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Oregon Humanities’ ‘Dear Stranger’ project creates connections through the mail, with a twist

Oregon Humanities

By exchanging letters with someone you've never met

PORTLAND, Ore. (KTVZ) — The challenges of recent years have left many Oregonians feeling disconnected and alone: COVID, strident partisanship, and deepening social divides all make it harder to connect with others. Dear Stranger, a letter-exchange project from Oregon Humanities, offers a chance for connection by inviting Oregonians to write letters with someone they’ve never met.

Oregon Humanities is a statewide organization that brings people together to talk, listen, and learn from one another. "Dear Stranger asks us to intentionally reflect and share about our experiences,” says Lucy Solares-Steger, the coordinator at Oregon Humanities who runs the Dear Stranger project. “While at first this can be daunting or challenging, many letter writers find that they’re able to work through these experiences by writing them out, and through this, make a really impactful connection with another person."

The aim of Dear Stranger is to create shared understanding among Oregonians with different backgrounds, experiences, and beliefs. The premise is simple: Write a letter, get a letter, and make a new connection. Oregon Humanities has operated Dear Stranger since 2014, with each round of the project asking writers to address a different question or theme. More than one thousand Oregonians have exchange letters through the project to date.

This summer’s prompt for writers is about memory: “Who or what should we remember? How do you make new memories, and how do you process old ones? When do you choose to document them, and when do you hold them internally?”

Instructions for participation are available on the Oregon Humanities website at oregonhumanities.org. Letters are swapped anonymously, and each person receives a letter from the person who received the one they wrote. What happens next is up to the writers. If they’d like to write back, they can do so through Oregon Humanities.

Letters should be addressed to Oregon Humanities, Attn: Dear Stranger, 610 SW Alder St., Suite 1111, Portland, Oregon, 97205. Oregon Humanities will exchange letters mailed by October 31, 2022.

Questions about Dear Stranger should be directed to programs@oregonhumanities.org.

Oregon Humanities connects people and communities through conversation, storytelling, and participatory programs to inspire understanding and collaborative change. More information about our programs and publications—which include the Conversation Project, Consider This, Humanity in Perspective, Public Program Grants, So Much Together, and Oregon Humanities magazine—can be found at oregonhumanities.org. Oregon Humanities is an independent, nonprofit affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities and a partner of the Oregon Cultural Trust.

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