The lifeless body of Aylan Kurdi washed ashore the Mediterranean sea near Turkey in September 2015 sent shock waves across the world. Soon after Kurdi, another image of a boy rescued from a bombed building created the same ripple. Five-year-old Omran Daqneesh, a Syrian boy, with his hair matted with rubble, sitting inside a truck without a flicker of life on his face, devastated the peace of many. He was dragged out from the remains of his home after an air force strike in Aleppo, Syria.
While many of us must have slipped back into our routines shortly after, wondering if we could ever reach out to those so far away from us, an initiative called Letters of Love is doing exactly the opposite, by not letting it be. The brainchild of Pooja Pradeep, a 25-year-old teacher, Letters of Love was initiated in 2015 under the guidance of UNHCR-Gaziantep, Turkey, with the aim of reaching out to the tens of thousands of Syrian, Iraqi, Yazidi and Rohingya refugee children in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Bangladesh with smiles, on the occasion of New Year’s.
The Letters of Love team with its branches in Israel, Palestine, Egypt, Syria and the USA, send hand-written postcards to these little kids and aims to instill empathy in young thinkers and sensitise them into thinking critically using different perspectives.
Pradeep told indianexpress.com that, in addition, the team has also initiated a Pen Pal project, which will focus on fostering friendships between 500 children in Mumbai who would write to the refugee kids in war-zones in Syria, refugee kids in Turkey and those under siege in Gaza.
While most (in fact, all) at the head of peace-making talks between nations would involve adults, there is a reason why Pradeep, an engineer graduate who became a teacher by choice, has involved children to be at the centre-stage of her project. “As we grow in a word fuelled with bigotry and intolerance, we lose touch with that streak of compassion that we had as kids. So, if you show children that there is a way to be kind, they will take it, and in fact, lead it,” she says.