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Challenge in the post

Write to a pen pal in the local lingo and send them a challenge to find out more about Scouts in different cultures.
Plan a session with this activity

You will need

  • Pens or pencils
  • A4 paper
  • Envelopes
  • Tables
  • Chairs
  • Access to the internet
  • Smartphone, tablet or computer

In need of inspiration for your letters?

Head over to British Council and undertake this cultural communication challenge with your Scout pen pal.

The Great Languages Challenge >

Before you begin

  • Make sure you’ve risk assessed your meeting, and also have a COVID-19 safe risk assessment that’s been agreed by your line manager. You can check out more detailed guidance here.
  • Everyone in the group should think about languages that they learn about in school or use at home. If lots of people know some of the same words, see how everyone would feel about writing a letter in that language.
  • Connecting with people in other countries needs to be done safely and several weeks in advance of the session. Before you get started, look at this guidance on international links and brush up on our safety and safeguarding procedures.
  • Get in touch with an international contact who speaks the language the group knows and let them know what you’re doing. Work out how long it should take for them to receive a letter from your local post office, and how long it might take for a reply to arrive.
  • Set out chairs and tables at a safe distance from each other. Put pens and paper with each chair, so no one has to share equipment. 
  • Keep some spare paper in case anyone makes a big mistake and wants to start again.

Safety checklist

Use the Safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Additional coronavirus-related controls to think about may include:

  • Set up a handwashing station that you can use throughout the session.
  • Plan how to hand out equipment to maintain a safe distance between group members.
  • Consider setting out the chairs, tables and equipment before the session so everyone can stay at a safe distance.

Run the activity

  1. The person leading the activity should write the address of their international contact on the front of the envelope. 
  1. Everyone should start by writing between 100 and 150 words about who they are and asking some questions to find out about the contact. If you need one, load up an online translating tool to help.
  1. The person leading the activity should check what everyone’s done so far and make sure that no-one’s given away any personal details in their letter.
  1. Everyone should write down a challenge for the contact to do once they receive the letter. They should try to think of a challenge that’s accessible for everyone and include ways to make it easier or harder. 
  1. Once everyone is happy with their challenges, each writer should finish off their letter with an invitation to receive their own challenge. Everyone should put the return address on the top left of the page and sign their name. If there’s time, everyone could decorate their letters.
  2. Everyone should fold their letters in half, leave them on the table, and move away. The person leading the activity should collect the letters and slip them into the envelope.
  3. The person leading the activity should seal and post the envelope as soon as possible.
  4. If people reply, the person leading the activity should check all of the replies to make sure they’re safe and appropriate (including any challenges they suggest). 


This activity is about bringing people together. How did setting the contact a challenge help people feel closer to others? Everyone could think about how both people are part of the Scout movement. What other things might they have in common? What are people hoping to discover about their contact? A big part of exploring culture is all about discovering differences and things people have in common.


All activities must be safely managed. Do a risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Always get approval for the activity and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.

Online safety

Supervise young people when they’re online and give them advice about staying safe.

For more support around online safety or bullying, check out the NSPCC website. If you want to know more about specific social networks and games, Childnet has information and safety tips for apps. You can also report anything that’s worried you online to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection command.

As always, if you’ve got concerns about a young person’s welfare (including their online experiences), follow the Yellow Card reporting processes.