By Reetika Singh (YES 19-20, India, placed with AYUSA in Clifton, VA)
It’s now been more than a month since I’ve been back home in India after my exchange year, and almost exactly a year since I first arrived in the U.S. I can say that it has been more than just an experience.
There is so much that I have learned in this past year, but two things that stick with me are advocacy and volunteerism. Before the lockdowns from COVID-19, I was very keen to return home and get involved with advocating for so many social issues, one of which was working to remove the many stigmas around mental health issues. I was always very driven when it came to learning about this issue and trying to normalize and promote healthy conversations around mental health issues. But even before I returned to India, the world was facing a pandemic, and getting involved virtually was still a very new idea.
But I was still so motivated to start getting involved and use the skills I developed during my YES year! In a time where the entire world is facing a crisis, with many people dealing with internal and external pressures and struggles, I came up with the idea of sharing virtual letters amongst each other with words of kindness, experiences of personal growth, dealings with anxieties, and so much more.
The Share a Letter Project has now received over 200 letters and sends out about 450-500 letters across India in a week, bringing smiles and sharing support. Participants told me how empowered and genuinely happy they've felt after receiving these letters, and that it has reached them in a time of need.
In the near future, I plan on getting involved at the ground level with educating people about the importance of mental wellbeing. I think my old self would not have wanted to take a chance on pushing this initiative forward, but I’ve come so far thanks to the YES program.
If you’re interested in getting involved with the Share a Letter project, or just want to learn more, visit our Instagram account, Creating Our Good Place, or email [email protected]