In playing a bit part as Alice Kramden’s sister on the Honeymooners, Pat Kibbe can lay claim to being as big a star than most of us ever will. But 50 years later, another legacy ties Kibbe to some Mamaroneck first graders who’ve learned that a lack of largeness or fame doesn’t mean they can’t be part of change.
“It makes them realize they can make a difference in that little things can have a big impact, says Chatsworth Avenue School 1st grade teacher Kate Wynne of her class’s participation in Kibbe’s Kids to Kids International.
As she was waiting to addresssome students in Vermont in 1986, Kibbe was inspired by a photo of a Cambodian refugee clinging to a picture of the Empire State Building. So much so, the former actor and author started talking about him to the group.
In turn, they thought it would be great to write to him but no one spoke Cambodian. Soon enough, it was suggested they could draw pictures to communicate. In the aftermath, a box of hand drawn pictures came in the mail to Kibbe, and she would go on to deliver it to him in Cambodia. Out of that, she began KTKI and through drawings American children establish friendships across the world.
Tracing KTKI’s lineage to Chatsworth goes almost as far back. Ms. Wynne’s mother participated in the program as a teacher at the Somers Intermediate School. Retired now, Corrine Wynne volunteers in Yorktown, where the picture books are edited and sent out with school supplies.
In introducing this to her Chatsworth kids, Ms. Wynne’s first priority was conveying how lucky we are in America and that being thankful is not enough. “We’re so fortunate that our obligation is to give back to people who are in need.”
Meaning the back and forth serves asan opportunity for students to act as educators in places where the same chances don’t exist. So the drawings are not only pieces of artwork but little flashcards of elementary education.
Her kids separated into groups and made counting, alphabet, animal and healthy eating picture books. They planned out what they wanted to do, made sketches and assigned each other roles based on their strengths, she says.
At the same time, she was surprised by their level of sensitivity. For instance, the alphabet group was going to draw “C is for Car,” but they realized most in Haiti do not have a car and this might make them sad. “I thought that was amazing for first graders,” she says.
Finalizing everything as winter break roles in, the package is more than a stack of stapled papers. “They are beautifully published, laminated and nicely bound,” she says.
As for the interpretation on the other end, the reaction she’s after is elementary. “I would hope they love seeing other children’s work and that can make them smile for just a little bit,” she says.
That sounds like a picture worthy of her children’s efforts and Ms. Kibbe’s ongoing inspiration.
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