006 02:31 PM IST

A group of volunteers has started a penpal network to connect the hearts of children from India and Pakistan.

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None | ByPriyanka Desai (HT Style), Mumbai

As India and Pakistan battle it out on the cricket field, a few people are busy exchanging love across the border. A group called "Friends Without Borders" is carrying a gigantic (about 110 by 74 metres) friendship letter through various cities of the country and will finally take it to Pakistan.

“The large letter is for publicity,” says Mark Jacobs, one of the volunteers in the team. “We want to encourage as many children as possible to write letters to anonymous friends in Pakistan. We would gradually have a network of penpals writing continuously to each other,” he adds. The programme is the brainchild of John Silliphant, an American living in Ahmedabad and dedicated to social service.

With his six-month visa nearing expiry, he needs to make a trip out of the country to get it renewed. And Pakistan is the country he will visit on March 18, with the wonderful mission of carrying armloads of friendship letters — written by children, for children. Silliphant and his colleague have collected these from several schools in Ahmedabad and their bags are now overflowing with 30,000 letters.                                                                           

 A yeoman's deed, indeed!

“When a child sits down to write a heartfelt letter to an unknown friend, inter nal bridges are for med. When these letters are received by children across the border, they bring with them new infor mation, coming from kids who care,” he adds. To highlight this mission, Silliphant thought of creating the world’s largest friendship letter.

At an event at Bangalore’s M Chinnaswamy stadium earlier this month, schoolchildren were invited to fill large sheets of tar paulin with signatures that framed the central message — “Dear children of Pakistan, let’s join hearts in friendship. Together we can make a better world. — The children of India” — written in Hindi, Urdu and English.

Since then, the number of volunteers has been growing. Thanks to collaborations with groups like ActiMedia and personal friends, Friends Without Borders has 12 volunteers working on the project now.

After coming to Mumbai, the group has tied up with another active organisation in the city, the IndoPak Youth Forum For Peace. “Once this letter reaches Pakistan, most of the material (the tarpaulin sheets on which the giant letter has been written) will be delivered to earthquake-hit areas, for use in shelter construction. The small outer border, with the names of Indian schools and the signatures of children, will be distributed among schools in Pakistan,” says Yoo-Mi Lee, another volunteer.

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