Brownstones to Red Dirt, Penpals Make A Difference


Do you have a penpal? If so, where are they from?


Do you have a penpal? If so, where are they from?


Recently, I watched a documentary called "Brownstones to Red Dirt." It's about a group of kids in Brooklyn, New York's Bed- Stuy projects and orphans left by the terrible civil war in Africa's Freetown, Sierra Leone (otherwise known as Salone). The thing that they have in common is that no one gives them a chance. In Brooklyn, within 3 miles there are 139 murders each year. In Sierra Leone, the children's parents were killed by R.U.F.'s, so they live at a school with other orphans. Each kid is different from each other. Some like to draw, some love to dance, and some love to fix things. This documentary came to the Aspen Film Fest, and then was shown to a few of the local schools.


The film starts out in Brooklyn. You see the daily life of each of the kids, you are introduced to their families and you really feel like your in the movie with them. The same things happen with the kids in Sierra Leone. This movie was very interesting because you can see the kids writing letters to each other and receiving them. In Sierra Leone, 70% of all people live in poverty and 26% live in extreme poverty. The war began in 1991 and ended on January 18, 2002. It was started by the Revolutionary United Front (R.U.F.), and they killed 75,000 Sierra Leoneans. At one point in the movie, the kids in Freetown act out a time in the war. I had two opinions on that scene: 1, those kids are amazing actors, and 2, that is one of the most heartbreaking stories I've ever heard. What those kids went through must've been absolutely terrible.


This documentary was fantastic. It was 1 hr and 24 mins, so a little bit long but you learn so much. The story was very sweet, and seeing the looks on the kids faces when they got a letter was just so wonderful. There were some very sad, heartbreaking moments… but luckily, there was some comic relief to ease the tension. To learn more about Brownstones to Red Dirt, go to