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Family brings smiles to faces of those living with cancer through postcards

A family of four have spent their Sundays writing postcards to those living with cancer to “put a smile” on their faces and “reignite the love of a letter”.

The Jourdain family – which is made up of Lydia Jourdain, 44, her husband Ben, 51 and their two daughters Isla, 14 and Alyssa, 11 – started the postcard endeavour as Isla was looking for a “meaningful” way to fulfil the volunteering requirements for the Duke of Edinburgh Silver Award, which she began in September.

Twits postcard
Twits postcard which Isla wrote a message on (Lydia Jourdain/PA)
Postcard with writing on it
Twits postcard which Isla wrote a message on (Lydia Jourdain/PA)

Mrs Jourdain, who is a leadership coach and consultant and lives with her family in Eastbourne, told the PA news agency: “I have a friend called Emily whose daughter Rosie was writing letters to people with cancer for her Duke of Edinburgh Award and I thought that sounded awesome.

“Isla started writing and my husband said ‘why don’t we all get involved?’ and now every Sunday evening, I say ‘postcards, people’ and we all sit down around the kitchen table and write together.

“We thought it would be a nice way to put a smile on someone’s face.”

Writing on postcard
A postcard written by Mrs Jourdain (Lydia Jourdain/PA)

Mrs Jourdain said she and her husband, who is a teacher of Classics, have lost friends and family to cancer, which played a key role in them wanting to partake in the project.

“I think it’s nice because we’ve got such a range of ages between us, so it’s quite a variety of things that we write about or if we’re all writing about the same thing, it’s done in different ways,” Mrs Jourdain added.

“Sometimes we may write about something that we have attended e.g. last weekend, Isla went to see the Royal Shakespeare Company’s performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and she wrote about that.

Postcard with writing on it
Postcard written by Mr Jourdain (Lydia Jourdain/PA)

“Sometimes it’s more about the gardening and the weather and we may comment on the art or people on the postcard we are writing on.

“My husband had one with Roald Dahl on it, he wrote about how he has always loved his writing and how the girls have read his books, which was really lovely.”

She added Alyssa has a love of Star Wars which regularly makes a feature in her postcards, with a particular mention of how she enjoys learning lightsaber movements.

The postcards are given to the charity From Me to You as part of its “donate a letter” scheme, which sees them read by the charity, filtered, repackaged and delivered to hospitals, cancer centres or individuals at home.

Mrs Jourdain said: “The charity does get some feedback from the recipients but anonymises who the replies are from.

Postcard with writing on it
A postcard written by Alyssa (Lydia Jourdain/PA)

“We were sent a message from one person who said they just got back from quite a brutal chemotherapy session and it was just so lovely to receive something uplifting.

“We also get a monthly newsletter from the charity as well with more general feedback and quotes from people saying the cards really lift their day.”

She said she hopes to “inspire” others to take part.

“It’s so simple, but can have such an impact and I just think we need to reignite the love of a letter,” she said.

“Something handwritten is so lovely and personal and cannot be replicated in an email or text.”

Two people posing together
Alison Hitchcock and Brian Greenley (From Me to You/PA)

From Me to You started around 2017, with co-founder Alison Hitchcock telling PA the letter writing idea stemmed from her friend and fellow co-founder Brian Greenley being diagnosed with stage three bowel cancer in 2010, to which she offered to write him letters.

Over the next two years, his cancer moved to stage four, before he finally got the all-clear in 2013.

During his time with cancer, Ms Hitchcock wrote him 100 letters.

“He said they made him feel less isolated and lonely, even though he had a partner and a big social life and so the charity was started to help people connect with others,” the 55-year-old, who lives in London, said.

Letters
Some letters received by the charity (From Me to You/PA)

The charity receives feedback from those who receive a letter every week, which Ms Hitchcock said she is always “really touched by”.

“Probably, my most favourite feedback I’ve ever had was from a lady in Northampton who phoned me to say for the moments she was reading the letter, she felt normal,” she said.

The majority of letters come from the UK, but the charity has also received some from countries including America and even Azerbaijan.

Two people sitting together
Ms Hitchcock said letters sent to those living with cancer touch upon a variety of different topics (From Me to You/PA)

The topics writers are encouraged not to mention include religion, cancer or comments including “get well soon”.

“The things we have all got in common are some of the best things,” she said.

“We have people writing about their pets, their favourite things about Spring, their childhood memories and some have even written about bad first dates they have had.”

More information about the charity can be found here: https://www.frommetoyouletters.co.uk/