To pen a letter for someone or to impatiently await one by post might be a thing of past, but there is much more to hand-written letters than just the message for people on both ends. ‘To write is human, to receive a letter is divine’ goes a saying. There is a personal touch, real concern and intimate connection when you feel the paper in your hand, even in the era of WhatsApp and video calls. It was Nivendra, a member of The Goodwill Tribe from Sri Lanka, who believed that someone can be touched even through anonymous letters, which led to the birth of the project ‘Letter Earthlings’, as one of their meaningful gestures of kindness. Founded by Sonia and Chandni when they met in Bengaluru a couple of years ago, The Goodwill Tribe is currently present in seven cities across the world —Dubai, Bengaluru, Chennai, Pune, Kuwait City, Sydney and London — and its members coordinate their projects on social media.
Under the Letter Earthlings, members of the tribe in each city gather volunteers once a month at common spaces like cafés and parks and respond to requests sent from people from across the world. “We have a Google Docs form where people can send in a request for themselves or for someone they love with a brief explanation on the recipient’s story, what the person is going through. We write anonymous letters of kindness to them letting them know that there is an army of people reaching out to them with positivity and love,” says Archana Kamal, one of the heads of The Goodwill Tribe’s Chennai chapter. Archana, a city-based artist, came to know about The Goodwill Tribe through a friend, Shashi Kiran, and wanted to be part of their activities. “The core team of the Chennai chapter also includes Mohammed Osama, Shashi Kiran and Swathi Arumugam, who are all from different walks of life,” she adds.
Different from pen pals, Letter Earthlings attempts to reach out to people in distress to spread positivity and it’s mostly a one-time affair. “The idea is to make them feel that they are not alone,” says Archana. According to her, they get requests to write a letter for varied reasons, though most of them are related to health issues.
“But the letters would be written in such a way that the actual subject is not touched in order to respect their privacy. Also, we also get a little creative and spruce up the letters with drawings depending on who we are writing to. Each person will write up to three or four letters because it is done with care,” she adds.
(Members and volunteers of The Goodwill Tribe at a recent session of Letter Earthlings in the city)
But how do they know the reactions of recipients of their letters? “Those who have asked us to write letters to their friends have responded how the letter moved or made a difference in them. And it works both ways. As humans, all of us face struggles in life; so when you write to others, you know that there are so many people with different kind of challenges in life. It keeps you grounded and makes you a better person. I’ve experienced lot of joy after becoming a part of this initiative,” says Archana.
The other activities include giving free hugs in public places, meals for workers, pop-up gift stalls in public places and celebrating the joy of giving among other things. “People have become mechanical with their lives. So, the underlying motto behind all our activities is to remind them that even simple gestures of kindness will make the life lighter a lot,” concludes Archana.
The next session of Letter Earthlings will be held on Saturday at Reel Cafe, Anna Nagar