One World, One Family: Toby Little and His World Dream

[Source]    Confucius Institute at the University of Sheffield [Time]    2018-08-16 16:21:41 

On August 4th, the 17th Chinese Bridge-Chinese Proficiency Competition for Foreign College Students ushered in its final. Toby Little, an 11-year-old student at the Confucius Institute at the University of Sheffield, UK, and his mother, Sabine Little, participated in the recording program of the competition as special guests.

Toby and Mom at the show

When Toby was 5 years old, he began to communicate with his pen pals around the world. Until today, he has sent more than 1,000 letters to 193 UN member states around the globe, including numerous little-known countries and regions such as the Pitcairn Islands and Tahiti in the South-Central Pacific, and Vatican. Toby and his mother collected these letters and later published a book titled Dear World, how are you? It is currently available in many versions such as English, German, Spanish, Polish, Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese.

Through these letters, Toby has come to know about the lives of people in different parts of the world, connecting the lives of people of different nationalities. His story perfectly exemplifies the theme of the Chinese Bridge competition—One World, One Family.

“Every adult was once a child, but they are not aware that every rose will be loved; otherwise who should they be in full bloom for?” Zhang Dandan, a hostess of Hunan Satellite TV, began to narrate Toby’s world dream emotionally, accompanied with the tender voices of the children’s choir.

Zhang Dandan telling Toby’s story

The story began with a conversation between Toby and his mother. One day, Toby asked, “Mom, can I write a letter and send it to New Zealand?” His mother thought for a moment and replied, “I think that’s OK.” He asked again, “Mom, then can I send a letter to every country in the world?”

Afterwards, Toby sent his first letter to the world with the help of his mother and it was sent to Patricia from the volcanic town of Hawaii. “Hi, Patricia, how are you? Are you really living in a small town called Volcano? I wish I could live there too.”

Toby’s first letter to the world

Soon, Patricia wrote back to Toby, which gave Toby the confidence to continue greeting the world. Numerous letters were sent from Sheffield to the rest of the world. “Hello, have you seen polar bears? Have you seen rock paintings in the Sahara Desert? Are there children in the South Pole? Have you seen penguins?” Toby received a reply from every letter accordingly. Toby’s peers in Longyearbyen, Norway, wrote to him, saying that most of the students in their school had seen polar bears on their way to school. Hassan from Libya wrote a letter attentively saying that he had really seen the rock paintings in the Sahara Desert, which was spectacular. James, who works at the Antarctic expedition station, wrote back to Toby, “I often see penguins, but I am sorry, Toby, there is no child in Antarctica because it is too dangerous for children.” Like this, Toby received 550 letters from 195 countries all over the world.

The letter Patricia wrote back to Toby

It never occurred to Toby and his mother that an innocent thought of a child could be so solemnly treated by people of different ages and different occupations around the world. It is hard for them to imagine how people sit in front of the desk, take out paper and pens, and respond to the questions of a foreign child precisely at ease when all of them value time so much. Among all replies, there was a card that impressed Toby most, saying, “The journey to a friend’s house is never too far away.”

By writing, the ancient way of communication, Toby satisfied his curiosity about the world and inadvertently swam into the adult world. He came to know that it is not a matter of course to have enough to eat, nor does every girl in the world have the opportunity to be educated, and drinking a cup of clean water is not that simple. Therefore, the content of the letters he sent has changed a little. In 2013, Toby decided to write a letter to Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa.

“Dear Nelson Mandela, how are you doing lately? Thank you for making this world a better place. Now I am writing to every country in the world. I want to help everyone better understand each other. Maybe one day in the future, I will also be able to make the world a beautiful home. I know that you are under the weather and I hope that you will be better soon.”

Toby’s letter to Nelson Mandela

From the age of 5 to 10, from the first letter to the 550th one, the world has cared for the innocence of a child. At the same time, like a mirror, Toby is accepting the reflection of the adult world, just like a line in a song: every adult was once a child. But why cannot we take initiative to say hello to the world like children do when we are adults, regardless of whether there is a reply or whether it is all misunderstanding. The transportation is so convenient that we can quickly go anywhere in the world. But why is not everyone willing to act as a world citizen. Faced with Toby and other children who are as outgoing, cute, innocent and lovely as him and with the world that they expect and believe to be better, can we, as members of the community of shared future for mankind, make more efforts to work together to leave a door of communication, understanding and respect for the world and the future. As long as we are willing to open that door, the road to our friends will never be too far away.

With the help of the Confucius Institute Headquarters (Hanban), Toby and his mother came to the final of the Chinese Bridge. It was their first visit to China.

At present, Toby is able to write in Chinese and has 14 Chinese pen pals, who often write letters to Toby in Chinese. "Hello, Toby. I have received your letter. Thank you. I am fine. What about you? I am German, studying Chinese in Beijing. And I have finished my test. I am 25 years old. How is your Chinese test score? By the way, I climbed the Great Wall and it is grand and beautiful.” “Most people in Hong Kong live in buildings, like the ones on the postcard. Hope you like this postcard of Hong Kong. Bye for now.”

The letter a German pen pal wrote to Toby

The letter a Chinese pen pal wrote to Toby

At the show, Toby met his Chinese pen pals for the first time. On the platform of the Chinese Bridge, children from two countries walked from the two ends to the middle. They saw and embraced each other.


It is Toby’s saying “Can I send a letter to every country in the world?” that has enabled people around the globe to see a child’s curiosity about the world, and it is because of these letters that people from different continents and different countries have become friends and family without boundaries.