The Namibian (Windhoek)

6 November 2012

Namibia: Mondesa Teenager and U.S Athlete Strike Up Lasting Friendship

WHAT started out as an English letter-writing exercise at an afternoon programme in Mondesa over two years ago turned into a lasting friendship for Manuela Oxurus from Swakopmund and Taylor Stapley from the USA.

In 2010, when Oxurus was in Grade 7 and attending Mondesa Youth Opportunities (MYO), her English teacher, Susan Wagner began a pen-pal type exercise where each pupil had a USA “emailing buddy” – one of the girls on the Brigham Young University’s (BYU) Track and Field team. The pupils’ writing was then typed onto e-mail and sent to their USA friends.

For over two years Oxurus and Stapley have maintained correspondence. After the initial letter writing exercise, they later communicated via a dedicated website called “One Million Butterflies” set up by Karey Shane, wife of the BYU athletics coach, specifically for the purpose of ease of communication between MYO pupils and BYU track and field athletes. More recently, they have become friends on Facebook.

Two weeks ago, an enormous parcel arrived for Oxurus as a belated birthday gift from Stapley. The parcel contained stationery, clothing, books, cosmetics, sweets and a myriad of practical and fun items, including a single-use disposable camera and glow-in-the-dark bracelets. This is the second parcel of ‘goodies’ that Oxurus has been sent from America.

Wagner, who originally introduced the two friends said: “When people show they truly care about others, it renews one’s faith in humanity. This is the kind of thoughtfulness and caring that the world needs a lot more of.”

Oxurus was very excited to get so many presents and, when asked if she’d ever received such gifts before, her immediate answer was: “No, never ever!”

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