All the details
Who can participate?
Any adult over age 18 living in Rhode Island or southeastern Massachusetts can participate in Dear Rhode Island.
What am I agreeing to by signing up?
By signing up, you agree:
- To write one letter to the person you’re matched with, within three weeks of receiving your match. If you choose to continue to exchange letters after that, hooray!, but that is totally up to you.
- To refrain from saying anything explicit, discriminatory, hateful, or threatening. This is a community project, and these things will not be tolerated. If you receive a message that contains inappropriate or threatening statements, please report it to us.
- To ensure that your letter can fit in a standard size envelope and be mailed with one first-class letter stamp. Because we will be forwarding your letter along, we need it to fit within this standard size.
- That whatever you write could get shared. Social media is everywhere. In fact, we sort of hope you will post photos online, taking care to protect names and contact information, to inspire others to participate.
- To not be creepy. In today’s world of digital connections, it’s easy to find out a lot about someone in just a few minutes, but that’s exactly the opposite of the point of letter-writing. Don’t make anyone feel uncomfortable.
- That you are at least 18 years old.
What about my privacy?
Your penpal will receive your first and last name. You can choose whether or not to share your mailing address directly or write your first few letters through the What Cheer Writers Club. Unless you choose to share your address, the person you’re matched with will mail your letter to What Cheer Writers Club, and we’ll forward your letter along. We know this will add a slight time delay to the exchange, but it’s for privacy and safety reasons.
(If you and your penpal hit it off and you choose to continue your exchange of letters, you can share your address directly at that time.)
Are penpals available who write in Spanish?
We hope to have penpals who write in multiple languages. When you sign up, you’ll be asked which language(s) you’d prefer. While we can’t guarantee a match in your first choice language, we will do our absolute best.
So what are the specifications for my letter?
If you are sending directly to your penpal’s address, that’s totally up to you. If you’re sending through the What Cheer Writers Club, please ensure that your letter can fit in a standard size envelope and be forwarded with one first-class letter stamp. Mail your letters to:
(Your penpal’s name)
Dear Rhode Island c/o What Cheer Writers Club
160 Westminster Street, Floor 2
Providence, RI 02903
If you wish to maintain your privacy, please leave off your return address. (We will forward the entire piece of mail.)
Is it safe to send mail right now?
Here, we defer to the experts. According to the USPS, the Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization report no evidence of the virus spreading by mail. They suggest certain precautions, like washing your hands with soap and water and using hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, after collecting mail. Learn more and stay up-to-date here, and of course, use your personal judgment.
What if I never receive a letter?
This is why it’s so important for everyone who has signed up to follow through with writing! We promise that every person who signs up will be matched. If you don’t receive a letter one round, we encourage you to sign up again the next round for a new writing partner.
Why can’t kids under 18 participate?
We would love to find a way for youth to participate in a local penpal exchange. Safety is foremost in our mind right now, but we’re looking for a way to make this work.
What if I participated in a previous round?
We’re so glad you’re back! You have options:
- Keep writing. You are welcome to continue corresponding with your penpal from Round One. To do so, write to them again via What Cheer Writers Club’s address. If you’d like to suggest further exchanges, please include your address in this second letter so that your penpal can, if they choose, write to you directly.
- Sign up for the next round! If you wish to get a new penpal, sign up for the next round. Whether or not you keep up your correspondence from Round One, we encourage you to sign up for another match.
I’m already having writer’s block! What should I write about?
Letter-writing can be intimidating at first. Here are a few tips:
- Letters are personal and unique; that’s part of what makes them special. Remember that taking the time to make the effort is the most important thing. You won’t be graded!
- Before you begin, spend a few minutes thinking about what you’d like to say and how you’d like to come across. Identify two or three points that you’d like to cover.
- Everyone has different penmanship, which is part of the fun. (It does help if the other person can read your handwriting.)
- Introduce yourself. But don’t feel the need to recount facts and figures. Talk about things that are important to you.
- Tell a story about something that happened to you recently or something that is important to you.
- Get creative. That could mean including an original poem or doodle, decorating the envelope, or writing your letter in a different format than the usual.
- Don’t be afraid of being boring. Sure, talking about how you spent your weekend might not feel all that interesting, but it tells the other person a lot about you.
- Be yourself. Don’t feel the need to impress.
- Ask questions.
- Your letter does not need to be long. A short, genuine inquiry goes a long way to making someone feel seen.
Who’s behind Dear Rhode Island?
Dear Rhode Island is a community-driven project out of What Cheer Writers Club, co-created by member (and devoted letter writer) Jessica David and Club Staff Jillian Winters, Jodie Vinson and Susannah Morse.