Since the Dear Coastal Neighbour one-way letter-writing campaign launched in May, more than 50 creative and thoughtful letters have been submitted for community distribution to health-care workers, grocery store staff, seniors, and coastal neighbours in general.
Letter writing is slow, thoughtful and personal, and each letter represents an opportunity to spark joy and strengthen social connectedness by providing a small, personal, non-digital message.
Physical distancing is having a psychological impact on Canadians, with a majority (54 per cent) agreeing that physical distancing has left them feeling lonely or isolated, according to a new Ipsos poll conducted on behalf of Global News.
Organizers of the campaign, Sunshine Coast Community Services, in partnership with Vancouver Coastal Health, School District No. 46 and Sunshine Coast Division of Family Practice, strongly believe that giving or receiving a thoughtful handwritten letter, poem or drawing can help combat these feelings and has the capacity to put a sparkle in one’s eye and a smile on one’s face – they are thrilled to confirm that the letters are having a positive effect.
SCCSS program assistant Orianna Gray, often with the help of her nine-year-old daughter Peyton, has been hand-delivering letters to Better at Home clients over the past few months. “It’s been really special to see just how much joy these letters have been bringing seniors in our community,” Gray said. The experience of having the letter hand-delivered has itself provided a moment of connection. “One recipient teared up with joy seeing me deliver something especially for her.” After weeks of no human contact, the client said it’s the best she’s felt in weeks seeing some smiling faces. When Gray connected on the phone with another recipient, the response was heartwarming and captured exactly why the program was launched.
“I really needed that letter, I’ve been so stressed,” said the DCN letter recipient and Better at Home client in her 80s.
“He [the sender] drew a ray of sunshine, and I needed a ray of sunshine. I even shared the letter over the phone with my friend in Ontario. It’s brought me so many smiles already.”
Another letter recipient said that what she loved about her letter was that she had the opportunity to see things through the eyes of a child, in her case, a three-and-a-half-year-old who loved slugs, snails and walking his dog. For this client in her 90s, thinking about someone else’s perspective was delightfully refreshing and a welcome break from routine.
Program organizers are learning that joy can also be sparked through the creating, as well as receiving of a letter. Several recipients have been immediately moved to reply and pay it forward with a letter of their own, showing that the impact is more than just those first few moments of opening a letter.
SCCSS program lead Anna Verspoor says that over the past few months, she has had many conversations with people who expressed their enjoyment in thinking about who they might write to and felt a sense of purpose writing to those who might be in need.
To learn more about the campaign details, see www.scssss.ca/dearcoastalneighbour to download templates and samples, and get up to date information on community mailboxes, safety protocols and more.
Do you know somebody who would like to receive a letter or have you received a letter and want to share your experience? Call Sunshine Coast Community Services at 604-885-5881 or firstname.lastname@example.org with Dear Coastal Neighbour in the subject line.