Image Credit: El Roberts-Wright courtesy of The Rainbow Cards Project
Meet El Roberts-Wright, the founder of The Rainbow Cards Project, which sends cards to members of the LGBT+ community who no longer receive cards or contact from their families.
El is a 20 year old, self-described queer from Devon, England. She loves dogs, nature and writing. Sadly, she was born with a genetic condition and became seriously ill five years ago. She has been diagnosed with at least three different illnesses and is struggling with a list of chronic medical issues.
Her health has improved from a few years ago, when she couldn't brush her teeth or sit up for more than a few minutes, however she has lost the ability to live any kind of a normal life.
"After I got really ill, I suddenly couldn't study anymore, or go out, so the things I was used to focusing on were suddenly not options anymore, which left me struggling to find my place in the world and my sense of purpose," El told me via email.
"I'm still bedridden and living my life from my bed. I still live in constant, severe pain, and deal with too many symptoms to list. But I'm incredibly thankful for all the progress I've made, I'm definitely going in the right direction and I'm so relieved to finally be seeing progress rather than deterioration."
El came out to her family in 2016 and when she was readying herself to send Christmas cards to her extended family later that year, she started thinking about how sad and lonely Christmas would be if her family hadn’t accepted her for who she is.
She sent out a few tweets saying that if people had been abandoned by their families, they could message her and she would send them cards. She ended up sending out 30 cards to people in over 9 countries.
"When I got really ill, I was incredibly lucky to be on the receiving end of a huge amount of kindness - people would write me letters even though they knew I was too sick to write back, people would send me gifts with no expectations of anything in return, and getting all these little (or big) things in the post helped me maintain my connection with the outside world."
Image courtesy of The Rainbow Cards Project
"It made me feel less alone, and showed me what a difference small acts of kindness could make to people who are struggling. And since I'm queer, it made sense to reach out and try and support people within the LGBTQ+ community in the same way that I'd been supported."
El spent the first half of 2017 raising money and setting up her charity, launching The Rainbow Cards Project on July 9 2017.
"Starting this project gave me a strong sense of purpose for the first time in years; I now have something I need to wake up for every day, something that needs me, and something that brings me a sense of fulfilment and satisfaction," she says.
"As well as working towards lessening the isolation of the project's recipients, it also helps with my own isolation, because while I might not be well enough to go out into the world, the world is coming to me in envelopes in my post box."
El has sent out over 4000 cards so far, for birthdays and the holiday season. Over 2000 Christmas cards went out last year and there are people from all over the world on her recipient list.
You can get involved by writing cards for people from the recipient list, donating via her crowdfunding page - El still needs to raise funds to send the Christmas cards out - or by signing yourself or someone else up to be a recipient. It is too late to become a recipient for this year but the applications will be processed for next year.
I know just how devastating life is when your family rejects you and how much a small gesture like a card means when they ignore you on your birthday and at Christmas, so please support this project any way you can.
El loves reading messages from strangers or online acquaintances and they make her feel better when she’s not coping very well, so leave a message for her on the Accidentally Alex facebook page and I'll make sure she gets it.
Here is the link to The Rainbow Cards Project Go Fund me page - she now needs a little over £1100 to get the Christmas cards out.
Here is the Rainbow Cards Project Website and here are her Instagram and Twitter and Facebook pages.
Image of El Roberts-Wright courtesy of The Rainbow Cards Project