The holidays are the best time of year to receive good ole fashion snail mail. Finding a pen pal is a great way to connect with people from other parts of the country and the world.
The 'GWG' Pen Pal Program started in 2014 by Alicia Aiello, a freelance photographer in Philadelphia and President of Girls With Guts. In 2004, Alicia was misdiagnosed with ulcerative colitis and eight years later it was determined that she had Crohn's disease. Her only support system was through pen pals, so she wanted to give other women living with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) a chance to make new friendships.
Girls With Guts (GWG) is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to support and empower women with IBD and/or ostomies through the building of sisterhood and self-esteem. GWG offers several resources including annual retreats, a private Facebook forum, and many programs that connect women with IBD throughout the United States.
The Pen Pal Program matches applicants from all over the world based on age and diagnosis. Through this match, pen pals are given each other’s address to start sending cards and letters back and forth. So far, 905 women have participated in the program and it’s completely free to join!
"I'm just letting you know this pen pal thing was a crazy good idea. It feels really good to write to someone who understands! And she's becoming a very good friend." – Danielle V.
GWG also offers a sub-program called Pen Pal Angels, where girls can receive a little extra encouragement. Pen Pal Coordinator, Jen Waters, wanted to give women more support through surgery or difficult times during their IBD diagnosis. Recipients receive cards, letters, and other means of inspiration from the sisterhood, without any expectation of replying so they can focus on their recovery.
We love to encourage our friends and family members to send mail the old fashion way, as well as educating them about IBD and ostomies. Our ability to empathize and relate to one another through our experiences is what bonds us — never underestimate the power of pen pal friendships!
Don't miss out on this upcoming event.
Join Girls With Guts on Sunday, December 9 from 7-9pm EST for a Twitter Chat discussing families, IBD, and the holidays. Two special guests, Shawn Bethea and Sara Ringer, will share their stories, advice and answer questions. Follow GWG on Twitter @IBDgirls and use #GWGChat to keep up with the conversation.