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San Marcos student helps pen new friendships with orphaned children

Paper Bridges, a nonprofit, sends handwritten letters to children in need. The U.S.-based student organization has launched 42 chapters in 18 countries.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — San Diego students' handwritten letters are scripting themselves into a new era. During the pandemic, while students are at home, they are finding ways to make an impact on children in need with a simple letter.

“Through this letter-writing, I really discovered that I'm able to convey my personality,” said Daniel Jiang, a San Marcos High School senior.

The Key Club member came across Paper Bridges at the beginning of the pandemic. The student-led organization is a global nonprofit based in Maryland that sends handwritten letters to orphanages and foster children to share love and hope, many becoming pen pals and building friendships.

“It's really to connect with them on a more personal level and get to show that 'I'm kind of like you. We are one of the same,'” said Jiang.

As a Key Club member, Daniel organized letter-writing events with 10 other Key Clubs in the county. Daniel said he found Paper Bridges at the perfect time since his summer internship was canceled due to COVID-19 he landed an internship with Paper Bridges.

“When I found Paper Bridges I was still in school and I was taking a full schedule, weighted. Four APs, two honor classes. It's kind of a break from school,” said Jiang.

Paper Bridges was started in 2017 by three high school students in Maryland and it’s grown to 42 student chapters in 18 countries and 33 orphanages.

“I think letter-writing just shows how powerful a few words can be and the impact it can make on the child who receives the letter,” said Katie Yuan, a Maryland high school junior and Paper Bridges Outreach Director.

The simplest of words such as writing about hobbies, school, and drawing colorful art can make a big impact.  

“To be able to do something for someone who is in a situation where they may feel they are cared for and stuff that we take for granted so often,” said Maryam Shaukat with the UK Paper Bridges chapter.

Shaukat is a college sophomore in the U.K. and started the chapter there. She travels a lot through Europe and would like to sprout chapters in those countries as well.

Although a world apart, their words are keeping students and children in need connected.

The initiative is expanding to create educational material, tutoring, and PPE care packages to vulnerable children.

To volunteer to write a handwritten letter, a digital letter, or even start a chapter click here.

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