The Pen Pal Project

Hi there! How’s it going? We hope you’re doing well! If you’re reading this, there’s a chance that you’re interested in getting involved on our latest lockdown-inspired idea, but you probably have questions like…

What is The Pen Pal Project? 

Good Question! Well, during this time of isolation, we have been looking for ways to keep spirits high across our community. We’ve been sharing daily stories on Twitter, we’ve asked you to pick your African Literary Lockdown House, we reimagined Chimamanda as hand sanitisers, and now, we’re inviting you to write a letter to a complete stranger!

You probably interact with strangers all the time and, thanks to social media, most of us are still interacting with strangers on a daily basis – but how often do we take time out to have meaningful exchanges with people we’ve never met? Hardly ever, right? So, knowing that our community is spread across the world and people are dealing with the lockdown in completely different ways, we thought this would be a great time to promote human connection through personal stories.

So, how does it work? 

Another good question! Well, all you have to do is write a letter and send it in to us. It’s literally as simple as that. You write a letter, and you will receive a letter from a complete stranger on Monday, 1st June.

We thought long and hard about how to do the pairing and we thought it would be fun to link it back to our Lockdown House idea. When you send in your letter, let us know your chosen house, and we’ll use your selection to match you up with one of your ‘virtual housemates.’

We don’t want to be too prescriptive, but to make this exchange as meaningful and impactful as possible, we would love for your letter to include answers to the below questions:

  • Who are you? (How would you introduce yourself to a new friend? What is your ‘story’? Feel free – and not obliged – to share your age, occupation and country of origin, but remember to add some personality. What do you do for fun? Why did you pick your chosen lockdown house? What’s your favourite TV show? Jollof or Pilau? Include anything that expresses who you are!)
  • How has the lockdown affected your day-to-day life?
  • Do you have any tips for staying motivated and encouraged during this season?

Entry Guidelines:

  • All entries must be emailed to as Microsoft Word attachments.
  • Please put “The Pen Pal Project – Your Full Name – Lockdown House Number” in the subject line.
  • If you’re participating with a friend, try to pick a different lockdown house so we don’t pair you up.
  • Please aim for around 400-500 words (you wouldn’t want someone to just send you a sentence, would you?)
  • Please conclude your letter with your email address.*
  • Deadline: Friday, 29th May – 23.59 BST.

Any questions, let us know in the comments!

*by participating in this project, you agree to your email address being shared with one other project participant.