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Saying jambo to new friends

Molly Shore

“Jambo” is “hello” in Swahili, but to many local children, it

represents more than just a greeting.

Project Jambo is a cultural exchange program creating friendships


between Burbank students and youngsters in rural southeast Kenya.

The program, developed by Burbank residents Sue and Joel Gilbert

in September 2002, is offered at no additional cost as part of the

Boys and Girls Club of Burbank’s after-school program at Edison,


Emerson, Jefferson, Miller, Roosevelt and Stevenson elementary


“It’s much more than a pen-pal program,” Sue Gilbert said. “It’s

about helping children who want to make real connections with other

children and, in the process, expand their knowledge and

understanding of other cultures, countries and customs.”

Students participating in Jambo are encouraged to write short

letters, and create drawings and other artwork to send to the Kenyan


children, who live in remote villages near Tsavo National Park, an

8,000-square-mile wildlife refuge.

“The children are so excited to receive news from here,” she said.

“When they send back letters they ask, ‘What kind of animals do you

have in California? Do you have rabbits and elephants?’ ”

Lukas Pender, 7, loves animals, and said he hopes the Kenyan

children will tell him all about the animals they have.

“I’m going to write about Darla, my dog,” said Lukas, a Miller


Elementary second-grader.

When Gilbert approached Boys and Girls Club Director of Operations

Shanna Vaughan about including Jambo in the after-school program,

Vaughan thought it was a wonderful idea.

“I told [Gilbert] that when I was in school I had a pen pal in

Switzerland, and we still write to each other, and we visit each

other,” Vaughan said.

Fifth-grader Christin Devine, 10, is interested in knowing what

Kenyan students do for fun.

“They’re probably wondering what we do in America,” said Christin,

who also attends Miller.

“Maybe we can answer some of their questions and they can answer

some of ours.”