Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev of Bulgaria became the 56th leader to respond to my request. Wow - it has been over a year and a half since I started this project.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Myself with NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The Mayor recently announced plans to build the Museum of African Art on New York's venerable Museum Mile. When completed it will be the only museum in the United States dedicated solely to African art.

Monday, May 28, 2007


President Lech Kaczynski of Poland became the 55th world leader to honor my request for an autographed photograph.

My request to the President was sent approximately a year and a half ago. However, it it is always an honor to receive another response and the enclosed apology for the delay is appreciated and readily accepted.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Prime Minister Jose Socrates of Portugal became the 54th leader to honor my request.

I wonder what prompted the Presidencia Do Conselho De Ministros to capitalize the "K" in Brooklyn as BrooKlyn when addressing the correspondence. Is there a deeper meaning perhaps?

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Rep. Charlie Rangel

Myself with Congressman Charlie Rangel January 21, 2007. I had the opportunity to congratulate him on assuming the chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

A Quiet Genocide

Dear Friends,

I have just returned from an extensive trip through Southern Africa. Of the eight countries visited Zimbabwe was by far in the most dire of straits. I am dedicating this space in my blog to spread the word and let people know that there are people suffering on a colossal scale that is nothing short of mind-boggling.

Zimbabwe is a country on it's knees. It's authoritarian leader, President Robert Mugabe, has reduced the country to shambles and lost touch with reality. Referred to by Condi Rice as an "outpost of tyranny" Zimbabwe is a place where human rights are systematically ignored and trampled on. The result is suffering and sacrifice by the people that is beyond belief.

Imagine living in a country where opposition leaders are arrested and brutally beaten, in which torture is commonplace, where the police vicously attack women and children, where elections are rigged, where thugs roam freely, and a place in which ambulances are no longer able to go out to pick up patients because of fuel shortages.

Ox-drawn ambulances are a luxury.

The statistics are, literally, off the charts.

At '34 years' the women of Zimbabwe have the lowest life expectancy in the world (unofficially it may be as low as 30 years). Every fourth child is an orphan; according to the UN "Zimbabwe has the highest number of orphans per capita in the world."

The official annual inflation rate, currently over 1,000% and rising, is also the highest in the world (unofficially it is said to be over 2,000%).

According to UNICEF, "A child dies every 15 minutes due to HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe."

Zimbabwe has registered the fastest rise in child mortality rates in the world; No fewer than one in eight children will die before the age of five.

Eighty percent of the population is unemployed.

Toilet paper is an "unimagined luxury."

An independent free press will soon be all but a distant memory.

Imagine living in a place where it is considered progress when the HIV/AIDS infection rate, currently at 18% of the population, is only the fourth worst in the world.

Citing its expense, Zimbabwe has ceased producing passports and the country is no longer connected to the internet. Even world famous Victoria Falls, the largest sheet of falling water in the world, is suffering.

The price for bread and other basics routinely doubles overnight. The International Herald Tribune reports the rural poor have resorted to eating field mice.

Infant children are selling on the streets of Harare, the capital, for the equivalent of forty US cents. Unsold infants are dumped in city drains and sewers. The country is now referred to as the land of dying children.

It is now a place where dying is a luxury.

Welcome to Zimbabwe: Home of the quiet genocide.

I traveled to Zimbabwe to see the suffering first-hand. As an American born and bred in New York City, nothing I ever experienced could ever come close to the suffering currently being imposed on the vast majority of the people in Zimbabwe. As a citizen of the world I felt it was my duty to see for myself how others, in the world's disadvantaged regions, are living wretched and anguished lives.

In our travels we stumbled upon a remote village in Matabeleland in Western-Central Zimbabwe. According to a doctor working in the area, “Children are much smaller than they should be for their age. A child that you think is a healthy two-year-old is probably a very underfed four-year old.”

It was on a very rural and remote stretch of road between Buluwayo and Victoria Falls when we needed to refuel with the jerry cans gasoline we had brought with us from South Africa. Cognizant of the scarcity of fuel and the resulting danger of refueling in public, we ventured a few hundred feet off the main road onto a dirt track extending into the countryside. While emptying our jerry cans of fuel into our gas tank, we realized we had actually entered a well camouflaged village of primitive man-made huts with thatched roofs.

We soon noticed about a dozen children eying us from a distance. The children would cautiously come closer and closer until they were all around us eyes agog. I vividly remember a boy who must have been about seven carry around a boy on his back who could not have been more than 18 months old. I removed a pack of 12 kosher Israeli wafers we had with us and distributed it to the children.

Before long a mother emerged to see what was going on. In the ensuing conversation I had with her she revealed that all they can afford to eat is maize and that even that is in short supply and therefore they are not eating nearly as much as they should. I gave her canned sardines we had brought with us from the states and she was oh so grateful. We exchanged addresses and I gave her 250 Zimbabwean dollars; enough for one international postage stamp. She warned me though that mail delivery to the village is very erratic with deliveries, at best, only made once a month.

I appeal to you, dear reader, let us help these unfortunate souls, let us help the people of this village. Let us prevent the quiet genocide from reaching this village. One of the ways we can help is by sending care pachages directly to Norah Lupahla, the woman I exchanged addresses with in the village. Norah is a teacher at the barely functional Dopota Primary School. Her address is:

Norah Luphala
Dopota Primary School
PO Box 21

Together we can show Norah the world has not forgotten Zimbabwe and it's quiet genocide. Let's act today, and please spread the word so that others may help as well.

Photos are here.

Dopota village

Norah Luphala with a can of American, and kosher, sardines.

Myself handing out Israeli wafers

Distributing more food

My colleague and I with village children in the village kitchen

Undernourished livestock


Refueling in front of the village

Roadside vendors

Beit Bridge border crossing going from South Africa into Zimbabwe

Vehicles entering Zimbabwe make sure to bring with them all the fuel they need. We noticed this vehicle about 100 kilometers from the South African border.

A donkey cart

A closed petrol station. We could not find even one petrol station with gasoline.

My visa

Those wishing to visit Zimbabwe may contact me for details on how to do so. However I must caution you that traveling in Zimbabwe is an endeavor fraught with danger. In our travels through Zimbabwe we met no other Americans and only two other tourists. For good reason.

Consider the following report filed by an American ministry operating in Zimbabwe:

Frontline Fellowship has been working in Zimbabwe since 1982. As the situation in Zimbabwe deteriorated, so we increased our activities in that desperately needy country. In recent months, we have distributed many tonnes of emergency relief aid to starving Christians in Zimbabwe. Amidst the state-orchestrated racial hatred, lawlessness and savagery, Frontline mission work in Zimbabwe has become particularly difficult and dangerous.

On one mission trip into Zimbabwe, we were told of a white farm manager of one of the opposition Members of Parliament, who was viciously beaten by Mugabe's thugs, and of
an American who was killed while on a relief mission to Zimbabwe. He was shot at a roadblock while seated behind the steering wheel. He remained there, slumped over his steering wheel, for hours, slowly bleeding to death. Although the ZANU-PF officials claimed that he had tried to run through the roadblock, passersby said that that was impossible, because they saw him slumped over in his vehicle, parked at the roadblock, with no indication that the vehicle was moving when he was murdered.

To travel anywhere in Zimbabwe today requires going through numerous roadblocks, which can be manned by police, army, war veterans, ZANU youth brigade or Mugabe's special police, the CIO. Some roadblocks are manned by the North Korean trained 5th Brigade. Food found in vehicles is summarily confiscated. Outside the shops there can be long lines of people, waiting for basic foodstuffs. Even bread and milk are in such short supply that it creates a sensation when any shop has stocks. With great excitement, people run and phone to inform their friends and relatives of the event!

The shortage of petrol is chronic. It is now common to see long lines of unoccupied cars outside petrol stations. These cars can be stuck for many days, or weeks, waiting for some delivery of petrol to the garage. Nor can one bring in extra fuel in jerry cans, as that is illegal and fuel cans are another item searched for at roadblocks. Petrol went up 320% last night.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Papua New Guinea

Prime Minister Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare of the most linguistically diverse country, Papua New Guinea, became the 53rd world leader to respond to my request. The photograph was hand-autographed.

This correspondence and the one from Malaysia were the only ones to arrive at my home, all others arrived at my post office box. I never did reveal my home address so I can't quite figure out how they ascertained it. I suppose they have their ways.

The letter indicates my correspondence to them was dated March 31, 2003. In fact, my letter was dated November 28, 2005. Had they been correct, it would have taken them longer than three years to respond!

It is now one year since I started this project, and yet the letters continue to arrive. I can't help but wonder for how much longer they will continue to show up.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of the world's largest democracy, India, became the 52nd world leader to respond to my request. It appears Prime Minister Singh hand-autographed the photograph as well.

What I love about this correspondence is the autographed photograph showing the Prime Minister in his religious headgear. Here in the great melting pot of New York, we have many Sikhs who wear the same or similar headgear and I salute them and the Prime Minister for publicly holding steadfast in their beliefs irrespective of what others may think or do.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


President Vladimir Voronin of Moldova became the 51st world leader to honor my request. The correspondence arrived twisted and creased and has the look of an envelope that traveled a great distance.

Unfortunately the letter is in a language I do not know and one I cannot identify. If anyone can translate the letter or at least let us know which language it's written in, it would be greatly appreciated.

What I find to be astounding is that the letters continue to roll in over eight months after I mailed out my requests. What could be the reason? Postal delay? Bureaucracy? Mere inefficiency?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


Congratulations are due to Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of Norway on being the 50th world leader to respond to my request.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Press Release


World Correspondence receives forty nine responses from heads of state and world leaders from around the world.

(PRWEB) June 5, 2006 -- Technological advances have made our world into a global neighborhood. WorldCorrespondence.com is the mailman. Posting signed letters and pictures from heads of state in Haiti, Germany, Korea, Liechtenstein, Finland among many other countries, WorldCorrespondence.com, prodigy of Joel Schmidt, proves that beyond the realm of USA exists a forgotten, sometimes-ignored-by-average-citzens world.

On December 04, 2005, Joel Schmidt began his personal Odyssey by mailing out 208 letters, each one destined to a head of state. His request was simple: a signed picture from each person. The idea was hatched when he first idlely sent off a few letters to various heads of state. Much to Mr. Schmidt's supprise, he recieved replies. Four years later, he began this long awaited project. To date, he has recieved 49 replies.

You may view the entire press release by clicking on the link above.

Saturday, May 13, 2006


President Boniface Alexandre of Haiti became the 49th world leader to honor my request. He is also one of the few to personally autograph the photograph.

The enclosed letter, which is in French and bears the raised seal of the President of Haiti, seems to be dated February 23, 2006. The postmark, however, bears the date of April 25, 2006. I can only wonder what took them so long to mail the correspondence...

Also, the correspondence was sent via registered mail and it's unique registed mail number is 988. Could it be that fewer than 1000 pieces of registered mail were recently sent? Do they start counting from this month? This year? This decade?

Lastly, does anyone have any idea what book is on the President's desk?

Sunday, April 23, 2006


Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda of Slovakia became the 48th world leader to honor my request. He also joins the few leaders to personally autograph the photo.

The correspondence was hand-addressed and sent via first class mail.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


Prime Minister Percival James Patterson of Jamaica became the 47th world to hoor my request. As can be seen the enclosed photo was hand-initialed by the Prime Minister himself.

As with the correspondence recieved from other former and current British commonwealths the envelope is marked on Jamaica Government service. I wonder if letters marked 'on government service' are treated differently than ordinary letters.

The envelope was also of the few to actually be 'air mail style' with red and blue markings on the side. If anyone has any idea why the airmail envelope was designed this way and why it is mostly not used anymore please let us know. I'm curious to know about the origins and disuse of this postal tradition.


President Vincente Fox of Mexico became the 46th world leader to respond to my request. The correspondence was sent via registered mail and enclosed in an elaborate folder that included no less than three photographs of the President.

One wonders why the response was so long in coming; after all, the US and Mexico are close neighbors. Whatever the reason may be, I am grateful for the response and glad the correspondence arrived at all.

It's also interesting to note the lengthy return address on the envelope. Perhaps that explains the delayed response as I my envelope to the President was simply addressed President Vincente Fox, Mexico City, Mexico. It would seem corresponding with the President could very well give ordinary Mexicans writers cramp simply from addressing the envelope...

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