'I love what From Me to You are doing, and I wish I could come to one of your letter-writing workshops, but I can't, can I?'
This is something that we often heard. When we asked why, the answers tended to be the same: 'I don't have a friend with cancer.'
Despite us stressing that you didn't need to know someone with cancer to be involved, even we had to admit it helped if you did.
We had a problem.
We loved that many people who did join us felt inspired to write to friends with other illnesses but we didn’t want anyone to feel excluded.
Keen to make our workshops as accessible as possible we needed a way to expand the ways that people could connect and make a difference to those going through the cancer.
As so often happens, once an issue has been identified, the solution presents itself, and it certainly did for us in the shape of the Lewis Foundation.
The Lewis Foundation, a charity enthusiastically run by husband and wife team Lee and Lorraine Lewis, visit Talbot Butler cancer ward at Northampton General Hospital every Friday. And they don't go empty handed. Every week they turn up with a choice of gift bags for every patient on the ward - The Pamper Bag filled with hand cream, lip balm, The Quiz Bag - crossword and sudoku books, The Reading Bag, and many more. The bags are designed to bring comfort to the patients. Tireless fundraising ensures that there are bags every week and the variety of choice means that those experiencing lengthier stays get a selection of goodies week after week.
The Lewis Foundation were very keen to have letters to include in the bags; letters from strangers to strangers, connecting through the power of words; kind messages of support, strength, hope and understanding.
And so we started our Donate A Letter campaign. Those at our workshops could now write to a friend or to a stranger knowing that either way they’d be reducing the social isolation and loneliness so often associated with cancer.
Some of the letters, often from those who have been through cancer themselves, empathise about 2am blood pressure tests, hours of boredom and hospital food. While others tell stories about everyday happenings and everyday people.
What all these letters have in common is that someone is reaching out, making a connection, a reminder that no one need be alone.
So now when you come to one of our workshops, you don’t need to know someone with cancer, you just need to come with a pen and an intention to make a difference to someone who needs a friendly letter.
For more details about future workshops and other events, please subscribe to our website or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the next few months we are holding workshops in Sussex, London and Berkshire as well as holding letter-writing residency days at Waterstones and Jubilee Library, Brighton where we’ll be writing letters and giving out letter-writing packs.
We hope you'll join us over the next few months and write letters and make a difference.