Junior hosts letter-writing event for breast cancer patients

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By Kate Phillips, Staff Reporter In modern times, most people don’t take the time to handwrite a letter.  But on Martin Luther King Day, junior Athira Menezes hosted an event over Zoom to write letters to women diagnosed with breast cancer.  Over 60 people attended, spanning from those who joined carrying deeply personal experiences to...

By Kate Phillips, Staff Reporter

In modern times, most people don’t take the time to handwrite a letter.  But on Martin Luther King Day, junior Athira Menezes hosted an event over Zoom to write letters to women diagnosed with breast cancer.  Over 60 people attended, spanning from those who joined carrying deeply personal experiences to those who were informed by a Schoology post.  Menezes partnered with Girls Love Mail – an organization that helps distribute handwritten letters to cancer patients across the country – to run the event.

Menezes was introduced to Girls Love Mail through her work as a Peer Mediator at Conestoga, and she really loved the concept of writing letters.  Since the event was not a school event, Menezes found participants on her own by contacting friends, members of her church youth group and posting activity messages on Schoology.  Menezes also used the app Mobilize to gain participants online.  

Not only did Menezes make sure to gain as many participants as possible, but she also made the experience as impactful as possible.  She did this by teaching others on the Zoom call how to create their own letter-writing drive.

“On the Girls Love Mail website, they have packets talking about how you can host your own letter-writing drive, and so I encouraged that at the meeting.  A lot of people put in the chat that they were interested in hosting their own drives in their communities, which was cool to see,” Menezes said.

Menezes also made a presentation of her own, which included letter examples and talked about the importance of handwritten letters.  She hopes that by talking about handwriting letters at the Zoom meeting, the participants will continue to participate in similar activities in the future.

“It’s such an easy thing to do.  It can take five minutes but it can really mean so much,” Menezes said.

One of Menezes’s close friends, Rachael Pei, was immediately excited and interested to participate.

“When I read Athira’s text it just sounded really cool.  It looked like a great volunteering opportunity,” Pei said.  

For Pei, the event was a personal experience and an opportunity to connect.  Diagnosed with leukemia in 2015, she shared some of the things that kept her strong and happy during her sickness.  It is incredibly inspiring to see Pei give personal advice to another cancer patient.

“I’ve actually had cancer before, and so I was thinking… I have that experience, and I’ve never written a letter like this before.  And so I really wanted to try it out,” Pei said.

Menezes estimates that about 100  letters were written, as many participants wrote multiple.  And although handwritten letters are, in the modern age, somewhat of a lost art, events like Menezes’ have risen in popularity. Pei said that  because letter writing is a socially-distant activity, many letter writing drives are happening now at senior homes and medical centers.

The event displayed the power of letters and the power of words. Menezes said that writing a letter is an extremely accessible activity, and Pai said that it is one that can change lives.

“I think it really made it sink in.  These are your words, that are going to help others and bring a little bit of joy into their lives,” Pei said. 

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