Herndon High School French Students
With his mother working on an exhibition about genocides after the Holocaust at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Herndon High School student Alex Sink would often hear about contemporary genocide issues and the lives of those affected. One story in particular caught his attention.
The story was that of Damas Gisimba, and his orphanage. During the Rwandan genocide Gisimba helped save the lives of the children in his care, as well as hundreds of others by shielding them in his orphanage from attacking militias. Gisimba and the orphanage are featured in one of the Museum’s films, Defying Genocide.
As leader of the school’s French Club, Alex presented the idea to the club of establishing a letter exchange between the Herndon HS French students and the kids at Gisimba’s center. “I thought that the pen pal program would be an ideal way to connect members of the club with new friends in another country,” Alex explains. “I have been fortunate to travel abroad and know how interesting an experience it is to keep in contact with kids in other parts of the world. It also presents an opportunity for us to practice our French skills and for the orphans to work on their English.”
With the help of their French teacher, Melissa Peroutseas, the club got in touch with Gisimba and worked to set up the exchange. With the process underway, the club is developing plans to supplement the letters they send with much needed school supplies. So far the project has been both exciting and educational. The experience has imparted some sobering lessons about the destruction of genocide, but also afforded the French Club students an amazing opportunity to make new friends halfway around the world.