Global From Home: Friendships Around the World

Pen pals, writing clubs and other ways to cross borders

by Stranger’s Guide

In 2011, the UN General Assembly proclaimed July 30 International Day of Friendship. The day is rooted in the belief that friendship between peoples, countries, cultures and individuals can inspire peace efforts and build bridges between communities. To honor the day, this week we’re presenting ways to stay global through cross-cultural friendships



“Several programs were started, amongst them a pioneering project that brought young Irish and English teenagers together,” writes Colum McCann in his essay “So Long Out of Ireland” in Stranger’s Guide: Ireland, which you can read on our website. “The 30 young people met in person to discuss the theme of identity. They talked of bullying, self-harm, sexual violence, eating disorders, the prospect of Brexit. They stepped into one another’s shoes. … Each felt dynamically changed. Friendships were forged.”



Once upon a time people kept in touch with friends in other countries via snail mail. And there were organizations that put people who had never met in touch this way. While today, it’s as easy as logging on to Twitter or Facebook, there was something wonderful about waiting for a handwritten letter to drop into the mailbox—and there are still services that provide this. Check out Global Penfriends as a family friendly place to meet new pen pals from around the world.


In 1971, only a thin piece of barbed wire separated the US and Mexico; today, a pair of massive metal walls stretches into the ocean. But California’s Friendship Park on the US–Mexico border is one of the few places where people in the US and Mexico can see and speak to each other. This short film shows the evolution of this historical place.




See more Postcards from around the world



South America

Religious Violence in Brazil

The vilification of indigenous African traditions has been going on since at least the beginning of the slave trade. These earth-based traditions were portrayed as evil and “primitive,” a belief based on ignorance that holds sway in many places across the world even today. In Brazil, as in other places around the world, practitioners of Umbanda and Candomblé continue to face intolerance and even violence for their beliefs. The last ten to fifteen years has seen a sharp increase in the amount of violent crimes directed at practitioners of African religions in Rio de Janeiro, with gangs particularly targeting practitioners and houses of worship.