According to Greek mythology, when Pandora opened the box which she was forbidden from opening, a lot of things flew right out—greed, envy, hatred, pain, disease, hunger, poverty, war, and death. The one thing that remained inside was ‘hope,’ and to this day, it is what we unconsciously seek, in troubled times.
The Goodwill Tribe is an organisation started in 2013 by Sonia Parekh and Chandni Sawlani, that in its own way is instilling hope in people. The organisation conducts various activities focusing on small acts of kindness that have the power to bring about change in the world.
These small acts include writing and posting letters of love to strangers.
Explaining how it came into being, Sonia says, “The intent was to try and lead with empathy and form human connections that go beyond one’s race, religion and culture. Over the last eight years, we kept experimenting with what human connections look like and what we ultimately created was a platform where even small acts of compassion and kindness are celebrated.”
With each passing year, word spread across the globe, and more and more people started joining this movement.
“The thing about what we do is that it appeals universally and is not limited to one geography or demography,” she adds.
Project Letter Earthlings
Letter Earthlings was a project that was initiated by Nivendra Uduman, a volunteer from Sri Lanka, to revive the art of letter writing. “When we are miles and miles away from each other, sometimes a letter from someone we do not know at all can bring in so much joy,” says Sonia.
Under the project, volunteers gathered in a café or an open space and wrote letters anonymously, which would then be sent out via snail mail to different parts of the world. Now, given the lockdown, the project has moved to the digital space.
How does it work on the digital platform?
“We live in uncertain times, and are all experiencing anxiety and fear. To help deal with all this, we decided to turn Letter Earthlings into a digital activity,” begins Sonia.
Following the same format, volunteers write e-mails and the same are then sent out by The Goodwill Tribe.
What’s interesting is that anyone can participate in this—there was a 10-year-old who wrote a letter, and a 71-year-old senior citizen with Parkinson’s who received an e-mail.
Speaking about the requests that they get, Sonia says, “They are very diverse; many are from students stuck in different countries looking out for their parents. Then there are the ones who understand how difficult this lockdown period is, and are reaching out to comfort their friends.”
How does the process work?
If you want to volunteer to write e-mails or would like to receive an e-mail for yourself or someone else, fill up this form: bit.ly/letterrequests.
Also, if you would like to join the crew of ‘Letter Writers,’ sign up here: bit.ly/letterwriters.
It takes about a week for the e-mail to be sent out. Every Saturday the team collates all the requests that they receive, and on Sunday it is sent out to the volunteer writers who take about 3 to 4 days to write the e-mail and send it back to them. This is then put into a format and e-mailed to the recipient.
With over 150 requests, the team has managed to send out more than 100 e-mails so far. They have 186 volunteer writers on-board, and this number is increasing each day, says Sonia.
“We have had our writers send us doodles, poetry, and various other forms of expression that they deem fit. We are open to it all. We also allow writers to write in vernacular language, and if the need arises, we translate it before it is sent out.”
Speaking about his experience, Thirupurasundari Sevvel, a Chennai-based architect who has been part of the letter exchange programme, says, “Having experienced this I can say that receiving the letter was so healing and soothing. I have received four letters so far and have also written to strangers.”
Sometimes, all we need is a tiny spark to rekindle the spirit of hope in our hearts.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)