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A nation of letter-writers: One third of us are still in touch with our pen pal

A nation of letter-writers: One third of us are still in touch with our pen pal

One-third (33%) of Brits who have had a pen pal are still in touch with them years later, global children’s charity Plan International UK can reveal

The news comes as over half of Brits (51%) say that they have had a pen pal. Of those, nearly a third (32%) have had an international pen pal.  

When asked about their reasons for getting an international pen pal Brits said: 

  • To share experiences of our different countries and culture (41%) 
  • Because they enjoy writing and receiving letters (30%) 
  • To understand others' perspective of the world (21%) 
  • To learn more about a country they wanted to visit (21%) 

Overall, Brits say that the top ways they feel when they receive a letter from a loved one in the post is: 

  • Happy (53%) 
  • Grateful (33%) 
  • Connected to others (31%) 
  • It boosts their mental health (24%) 
  • Less lonely (18%) 

Jules, a teacher from London, and Kolodeta, in Rwanda, have been writing to each other for eight years through global children’s charity Plan International UK’s child sponsorship programme.  

Jules says: 'We write to each other regularly and I hear about what she’s doing. Kolodeta’s life has been quite tough – she has to walk for water and walk for forty-five minutes to her school and health centre.   

'I’ve told her that I’m a teacher and that education is really important to me. She tells me how much she loves studying science, languages and maths, and playing with her friends. I know that my sponsorship money goes towards helping Kolodeta stay in school. I hope that with her education, she’ll be able to achieve something that she really dreams of.' 

Kolodeta says: ‘I write to Jules about my birthday celebrations and how my family enjoyed Christmas. I learned that she is a teacher and that she teaches young children. I also tell her about the weather in Rwanda and we talk about the covid situation here and in the UK. I feel very happy and loved when I receive a letter from Jules, because I know she is thinking of me, and she wishes me happiness and success for many years to come.’ 

Plan International UK helps facilitate letter-writing and connection across the globe through their child sponsorship programme. By donating just £19.50 a month, sponsors in the UK can exchange regular letters, photos and drawings with their sponsored child. In this way, together they build a unique and meaningful mutual relationship, with each learning about their respective daily lives and experiences.   

For sponsored children, letter writing can inspire their imagination and creativity, and encourage them to achieve their ambitions, from becoming doctors and teachers, to midwives and activists. While for sponsors, their monthly donation, rather than going directly to their child, goes to the whole community, and can help children to access education, provide safe water, and help prevent harmful practices like FGM and child marriage.   

Alan Gosschalk, Director of Fundraising at Plan International UK, says: 

‘We are so pleased to hear that so many British people are still in touch with their pen pals. We know from speaking to our sponsors and sponsored children that letter writing has so many benefits, not just boosting wellbeing, but by giving an opportunity to build personal connections and learn about each other’s cultures and experiences. In the current climate, these human connections are more important than ever.’  

Plan International UK revealed last year that two in five Brits wrote letters during lockdown to help their mental health. 

To find out more about exchanging letters and sponsoring a child with Plan International UK, visit