Theme G, M, A
We all have opinions, ideas and feelings that
we would like
to share but sometimes it is difficult to talk about them.
Writing a letter can be a better way to say what you think.
• Those related to the theme of the
• To encourage participants to express
their views and feelings
• To promote empathy and understanding
about differing points of view about a particular issue
• To encourage participation by members
of the group who find it hard to speak in front of others
• To start discussion about solidarity,
equality and mutual respect.
This activity should be done over one or
two days and fitted into a wider programme.
Part A: 30 minutes
Part B: 15 minutes
Part C: 30 minutes
Part D: 45 minutes
Group size: 5
• Pens and paper
• Access to a photocopier
Part A: Identify two or three participants
and ask them to write a personal letter to another member
of the group about a particular issue e.g. about being a
member of a minority, racism, Europe, injustice etc. The
letters should end with an invitation to reply for example,
"What do you think about it?", "Can you help
me with this?", "What is your opinion?"
Part B: At the beginning of the next
session, ask the writers to read their letters to the
Part C: Ask the people to whom the
letters were addressed write their replies.
Part D: At the end of the session
or the next time the group meets ask the recipients to read
out their replies.
Debriefing and evaluation
Start the discussion by asking the participants
who wrote the letters to say what they learned from the
activity and then ask the rest of the group to say what
they learned from listening to them. Continue the discussion
with the whole group about the issues that were raised in
Tips for the facilitator
This activity provides an excellent opportunity
for people to think clearly about what they feel or want
to say about an issue. It provides an opportunity for participants
who have difficulties expressing themselves verbally to
contribute to the group discussion. In this way the activity
helps generate very positive group feelings and promotes
personal understanding. It may also be useful when dealing
with conflicts in the group.
This exercise works with any type of group
but it functions particularly well with international groups.
The theme for the letters should be related
to the purpose of the session. For example, if the issue
is 'violence' then the starting point could be a recent
event such as conflicts between different youth groups,
a violent attack on somebody, a police raid on a Roma (Gypsy
or traveller) camp, etc.
Part A: Your choice of the first
writers should be made so as to take into account the diversity
of the group e.g. one person from the majority and another
from the minority; different kinds of minorities; a female
and male, etc.
It is important that those writing the letters
know who each other are so that they do not write to one
another but target other members of the group.
While participants should be told to make
the letters as personal as possible, it must be left to
them to decide to what extent they do so. 'Personal' in
this context means that the participants should somehow
be able to identify with the issues, or that these are particularly
pertinent to them.
One difficulty with this activity may be
that some participants may feel that they 'cannot write'.
They may need to be encouraged. It is very useful to hand
out photocopies of the letters written in part A to each
member of the group.
Suggestions for follow up
Write letters about something that concerns
you. Send them to the appropriate authorities, politicians
or local papers. Make sure your views are known and help
Prisoners are people who need friends to
write to them. Perhaps the group would like to consider
doing this. They could find out more, particularly about
what it is like to be a prisoner on death row by doing the
tomorrow comes' in Compass. It raises issues about the
right to life and the right not to be subjected to cruel,
inhuman or degrading treatment.
It is not easy to start writing letters.
It may help the group to discuss some fictitious letters
first. They could try discussing what they would write to
the young people who wrote the 'Stories
told by young people', section 4 of Domino.
Writing letters isn't easy. It can be very
hard to say exactly what you mean, you have to choose your
words carefully. If you are interested you could try 'White
future' which is an activity to explore the origins
of words and how, by association, their meaning changes.