UIW Students Sharing Joy One Postcard at a Time

April 17, 2020

San Antonio – For most it is the kind of communication that is almost an afterthought. It’s a small message to family and friends during a scenic vacation or a quick save-the-date reminder for an important occasion. But, at a time when human interaction seems so hard to come by, something as simple as sending a small postcard is taking on much bigger meaning. At least according to some students at the University of the Incarnate Word who have taken on the role of what you might call Postcard Ambassadors.

“I heard about the postcard project from the Ettling Center for Civic Leadership and Sustainability website,” says Belen Cabrera-Sanchez, a UIW senior. “I chose to participate in the postcard project because I'm all about expressing my gratitude to anyone who is out there trying to help the world and make it a better place and I'm all about sharing some encouraging, supporting words to those in need and I saw this as a great opportunity to do just that.”

The postcard project is one of many service initiatives being offered by the UIW Ettling Center for Civic Leadership and Sustainability as a way to help students be of service in a time when doing so in person is not only limited, but, for many students, almost impossible. The Ettling Center made the process simple. The cards are readily available electronically, the students fill them out with personal thoughts, and staff members at the Center print them out and send them.

“In our first week we received over 175 postcards from our students,” says Dr. Ricardo Gonzalez, Ettling Center director. “We even received interest from California State University Maritime Academy regarding this effort, of which they are now replicating. In short, it’s great to see that our students and the community is sharing how much they appreciate our local heroes from grocery store workers, to veterans, to senior citizens, to first responders.”

I had previously signed up to volunteer for two days at Habitat for Humanity but that didn't pan out due to COVID-19,” says Julie Doddato, a UIW senior.  “So I asked them if there were any other opportunities they knew of since a lot of volunteer opportunities were being taken away and they let me know about the postcard campaign. I read what the ask was and fell in love.”

While it is certainly not answering the call in the same way the founding Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word did, it is still answering the need for people to feel noticed, to feel appreciated, to feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves -- all in the form of a 4X6 card.

“I'll thank the first responders for their passion and commitment,” says Doddato. “For the kiddos, I'll let them know that we're rooting for them and wishing them a speedy recovery.  For the senior citizens, I'll let them know that we're thinking of them and to stay positive in all that's going on around them - they are definitely not forgotten!”

“I realize they are small gestures,” says Tyler Acosta, a UIW senior. “But I enjoy writing these postcards to the intended audience because, with everything going on in the world right now, it is important to spread some happiness to them. I am thanking the local heroes, first responders, and veterans who have served or are serving our community keeping us safe and comfortable in our everyday lives. And for the children in the hospitals, I try to express how strong and brave they are, and to never stop smiling and to know that they are surrounded by constant love and support as well.”

And that love and support goes well beyond the intended audiences of these mini-messages. It’s a feeling these ambassadors have for their fellow students as well.

“My message to students is to hold on to your faith,” says Jesse Oliver, a UIW senior. “And if your faith is beginning to wane ask our Lord Jesus Christ to strengthen you, for He is a very present help in trouble.”