A Great Oak in Guyana’s Windsor Forest and an observant little tree ‘prepared to care for humanity’ helped 15-year-old Charlée Gittens from Barbados and 13-year-old Wang Sa from China to win gold medals in the Universal Postal Union’s 40th International Letter-Writing Competition for Young People.
Grenada’s Jonathan Andrew, 14, and Botswana’s Charlene Tlagae, 15, were respectively awarded the silver and bronze medals.
To mark the International Year of Forests, young people were asked to imagine themselves as a tree writing a letter to someone to explain why it is important to protect forests.
Both the Barbadian and Chinese entries were praised by the international jury, composed of Jan McAlpine, director of the United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat, Jean-Paul Paddack, director of the network initiatives support unit, WWF International (World Wide Fund For Nature), Daniel Shaw, communications officer for the forest conservation programme at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, and Jean-François Thivet, philately expert at the UPU International Bureau and passionate collector of forests stamps.
The jury called Barbados’s entry “a powerful, personal and touching composition dealing with the issue in a very global manner. Comparing the plight of forests to some of the world’s great crises sends a strong message about the importance of protecting forests.” As for China’s entry, the jury said: “A well crafted and whimsical composition. Using a parable of two villages to tackle the theme, the writer does an excellent job of bringing readers into the story in a way that people are able to relate to it.”
It is the first time in the competition’s 40-year-history that Barbados has won top prize. It is the fifth time that China takes the top award, having also won second or third prizes four times in the past.
Of Grenada’s entry, the jury said: “By touching upon various angles of the theme, the writer’s presentation of the benefits of forests is well handled and educational.” Botswana’s entry was “a delightful and personal composition explaining the benefits of the many plants and trees found in forests and why they need to be protected. The writer brings in lovely references about how some cultures perceive or depend on plants and trees.”
The UPU’s director general, Edouard Dayan, joined the jury in congratulating all winners and participants. He said: “Despite living in an increasingly digital age, the more than two million often hand-written letters the competition generates worldwide annually shows the tremendous value of the written word. The UPU is pleased that its 40-year-old competition continues to foster an appreciation for the art of letter-writing, encouraging young people to express their deepest and most insightful thoughts on topics that concern us all, while teaching them the importance of proper addressing.”
The jury also awarded special mentions to the compositions from Trinidad and Tobago, Montenegro, Nigeria, Ukraine and Benin. Award winners will receive their prizes in their country on 9 October, World Post Day, during ceremonies organized by their countries’ respective Posts.
More than 60 UPU member countries participated in this year’s edition of the competition. Worldwide, an estimated 2 million young people up to the age of 15 participate in the competition at the national level. Winning national letters are then judged at the international level.
The theme of the 2012 UPU International Letter-Writing Competition for Young People is: "Write a letter to an athlete or sports figure you admire to explain what the Olympic Games mean to you." The Olympic Movement seeks to create a better world through sports, by promoting the universal values of excellence, friendship and respect. With these values in mind, young letter-writers are invited to express their thoughts on the Olympic Games, which are being held in 2012. Participating member countries have until 30 April 2012 to submit their top national letter to the international competition.
The UPU’s International Letter-Writing Competition for Young People was officially launched in 1971. The competition aims to make young people aware of the important role postal services play in our societies, develop their skills in composition and the ability to express their thoughts clearly, and foster their enjoyment of letter writing.