Letters can change the world. They’ve certainly changed mine. Two people in Aetna and Flatwoods, Tennessee, exchange postcard letters in 1907-1910. The two marry, becoming my great grandparents.
A woman sends a letter to a random US soldier in Korea. He writes back. They eventually marry, becoming my parents.
One summer, a girl from Palmersville writes a letter to a college acquaintance at Austin Peay University, leading to our daughter’s marriage and our first grandchild. Oh, the power of a letter!
An orphan in Nepal gets a letter from America. America! The letter is on lined notebook paper, with a pencil-colored border of blue and gold, with drawings of hearts and smiley faces plastered across its surface. A translator sits beside her and reads the strange writing: “Dear Friend I
Haven’t Met Yet, I hope you are smiling at this exact moment because there are so many people thinking about you right now. I know this may be just a piece of paper, but….”
Oh, the power of a letter, for yes, the girl is smiling!
Letters in Motion is the nonprofit organization in the Global Motion family that led to this little girl’s letter of hope and caring. In fact, about 3,000 more letters were given to 3,000 other orphans in June 2015. (There are at least 1 million orphans in the small country of Nepal, no bigger than the state of Arkansas.)
Letters in Motion (LinM) is the brainchild of University of Tennessee at Martin student John Sellers, a Psychology major. His connections with the country of Nepal run deep. While headed back to Nepal in 1992, his missionary aunt and uncle died tragically in a plane crash. His grandparents took over their work with orphans, then his parents.
Elizabeth Sanders, John Sellers,Courtney Sellers
While backpacking in Nepal at age 17, John picked up a video camera and began filming. It eventually occurred to him that his videos and pictures could bring the plight of the orphans to a larger audience. However, videos and pictures, while powerful, don’t always allow the viewer to connect with the children on the other side of the lens. But letters can.
Something about writing a letter to a child unlocks the heart and creates an opportunity for change. Perhaps the letter writer becomes physically and mentally involved in the letter writing process, which then opens the heart to other service opportunities. John says that it only takes ten minutes to write a letter, the first step towards making a connection with someone abroad.
According to one of the orphanage directors in Nepal, some children who received a letter in 2015 carry it with them everywhere, every day. Sometimes a quote within a letter gets them through their day. John’s wife, Courtney Sellers, tells about the letter her mother wrote. When Courtney went to Nepal last year, she personally gave her mother’s letter to a special little girl. The child’s face lit up at her letter from America. Before Courtney left, the child ran out and put her own letter into Courtney’s hand—to deliver to her mom in America.
The letters are written individually or at writing events held on campuses,
UTM softball team writes letters
for the 2015 trip to Nepal.
schools, homes, community centers, and churches in the United States and as far away as France. When LinM gets these letters, they screen them and later personally deliver them to the orphans. In June 2015, each LinM traveler packed 50 pounds of letters to hand to orphans in Nepal. The goal is to take 5,000 letters to Nepal and Kenya in 2016. While the group aids the impoverished economy by staying in hotels, they also live in orphanages for several days of the trip, as John says—“to eat what they eat, to experience what they experience.”
While there, travelers roll up their sleeves and work on other, more tangible projects that benefit the orphans and surrounding community. Shortly before the team left the US in 2015, the devastating earthquake hit Nepal, leading to the building of four temporary structures for victims of the quake. Other projects have been providing clean water, textbooks, school supplies, and shelter for orphans.
For the next ten years, the goal is to add a new country each year and to connect whole communities and schools with communities and schools abroad. Partnering countries will benefit by learning about each other’s cultures, creating bridges between them. In addition, those who travel overseas glean life experiences and perspectives they never would have gotten otherwise. The education of orphans and travelers alike are key goals. John quotes Nelson Mandela, who said, “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.”
Elizabeth Sanders, a graduate student in Family and Consumer Sciences at UTM, plans to make it her life’s work to help nonprofits in the fields of education and child care. Currently, she is the Director of University Relations for LinM. She reaches out to students across the nation to get them involved. She hopes to experience her first LinM trip in May when a group heads to Kenya with a few thousand letters and a well building project. More bridge building and videos will result, spreading even more awareness.
It just takes a little time, 10 minutes to write a letter, five minutes to make a donation, or a great deal of time to oversee LinM, fundraise, or travel to wherever help is needed. (The group also gives to children locally, having donated $1,000 to the Weakley County backpack program). I asked these busy students how they find time for all they do. Each mentioned that they don’t waste time watching TV. Elisabeth Sanders believes time is the best gift we can give others. John concurs, adding, “You find time for what you love, and I’m passionate about changing the world.”
Getting involved in LinM is the right thing, the kind thing to do. John quotes Mark Twain: “Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” If you want to change the world, or simply show a little kindness to children the world over, consider hosting a letter writing event or write a letter yourself. Send the finished letters to Letters in Motion, P.O. Box 565, Martin, TN, 38237. See http://www.golettersinmotion.com/howtowritealetter/ for sample letters and guidelines.
A little time and kindness can change the world. And it all starts with a letter.
|Four branches of the Motion Global family focus on making our world a better place. See www.motionglobal.org: