International Letter-Writing Competition for Young People 2020

Statement of the UPU Director General at the event celebrating the winner of the International Letter-Writing Competition, 9 October 2020


Honoured Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
            Today, feels very strange!
            The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many changes to our world.
            I am in the same conference hall that we traditionally celebrate World Post Day, but there is no audience.
            Thanks to the wonders of technology, however, we are still gathered together to celebrate World Post Day.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
            Before I start, let me thank everyone who has made the effort to join us virtually, I know that it has been a difficult and trying year for the international postal sector.
            Perhaps the toughest year since the tragedy of the Second World War.
            Let me also say that I am proud of how the sector has responded to the pandemic. Yes, there have been challenges, but I have seen all of you work desperately hard to seize on the opportunities.
            The Universal Postal Union has always argued that the postal sector is extremely resilient; now we have the clearest evidence of the postal sector’s essential nature.
            This is due to your tireless efforts and the support provided by the Universal Postal Union.
Once again, I thank you.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
            The postal sector is about change, and digital reinvention, but we should never forget that it is also about communications.
            We are reminded of this every year, when the UPU announces the winner of its International Letter Writing Competition on World Post Day.
Since 1971, children aged nine to 15 have been writing letters and competing to win the international gold medal.
The winner is chosen from millions of letters that are entered into the competition.
Each one of these letters contains a bright spark of innovation and creativity, which I believe exists in every children and the way he or she sees the world.
A spark inviting us to listen closely and to pay attention.
This year’s winner is no different.
She is the 49th winner of this competition, and I believe her letter can easily stand alongside some of the very best letters of previous winners.
Her name is Volha Valchkevich from Belarus.
Volha is 11 years old and a sixth-grader living in the city of Grodno.
She is the youngest of three children and her hobbies include reading, drawing and playing instruments.
When told she had won, Volha said, “Today I am proud to have represented our country, and to have succeeded.” 
The theme of this year’s competition was: "Write a message to an adult about the world we live in.”
Volha has done this with great power.
Her letter describes her feelings towards her grandfather six months after his tragic death. 
Volha’s letter describes her feeling when having a series of experiences. She comes across a homeless, starving kitten, a person who scolds Volha on the bus, and a boy that pushes her.
Each of these experiences can be viewed as negative, but as Volha’s grandfather taught her, a medal has two sides, and the side that is wiped shines brightest!
Through the wise words of her grandfather, our winner learns that the world can be positive and life affirming.
To quote from the letter:
Ah, if you were alive, grandfather, I would come to you, sit knee by knee and tell you everything. And perhaps you would stroke me on the head and whisper: “Olga, you are living in a happy time, living in love and peace, in abundance and joy. Cheer up! Things will get better. Look at the world: it is wonderful!”
I find the letter extremely uplifting and thought provoking: the letter is telling us to see the world in a positively light; and that, in doing so, we are perhaps taking the first step towards positive change. 
            Volha, I thank you for your story and I would like to honour you with this prize.
            My warmest congratulations
We will send it to you as soon as possible.
            My colleagues will also invite you to the UPU and Bern as soon as this is possible.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
            Let me also congratulate the silver medal winner Jana Popovska aged 12 from North Macedonia; and the bronze medal winner Phan Hoang Phuong Nhi aged 13 from Viet Nam.
Special mentions also to Bangladesh, Montenegro, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Central Africa
            Finally, let me encourage everyone watching to make sure their country’s children can take part in this competition.
            Next year is the competition’s fiftieth anniversary, and it would be wonderful if every one of our 192 member countries took part.
Thank you again.