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Postcrossing Blog

News, updates, and all kinds of goodies and stories from the postal world!

The Letter Writers Alliance turned 10 years this week, and we’ve been extremely remiss in not mentioning it on the blog before. So today we’re setting this straight and letting you all know about the best letter writing community out there!

Letter Writers Alliance

Started in June 2007 by Kathy and Donovan, the Letter Writers Alliance is a wonderful project dedicated to maintaining the art of letter writing. Membership for life costs just $5, and gives you access to the many activities they have, as well as to the member-only section of their shop.

I’ve been a card carrying member for over 5 years now, and besides enjoying the posts on the LWA blog and mailart inspiration on Instagram, there are two things they organise that I’m particularly fond of: the penpal exchange and the book club.

The penpal exchange is what it says on the tin: you sign up for a new penpal, tell them a bit about yourself, and some days or weeks later, they match you with someone they think you’ll enjoy exchanging letters with. The difference is that all matches are done by hand, as Kathy carefully chooses who your next penpal is going to be. The results are usually brilliant!

The book club also works really well. Every quarter they pick a new book related to mail, letters or other postal topics, which is then read by everyone and discussed live in video and chat. The discussion is always lively, and I’ve found some really interesting books this way.

They also keep a very interesting blog on all sort of postal-related subjects, offer free downloads and stock their shop with carefully designed postal items, such as writing paper, rubber stamps… and even pigeons you can send your friends by mail to surprise them!

It’s an inspiring project with strong values — one that we admire and often recommend when we notice postcrossers are into letter writing. So if you like letters as much as postcards, you should definitely check it out! 😊

Letter Writers Alliance

Happy 10th anniversary Letter Writers Alliance, and congratulations Donovan and Kathy!

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If you’re anything like me, you cannot bear the thought of throwing stamps away — not even used ones. Luckily, there are many organizations out there that collect them to finance good causes or bring awareness to important issues. Today we’re choosing to highlight one of them that was brought to our attention by Charlotte (aka maxcat1) from the USA.

The students at Foxborough Regional Charter School in Massachusetts have a longterm project called the “Holocaust Stamp Project”, through which they are attempting to collect 11 million cancelled postage stamps. You can probably guess why such a big number, but we’ll let them explain in their own words:

Each stamp that is collected symbolizes one wasted life, “thrown away” as having no value, much the same way as an envelope bearing a cancelled stamp postage stamp is tossed in the trash.

Begun in 2009, the Holocaust Stamps Project is a component of community service learning (CSL), at Foxborough Regional Charter School. It is a unique educational initiative that provides opportunities for students to gain a deeper understanding of how important it is to demonstrate acceptance, tolerance, and respect for diversity in their own daily lives.

The goal is to collect 11,000,000 postage stamps as a way to symbolically honor every victim of the Holocaust. Students and community volunteers trim and count the thousands of stamps that arrive daily from across the country and the world. The wide range of themes depicted – people, world history, places, flora and fauna, inventions, ideas, and values – leads to discussions about what makes our diverse world so special.

Eleven million is an unfathomable number.

According to the last update from May 2nd 2017, over 9 million stamps have already been collected, so they’re well on their way to reaching the goal they’ve set.

FRCS Holocaust Stamp Project

Over the years, classes have been using the stamps to craft meticulous collages showcasing certain aspects of the holocaust. The resulting pieces of art are a thoughtful reflection of the lessons learned from this dark period of humanity’s history, from the viewpoint of the students.

So… care to send them your old stamps and help build a more tolerant and inclusive future for everyone? Put them on an envelope (preferably with a count of how many you’re sending) and mail them to:

Holocaust Stamp Project
Foxborough Regional Charter School
131 Central Street
Foxboro, MA 02035
USA

Feel free to include a message of encouragement too, if you’d like — I’m sure it’ll be appreciated. And if you know of other worthy causes, please share them in the comments! 😊

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Hi everyone!

June is (finally!) here, which means school is soon going to be out for the summer in the northern hemisphere. Since this is the time when many postcrossers take their yearly holidays, we just wanted to remind everyone that the inactive status is here to help!

If you have holidays coming up, or you know you’re going to be away from your home or school address for a while, we recommend that you switch your account to inactive a few weeks in advance. When you set your account to inactive (which you can easily do by editing your account settings), Postcrossing does not to give your address to any other members while you are away. You can still send postcards if you’d like, but you won’t be sent any until you’re ready to receive them.

When you’re back, all you need to do is to switch your account back to active and you’ll be in business again! Rest assured, all your due postcards will then be sent your way.

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Enjoy your holidays, and be sure to stock on nice postcards! :)

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Now that Eurovision is behind us, it’s time to vote for another popular European contest… the EUROPA stamps of the year!

EUROPA stamps 2017

The theme for 2017 is “Castles”, which might sound a bit boring at first, but wait until you see all the stamps! While some countries’ entries are very literal and spotlight their own fortifications or Unesco Heritage sites, others have taken a more lyrical approach to the subject, featuring sand, ice castles, or legendary castles from their countries’ tales…

So go cast your vote… and then leave a comment below, letting us know which country wins your heart this year! 🏰

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We’ve written about postboxes on the blog before, like the very old post office tree in South Africa, or the barrel postbox in the Galapagos… but did you know there’s a very special postbox in Utah that has its own Postcrossing account?

Yup, you read that right! Her name is M (aka MthePostBox), and she lives in South Jordan (a leafy suburb of Salt Lake City), together with Sir Owen, a telephone booth which functions as a free library. They love postcards and books respectively — and when we stumbled on their profile, we found their story so charming that we just had to invite them for the blog. 😊

Sir Owen and M

Sir Owen and M

Could you introduce yourselves to the community?

M: Certainly! I am Dame Mavis Margaret, although my friends all call me 'M’. I was named after two female code breakers at Bletchley Park during World War II. Have you ever seen the movie, “The Imitation Game”? That was the place. There were around 10,000 people working to break codes in secret during those years (and that’s just the people! There were also telephone boxes, telegraphs, post boxes, and a not insignificant number of spy pigeons — but that’s another story). As an anthropomorphised Post Box, I came into service in 1941.

Mavis Batey

Mavis Batey, a code breaker at Bletchley Park during WWII, and one of M’s namesakes.

Sir Owen: I am Sir Owen St. George, named after the Royal Librarian of Kings George V, VI, and the first years of Queen Elizabeth II. As an anthropomorphised telephone box I came into service in 1936, and also got involved in the code breaking efforts during the war. M. and I first worked together at Bletchley, then stayed in intermittent contact after the war — she stayed in England, while I immigrated to Las Vegas, Nevada in the United States in the 1970s, (though still in the capacity of a functioning telephone box — I wasn’t decommissioned until the early 2000s).

What is South Jordan like? And how did you end up there?

Sir Owen: South Jordan is just lovely — it’s located about 25 km southwest of Salt Lake City, the capital city of Utah. As a former farming community that has become increasingly developed and suburban, there are plenty of parks and open spaces, though some neighbourhoods can be quite spread out and not feel very walkable. Everyone seems to favour their Sport Utility Vehicle or Minivan!

Which leads to how I happened to relocate to South Jordan. My stewards had wanted a Little Free Library or neighbourhood book swap for several years: an opportunity to share their love of books and reading, but also to provide a reason for families, friends, and neighbours in the community to get out walking, interact, and share a smile. And what can do that better than free books in a British telephone box? They investigated having one restored and shipped from England, but when they happened upon me outside a Las Vegas antique store, it was an ideal match for all of us.

Sir Owen without M

Sir Owen without M. Doesn’t he look a bit lonely?

M: Sir Owen relocated to Utah and began his days as a Little Free Library in August of 2015. He enjoyed his new surroundings so much that he asked if I might consider joining him. I had been retired for some years at that point, but know that whatever our age or position, we can all find new purpose and be useful. I immigrated in mid 2016, and my stewards finally had my brickwork completed last October.

How did you find out about Postcrossing? What made you stay?

M: I must thank one of my patrons! My stewards originally had postcards made up to enable Sir Owen’s and my visitors to send a kind note to a friend, but then one of our patrons pointed me to the Postcrossing website. Imagine being able to do a similar thing with people all across the world! I remember wondering what I would say that could possibly be interesting enough to fill up a whole postcard. But reading about the person to whom I’m sending a postcard (or from whom I’ve received one), and possibly finding a point of commonality and connection, it helps me realise that no matter our backgrounds, we have so much in common with and so much to learn from each other. And that’s what makes me stay. 😊

Do you have a favourite postcard you’ve received?
Postcard Selection

Sampling of postcards that M has received.

M: I have received so many wonderful and beautiful postcards! Honestly the ones I remember the most are the ones where someone shares something about themselves or why they chose the particular card they sent. A lovely Postcrosser (and self-proclaimed “Crazy Cat Lady” 😀 ) in Switzerland recently sent me a postcard she had made which included a picture of her cat who lived over 16 years! Our library cat Locutus also turns 16 this year, which gave us each a chance to connect and reflect on our benevolent feline overlords.

Locutus the Library Cat

Locutus the Library Cat will occasionally deign to visit, if treats are provided.

Do you do anything special with the cards you receive?
World Map Mural

A world map mural, perfect for marking all the postcards sent and received.

M: My stewards have a large (2 meters x 3 meters) world map mural in the family office. Each postcard sent and received gets a small sticky tab showing were it was received from (or sent to), the number of days it took to be delivered, and distance sent. Their children love learning about the geography and cultural details of so many people across the globe! I also feature many postcards that I’ve received on Sir Owen’s Instagram account, which helps share the Postcrossing fun with his followers in the Little Free Library and larger “Bookstagram” community (which, perhaps unsurprisingly, includes a lot of existing Postcrossers and has convinced others to join!).

Do you get many visitors everyday?
Halloween Visitors

Halloween visitors.

Sir Owen: Yes! Although technically located on my stewards’ property, they intentionally located us next to a walking path that many children use to go to and from the local primary school. My stewards try to keep my shelves stocked with a good selection of books, but there are also other reasons to stop by — free bookmarks and treats, colouring pages, doggie treats, and of course blank postcards to send to a friend! If patrons address them and place them in M, my stewards will even affix postage and mail them via USPS on their behalf. Sir Owen Freebies

Various surprises for patrons. Oh, and don’t forget a book while you’re here!

Visitor Notes

Visitors love leaving Sir Owen and M (and each other) notes on the windows when they visit.

How does the free library work?

Sir Owen: While the motto of a Little Free Library is “Take a Book, Leave a Book”, there’s no expectation that you have to leave a book in order to take one. The purpose is to share the love of reading and build community! If you like a book that you take, you can keep it forever. Or you can share it with a friend, or even return it to another Little Free Library in a different neighbourhood. Similarly if patrons have books they’ve enjoyed that they’d like to share with others, they can place them in my returns and donations bin under my bottom shelf (emblazoned with the Union Jack, of course).

Sir Owen s Rules

Sir Owen’s Rules. The first rule is by far the most important.

I have five shelves organized roughly by age, from picture books on the bottom shelf for children, up through primary and secondary school, young adult, and books for grown-ups. While most of my selections are donated, my stewards also enjoy curating books to ensure I have a good selection for all reading levels (one steward has become quite familiar with the local thrift stores), as well as for particular holidays and themes throughout the year. My favourite celebration? Banned Books Week — celebrated the last week in September every year with the American Library Association. I’ve rediscovered classics and found so many new and interesting ideas that way!

Is M a normal mailbox, still in use by USPS? And is there a phone in the phone booth? :)

M: I am merely decorative as far as the USPS is concerned, as I would have to have the words 'U.S. Mail’ stamped or painted on me to serve in any official capacity. However I did have the great honour of serving as an official letter drop for Santa Claus this past Christmas! Not only did I get to help deliver them, but every child who wrote also received a return postcard from Mrs. Claus stamped from the North Pole. I have also occasionally been mistaken as a book return. 😊

Santa Letter Drop

M loved being an official drop-off for letters to Santa this past Christmas.

Christmas Morning

Christmas morning!

Checking M for Postcards

The youngest child of Sir Owen and M’s stewards loves checking M every day for new postcards to mail for patrons.

Sir Owen: I no longer feature a telephone; that leaves more room for books! However about a week after I opened, a kindly gentleman visited me and gave me a frame that had once housed the emergency telephone in a lift. As you saw above, I use it now to welcome patrons and explain what a Little Free Library is.

Finally, any plans for the future?

Sir Owen and M: Why, books, reading, and Postcrossing of course! Our stewards also think there might be a faerie garden in our future, as well as a couple of other surprises still in the works. One of our stewards says that if he could figure out how to pay the bills by purchasing books at thrift stores and then giving them away for free, he’d retire and steward for us full time (well, that and tend the royal beehives 😊 ). Our other steward (by far the more handy of the two) enjoys creating amazing projects for us in her growing wood shop (such as Sir Owen’s bookshelves, and our brand new bench featured in the first picture above!). Sir Owen and I plan on being here happily giving people a chance to slow down, share a smile, and build community, both in our local neighbourhood and across the world.

Thank you Ana for letting us share our story!

Thank you guys for this wonderful interview! I wish we lived closer to South Jordan, to pay M and Sir Owen a visit and sit on their bench for a while…

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