Oregon Humanities Invites Oregonians To Swap Letters In A Pen-Pal Project

Dear Stranger is a recurring letter-exchange project that connects Oregonians through the mail to share experiences, beliefs, and ideas.

The isolation of the COVID pandemic and the strident partisanship of national politics have left many Oregonians feeling disconnected and alone. Dear Stranger, a letter-exchange project from Oregon Humanities, offers a chance for connection by inviting Oregonians to write letters with someone they’ve never met.

Oregon Humanities is a statewide organization that brings people together to talk, listen, and learn from one another. “In good times, bad, and everything in between, sometimes it’s hardest to share our innermost thoughts with those closest to us,” says Lucy Solares-Steger, a program assistant who runs the Dear Stranger project at Oregon Humanities. “Dear Stranger offers a chance to share a fresh perspective with a stranger in the world and receive one in return. It provides an opportunity to reach out and find community, listen to one another, and learn from each other.”

The aim of Dear Stranger is to create shared understanding among Oregonians with different backgrounds, experiences, and beliefs. The premise is simple: Write a letter, get a letter, and make a new connection. Oregon Humanities has operated Dear Stranger since 2014, with each round of the project asking writers to address a different question or theme. In the most recent round this past winter, 69 people from 28 communities across Oregon exchanged letters.

This spring’s prompt for writers is about care: “What do you care about, and why? Who do you care for, and who cares for you? Does this feel like a choice or a given? Where do you see care, and where do you notice its absence?

Prompts for writing and instructions for participation are available on the Oregon Humanities website at oregonhumanities.org. Letters are swapped anonymously, and each person receives a letter from the person who received the one they wrote. What happens next is up to the writers. If they’d like to write back, they can do so through Oregon Humanities.

Letters should be addressed to Oregon Humanities, Attn: Dear Stranger, 610 SW St., Suite 1111, Portland, Oregon, 97205. Oregon Humanities will exchange letters mailed by June 30, 2022.

Questions about Dear Stranger should be directed to programs@oregonhumanities.org.

Oregon Humanities connects people and communities through conversation, storytelling, and participatory programs to inspire understanding and collaborative change. More information about our programs and publications—which include the Conversation Project, Bridging Oregon, Consider This, Humanity in Perspective, Public Program Grants, Responsive Program Grants, and Oregon Humanities magazine—can be found at oregonhumanities.org. Oregon Humanities is an independent, nonprofit affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities and a partner of the Oregon Cultural Trust. MORE INFO: http://oregonhumanities.org/programs/other-projects/dear-stranger/

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