Post Pals

I love post.  Receiving post and sending post.  Even if I'm at a friend's house and I hear the postbox, I have an urge to go and collect their post from the mat.  When I spent my gap year in South Africa my love of post soon became apparent and I was given the key to the PO box so I could collect the post every other day! When at university I loved the internal mail system, sending short letters and notes to friends in other buildings.  I have several friends with whom I regularly exchange letters; even though I know all their news from social media, it's lovely to read a handwritten letter!

One evening I was watching Russell Howard's Good News - at the end of every episode there is a segment about a good thing, usually an individual who has done something amazing, or heroic, that sort of thing.  This particular evening the segment was about the charity Post Pals.  It was started over a decade ago by Vikki, a young lady with her own health ill issues, who enjoyed receiving cards in the post and found they were one of the only things to make her smile when she was isolated due to severe ME.  The idea behind Post Pals is simple - help to make seriously ill children and their siblings smile by sending them cards, letters, and small gifts.

There is a list of Pals on the website, including a forwarding address, their date of birth, details about their medical condition(s) and their hobbies and interests, as well as any additional needs they may have, to ensure that people send them post which is appropriate for their age and development.  Information about siblings is also provided.  Child protection is taken seriously, and Post Pals has liaised with a child protection specialist.  Home addresses aren't given out, and post is screened before being given to a child.

I think this is a brilliantly simple idea.  I get to send some post to someone, and hopefully it will make a child smile.

You can search the children by interests, for example I searched for any girls involved in Girlguiding, and sent them one of my Fluffy Owl's Adventures badges.  There's an active group on Facebook, with volunteers organising various projects.  I signed up to the Fortnightly Writers Scheme, where you are assigned a child to write to every fortnight.  I write to two girls, usually sending them a postcard, either of somewhere I've been, or one of those cute postcards available in most stationery shops.  Just a quick note, saying something funny I've seen or heard that week, or what I've been doing with Brownies.  The idea is that each child has two assigned writers, and so is guaranteed some post each month.  There's a monthly projects scheme, where each month has a theme and volunteers are assigned a child to send a small gift to following that theme.  My favourite project is the Elf project, run each Christmas: volunteers can be an elf, and send presents up to the value of £15 to their assigned child.  There is also the Reindeer project, where volunteers are assigned a family with young children, and in the run-up to Christmas write them a letter from each of the reindeer.  Such a clever idea!  The volunteers who organise these projects are really friendly and flexible, you can specify the gender and age range of the child you'd like to write to, and if there are some months you can participate and some you can't, it's easy to let them know so the child can be assigned to someone else.

Post Pals makes it clear not to expect post back from the all means include an address, but you shouldn't expect a reply.  I've been thanked on Facebook and Twitter, and I received a letter from one family I sent Christmas things to, which was unexpected and very lovely.  I really enjoy looking for postcards and cards to send to Pals, and small gifts (as postage can be quite hefty!).

I wanted to do more for this charity, so since February I've been in charge of their Twitter account, @postpals.  I copy information and updates that are on the Facebook page, post reminders about birthdays, and try and raise awareness generally.  Come and say hello!

There are other ways you can get involved with Post Pals: they accept donations of used stamps, which are then sold, and last year over £500 was raised through selling these used stamps.  I also collect ring pulls from food and drink containers, which I then send to another volunteer who turns them into jewellery which is then either sent to the Pals, or sold to raise funds.  This bag of ring pulls will be sent off in the next few days.

I know there are so many good causes out there, and everyone has limited time and resources, but if you could send a postcard or letter to one of the Pals, it would be really appreciated by the families.  Thank you!


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