Frequently asked questions
I want to mail a physical letter. Where should I mail to?
Thank you for being interested in our letter exchange program! You can submit & receive letters online via our
letter exchange platform here (which will allow you to receive a letter back and earn rewards/badges). If you want to mail a physical letter to us, you can send directly to our HQ at:
Letters to Strangers
2115 Aviation Dr.
Upland, CA 91786
Please note that letters mailed to the HQ office will not receive a letter back and will not go toward your online badge(s) progress. We are also only intermittently processing mail to avoid unnecessary trips to the office during COVID-19 - apologies for any delays!
Note as well that our letter exchanges are designed to be facilitated in an in-person setting at our
Partner Sites so that we can have a therapy-informed peer discussion afterward. Much of our programming also happens outside of letter exchanges, such as with educational workshops, grassroots advocacy, and more. Therefore, if you want to stay involved with L2S in the future, consider joining a Chapter/Partner Site near you or starting one yourself! :)
How do I find a Chapter near me?
Because some of our Chapters are started by individuals or located in communities that wish to remain anonymous/protected, we don't release a public list of every single Chapter. However, you can get a glimpse of the general areas we cover by checking out the map on our home page. You can also always email us with your general region and we'll let you know if there's a Chapter near you or if perhaps you might want to start one! :)
Can I get volunteer hours for writing letters?
Yes, if you follow this special procedure! We are happy to sign off on any volunteering hours you may want to accrue. However, please note that usage of our online letter-exchange platform will not count for volunteer hours. This is because all letters submitted to our online letter-writing platform receives a letter back. Therefore, that doesn't count as a volunteer activity since you get a sort of "reward" for it, especially because you accumulate badges and can redeem them for physical rewards.
If you don't need volunteer hours, we strongly recommend just submitting letters via our online exchange platform because processing volunteer-hour letters require a lot of personnel time and capacity. Thanks for your understanding!
To write letters for volunteer hours, you will have to submit letters using
this separate form. On it we will be able to track your hours as long as you
submit as you write. In other words, we use the time of your uploads to determine the hours, so please submit each letter as you write them rather than submit them in bulk all at once. If you prefer the latter (or are handwriting your letters and submitting images of them all at once), please track hours on your own time and list it on the form.
Note that by using this form, you will not receive any letters back, unfortunately. Please also note that all letters submitted must abide by our
letter-writing guidelines and follow in the spirit of our
sample letters. If they do not do so, we will not be able to count the letter(s) as part of your volunteer hours.
I don't think I'm a very good writer. Can I still submit a letter?
Yes, of course! First of all, hey - don't put yourself down like that. :) The whole point of a letter is to reflect our thoughts and emotions, which means reflecting you. So as long as you write from the heart and stay genuine, your letter is perfect. It's not about how poetic or rhythmic or thematic you can make your letter sound. It's about you and your human connection with a stranger. That's all that matters. In other words, it's the spirit that counts, not the exact words you use.
I'm not very good at English. Can I still get involved?
Yes! Right now, most of our programming is in English, but we're working hard on creating multilingual resources all the time. In the meantime, feel free to submit a letter anyway even if your English proficiency isn't perfect - as long as you get your message across, the reader will love it anyway. :) Or you can draw, fold origami, or even write music for your letters! Don't let language hold you back.
And if you want to get involved in our other activities, we could always use multilingual and multicultural translators, supporters, advocates, and more. So
reach out to us! You can do so in the language you feel most comfortable in, and we'll do our best to have a team member/volunteer who knows you language respond.
I want to bring Diana or a team member to my school/conference/event... what should I do?
Aw, thank you so much for thinking of us for this! You can book us via this link here. And yes, we do virtual talks!
Are you still operating during COVID-19?
Yes, our programs are still happening - just almost all virtually! So be sure to follow us and our Chapters on social media/the web (@L2SMentalHealth for HQ) to see how you can get involved digitally. Our Youtube channel is a great place to get started!
My question isn't answered here. What should I do?
Oops! Please reach out to us and a team member will get back to you ASAP. Thanks! :)
Are donations tax-deductible? Do I get perks for donating?
Yes and yes! You can find more information about our donor program here. Our U.S. tax-exemption number is 83-0837546. Thank you so much for donating to us! Every dollar means so much. Cheers!
Why isn't this a pen pal exchange?
Instead of a pen pal system, we follow more of a "message-in-a-bottle" format. With our exchanges, you never know if the letter you sent or received are to/from the same person each time - everything is anonymous and (for the most part) randomized. There's still a chance that both people will end up receiving each other's letters again, but they wouldn't know for sure.
Why do we do things this way? As you might imagine, there are certain pressures and judgments that can get attached to a pen pal relationship that we're trying to give people a chance to avoid. A back-and-forth exchange with someone puts pressure on a person to always have something to say back even when they don't want to, which can make people close up and sour the established relationship. Furthermore, it makes it harder for people to feel like they can be truly themselves and share their stories the first time they write a letter, because a established relationship with someone else means that they will be vulnerable to the judgment of someone else - and they'll
hear and have to
acknowledge that judgment. Our writers have found themselves worried about grammar, sentence pairing, etc. in such exchanges. A one-time relationship makes sure that both sides carefully gets the most that they can out of each letter by being very empathetic and thoughtful about the reading process, and it eases the fear of judgment or long-term burdens for the writing process.
Additionally, as great as our intentions are, most people are not trained in mental health support! When we write to someone in a pen pal exchange, there's an implicit expectation that they'll acknowledge and try to respond back to the concerns we voiced. But honestly? Sometimes people aren't that great at giving advice, sometimes the writer didn't
need advice, and sometimes people try to say something helpful but, because they are untrained, end up maybe making things more confusing. With a randomized process,
you can still write your own story (you don't need to re-explain yourself every time!) and what you feel like. Almost like sharing a journal entry! You just don't have to worry about not knowing how to respond to someone or saying the wrong thing back.
Also, in the navigation of our mental health and life stories, oftentimes we find that we need to redefine or reevaluate a part of our narrative or try another way of approaching it. In other words, we believe that
people deserve the chance to start afresh: on a blank slate, you have the power to finally embody who you want to be. When you are confined to exchanging letters with the same person, sometimes it can feel too constricting, like you're stuck in the same narrative as you had first introduced to the other person.
We hope this helps explain the format we've chosen! There are a lot of social media and online groups established to help people find pen pals, so if you still want a pen pal, try looking for one of those (note that we don't endorse any specific ones).
I emailed/contacted you but didn't get a response! :(
Oh no! It's very possible that our response to you got filtered to spam, so please check that and/or add firstname.lastname@example.org to your contacts list. We do our best to reply to all inquiries within 24 hours, so hopefully our email did make its way to you one way or another!
Note that if you are referring to a volunteer task, we may take a bit longer to respond because we have to review/edit what you sent over. Your patience is greatly appreciated!