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Two Rivers School students build international friendships

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Posted: Tuesday, February 25, 2014 12:00 am

FAIRBANKS — East Africa is a familiar part of the world for students of Two Rivers School off Chena Hot Springs Road. 

The middle school students of teacher Todd Denick are participating in Bridging Cultures, a pen pal and cultural exchange project with students in the village of Mtakuja, 15 miles from Moshi, Tanzania.

Through the project, Two Rivers students recently wrote 26 letters to students in a class at the Mserikia School of Mtakuja. To communicate with their new friends, the Two Rivers students wrote their letters in English and used Google Translate to reproduce copies of the letters in the appropriate language.

Google Translate is a free translation service that provides instant translations between dozens of different languages.

In addition to their correspondence, the students sent a Two Rivers yearbook, books for the school library, and 26 whimsical whirligigs as gifts for the Mserikia School students. After the package arrives in Mtakuja, the Mserikia School students will write back to the Two Rivers students for a continuing program of cultural exchange.

“This project has everything in it from social studies, culture, history, geography, and even math as we looked at demographics and other statistics of education and lifestyle,” Denick said.

While Mtakuja is only 15 miles from Moshi, a city of more than 150,000, there is no electricity in the village, food availability is limited, and the daily income is less than $2 per day.

Bridging Cultures aims to foster international friendships and share cultures, languages and lifestyles with the students of the Mserikia School. The projects was initiated and funded by Fairbanks residents John and Alica Unruh in conjunction with the Dutch organization of FD Kilimanjaro whose mission is to promote village economic development and education.

Thanks to Bridging Cultures, the world just became a little smaller for students in Alaska and Tanzania.

Learn more about FD Kilimanjaro at

This column is provided through a partnership with the Fairbanks School District. Scott McCrea and Johanna Carson can be reached at

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