It is very important to us as parents to keep Toby's project "real" - he is not a celebrity, and, above all, he is a five-year-old boy. A five-year-old boy who happens to like writing letters. We got to a point where we were seven countries away from Toby achieving his goal of writing to all UN countries - that's 186 countries (and roughly 230 letters) into the challenge - and, honestly, we thought we would just do "our thing", find the last seven, and then carry on "doubling up" for as long as Toby wants to write. With the story going viral, we now have thousands (yes, thousands!) of double-up offers, and a lovely, supportive community on Facebook who is helping us explore the world. Before the story went all over the internet, we had already begun "planting" our way around the world. Now, thanks to the lovely online community, we are also cooking and crafting our way around the world, and lots of people are joining in, just the way it should be! Toby gets quoted in the media as saying that he "wants to make the world a better place", and that is indeed what he said in a phone interview. But, actually, depending on when you talk to him, he'll give a number of reasons for his project, and when you put them all together, they are as follows: He wants to learn more about the world, show other kids how amazing the world is, help people understand each other better, and - because of all that - make the world a better place.
We have been astonished and humbled by the interest Toby's project has generated, and we are truly grateful that the publicity has made Toby's project known to so many people around the world that, suddenly, Toby can "double-up" on people in countries and professions that he is interested in. He will not be able to write to everybody who has volunteered, because he is a five-year-old boy, and not a machine. He might decide tomorrow that he has had enough, and we will abide by his wishes. Or he might carry on writing until he is an old man, and that's cool, too. In all likelihood, the future will lie somewhere in-between, and we (as parents) are particularly grateful that the lovely community that has built around Toby's project understands and respects this. Already, we have had experiences that we never would have had without the project, whether it was doing a radio interview, writing to the man who discovered the Titanic, meeting a pair of shark-film-makers, or building an Inukshuk. What is an Inukshuk, I hear you ask? Well, we were told that they are like Scottish cairns, man-shaped stone "sculptures" built by the Inuit to reassure travellers that they are on the right path. We never knew where our path - Toby's project - would lead us, but as long as we feel that it is the right path, we will continue to travel on it, and we are grateful to those who have decided to spare some time to be a part of the journey.
I will try and blog more frequently, if only to share all the amazing recipes from around the world we have been making!