I Will Always Write Back Summary-Caitlin Alifirenka and Martin Ganda & Liz Welch

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I Will Always Write Back Summary
TitleI Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives
AuthorsCaitlin Alifirenka and Martin Ganda
GenreMemoir, Non-fiction
Publication DateApril 14, 2015
PublisherLittle, Brown Books for Young Readers
Target AudienceYoung adults, readers interested in memoirs, non-fiction, and international friendships
AwardsNAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work for Youth/Teens (2016)
Film AdaptationThere is currently no film adaptation of the book.


I Will Always Write Back is a true story of two young people, Caitlin Alifirenka from the United States and Martin Ganda from Zimbabwe, who become pen pals through a school project. What starts as a simple exchange of letters turns into a life-changing experience for both of them.


Caitlin Alifirenka: A young girl from a middle-class family in Pennsylvania starts writing to a young guy in Zimbabwe as part of a class project. As their connection progresses, she finds out about the challenges Martin faces as a result of his poverty-stricken lifestyle in Africa and is motivated to assist him.

Martin Ganda: He is a young boy from Zimbabwe who interacts with Caitlin via a school program. Because of his family’s financial situation, he has trouble paying for essentials like food and school expenses. Via his letters, Caitlin gets aware of the challenging living circumstances in Zimbabwe and resolves to assist him.

Martin’s family: Martin lives with his mother, father and younger sister. They struggle to make ends meet while residing in a modest home in a depressed area of Zimbabwe. They are a close-knit family despite their struggles.

Caitlin’s family: Caitlin has two younger brothers in addition to her parents. They live in a comfortable house in Pennsylvania and support Caitlin and Martin’s friendship. Eventually, they get motivated to help Martin and his family.

Mrs. Alifirenka and Mrs. Ganda: Both mothers of Caitlin and Martin respectively, they play a crucial role in facilitating the communication between the two friends. They also become involved in the efforts to help Martin and his family.

Caitlin’s classmates: Caitlin’s classmates are also pen pals with students from Zimbabwe. They initially see the project as a way to learn about another culture, but they become inspired by Caitlin and Martin’s friendship and start their own efforts to help.

Various supporters: Caitlin and Martin are helped throughout the book by a number of people and organizations, including Caitlin’s church, Martin’s school and a nonprofit that helps underprivileged youngsters in Zimbabwe.

Summary-I Will Always Write Back

Caitlin Alifirenka and Martin Ganda wrote the dual-perspective memoir I Will Always Write Back, with Liz Welch assisting. Published in 2015, the memoir became a New York Times bestseller. Caitlin & Martin relate the tale of how they met as pen pals in 1997 & gradually became friends for life in alternating chapters. The memoir includes passages from the two narrators’ actual letter correspondences as well as their current descriptions of earlier occurrences.

When her class is given the task of choosing a pen friend from a different nation, Caitlin is perhaps a student at Pennfield Middle School in Pennsylvania. In order to learn more about an area she is unfamiliar with, Caitlin chooses Zimbabwe. Martin is one of the select few students in the Zimbabwean town of Mutare to get a letter from a pen buddy in the US. After reading Caitlin’s message, he replies, starting a regular dialogue about similar musical likes and cross-cultural experiences. Regardless of what occurs, they agree to keep up their regular correspondence.

Caitlin initially believes Martin to be a middle-class individual like herself, but she later learns that Martin’s life in Zimbabwe is not as fortunate. Martin’s father loses his work while they are still exchanging letters, and the family finds it difficult to raise the money needed to keep Martin in school. Martin is devastated because he had high hopes to complete his O-levels and move on to the A-levels in order to have the opportunity to attend a US institution.

He no longer has the money for mail to write Caitlin, so he takes any odd jobs he can find to help support his family. Caitlin becomes suspicious when Martin stops replying to her letters. Martin chooses to seek Caitlin for money after realising he can no longer make enough money on his own to finish his semester of school.

Caitlin starts sending Martin some of the cash she receives for babysitting. She finally enlists her parents’ assistance when it gets too much for her to handle alone, and they begin sending Martin money as well. Martin is able to finish his semester and sign up for O-level tests thanks to the money Caitlin’s parents provide him. In all nine of his subjects, he finishes his exams with the highest grade in his school.

Martin tries all in his power to join the Marist Brothers school in Nyanga after learning from his headmaster that enrolling there would ensure his admission to a US institution. He is able to get a loan from his cousin Alois to cover the semester deposit at Marist Brothers. Martin eventually receives a scholarship to join the Marist Brothers school after working hard. During this period, Caitlin’s mother speaks with Martin more frequently regarding Caitlin’s chances of receiving scholarships and admittance to American colleges.

Martin learns about her SAT registration from her. She starts looking for Pennsylvania college scholarships and encourages Caitlin to do the same. Caitlin, meantime, develops personally as a result of her family’s encouragement of Martin’s path. She decides to enrol in nursing school after being motivated by Martin’s zeal and diligence.

Although Caitlin & her mother are initially optimistic about Martin’s prospects for receiving a scholarship to a US university, the application process turns out to be more difficult than they anticipated. Although Caitlin’s mother has told numerous colleges about Martin’s touching story, they can only provide partial scholarships, which is insufficient. Martin does not receive a full scholarship from any of the institutions he has applied to when college acceptances and rejections start to come in.

In a desperate attempt to persuade Villanova University to award Martin a full scholarship, Caitlin’s mother tells the president of the university about Martin. The president of Villanova University unexpectedly agrees to a full scholarship for Martin under the condition that he comes in time for the beginning of the autumn term, surprising both Caitlin and her mother.

A delivery glitch causes the one-way ticket that Caitlin’s parents have purchased for Martin to be delayed while he anxiously awaits it. Martin is allowed to board his aircraft in time to make it to the US as scheduled after Caitlin’s father contacts the airline to make a request. As Caitlin and Martin finally get to know one another, they are ecstatic and refer to one another as family.

Martin discloses that he completes his study at Villanova University, where he takes a number of part-time jobs to be able to afford to purchase a home for his family in Zimbabwe, in the story’s present. At Duke University, he also pursues an MBA, and eventually he works as an analyst for an investment bank in Africa. In the interim, Caitlin marries Dzmitry and has two kids with him. She stays in Pennsylvania and graduates as a registered nurse. Many people are motivated to carry out tiny deeds of kindness by their narrative.


“I Will Always Write Back” is a heartwarming and inspiring story of friendship and perseverance. It highlights the power of education and the impact that a single act of kindness can have on someone’s life. It is a must-read for anyone who wants to be reminded of the importance of empathy, compassion, and human connection.

Themes and Messages

A few of the themes the book addresses are the power of friendship, empathy and communication. During their letters, Caitlin and Martin become closer despite their geographical gap and various cultural backgrounds. The book emphasizes the need of compassion and empathy while also teaching Caitlin about the struggles and tribulations that Martin and his family face every day.

About The Author

NameCaitlin Alifirenka
OccupationWriter, Speaker
GenreMemoir, Non-fiction
Notable Works“I Will Always Write Back”
Social ProfilesTwitter: @caitalifirenka
Instagram: @caitalifirenka
Facebook: @CaitlinAlifirenkaAuthor
NameMartin Ganda
OccupationAuthor, Entrepreneur
EducationBachelor of Arts in Economics, Swarthmore College
Notable Works“I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives” (co-authored with Caitlin Alifirenka)
AwardsNAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work for Youth/Teens (2016)
Social MediaTwitter

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