SUNSHINE Letters founder Ailish Ryan is calling on the community to take a little time and brighten the day of those most in need of a little sunshine.
The 12-year-old has teamed up with Wendouree MP Juliana Addison to collect people's Sunshine Letters during the coronavirus pandemic and keep distributing them to the city's homeless and vulnerable people.
Sunshine Letters aim to add a little warmth and happiness to a recipient's day and are primarily handed out to people via Ballarat Soup Bus.
Ailish started her letter-writing movement two years ago, when in grade four at Emmaus Primary School, having first made a pitch to her social justice teacher. She had learned how a kind card or drawing could make a big difference to someone else's day.
This was a way Ailish could help ensure people in need could feel acknowledged.
Ailish said in uncertain times, it was even more important to help others.
And so, Ailish is still writing.
"It doesn't take you long to write a letter with a few words," Ailish said.
"I've been at the Soup Bus when they have been handed out. Some people cry and say they're really nice. Some people ask if I know the person who wrote it because they just want to let them know thank you."
Some people ask if I know the person who wrote it because they just want to let them know thank you.Ailish Ryan, Sunshine Letters founder
Sunshine Letters started with a yellow letterbox, built by Ailish's dad, at her school. Yuille Park students built her two more to help collect more letters from the wider community - one has been in Ms Addison's office.
Most people start their letter with the words 'dear friend', then include a few words about what makes them happy. Other people make a drawing.
Ailish's friend Ale, who lives in Italy, sent a picture of a big whale in a deep, dark ocean lifting up a little boat.
English is not Ale's first language but he described his picture as the boat being all alone but the whale, representing community, had come along and was lifting the boat up, carrying a person in need in the ocean.
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Ailish made sure the Soup Bus gave Ale's picture to someone special who needed it most.
Ailish and her Sunshine Letters campaign has featured in the Compassion Walk at Lake Wendouree. She has also been named a Ballarat Health Services compassion hero and her work has been spoken about in state parliament and in community churches.
Mostly, Ailish wanted people to know the letters still mattered. Sunshine Letters can be mailed care of Juliana Addison at PO Box 551, Ballarat, 3353 during the pandemic. You can also follow @sunshinelettercampaign on Instagram.
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