American children are sending "Letters of Love" to orphans in Kenya to remind them that there are people who care about them as they live amid the country's emotionally-charged post-election violence.
The love letter campaign is the brainchild of sixth-grader Johnny Crater who recently successfully met his goal to raise over $5,000 to help build an orphanage in Kenya. But the recent bloodshed in the country forced him to rethink his vision of spreading hope and love to African children.
Kenya – once hailed as the most peaceful and prosperous country in West Africa – has descended into bloody unrest after the Dec. 27 presidential election was accused of being rigged by the losing party. The political dispute sparked underlying tribal tensions to flare between the two tribes of the presidential candidates, and then among other Kenyan tribes.
At least 863 people have been killed and more than 261,000 others displaced, according to CNN.
Crater, who is a CNN Child Hero nominee, believes sending a message of love during a time of turmoil and anger in Kenya will be something the sending and receiving children will remember when they are older. He hopes this small expression of love will cause a positive spark in the children that will create positive change in the future.
The 11-year-old philanthropist is a Christian and an assistant Sunday school teacher to second through fourth grade boys. His "Letters of Love" campaign is organized under Crater's God-inspired charity called Heart4Heart, whose organization seeks to engage American kids in making a difference in the lives of children and families in Africa.
On Monday, Crater received the first love letter for Kenya from a student at Holland Hall School in Tulsa, Okla. He expects to mail about 1,000 letters to the Tumaini Orphanage in Kenya. Other Kenyan orphanages are listed on his charity's web site www.heart4heart.org, along with the U.S. addresses of two African embassies that will help the campaign.
The bordering countries of Tanzania and Uganda have agreed to receive mail and distribute all the letters to the hundreds of thousands of refugees currently residing along their borders waiting for the Kenya conflict to end.
"Certainly, Kenya has many more pressing needs such as food, water, and shelter than 'Love Letters,' but the kids of Heart4Heart are hoping to provide the children of Kenya with hope of a brighter tomorrow," read the campaign's announcement.
Crater, whose biological father is of Kenyan descent, was adopted by John and Deb Crater as a baby. Through a CNN special report, "Where Have All the Parents Gone?" Crater realized that he could have been one of those orphans and worked to developed Heart4Heart.org
Since a young age, he has shown interest in caring and comforting people. At age four, he became a regular visitor to local retirement homes. At six, he was inspired to successfully raise $1,000 for calling cards for the military through the Red Cross' Military Connect. In total, he has raised about $15,000 for different causes throughout his young life.
This past fall, Crater was recognized as a finalist in the top six of the current CNN Child Heroes.