British Columbia

Dear Canadians postcard project aims to capture the pandemic moment

People from across Canada are writing heartfelt digital postcards on the website Dear Canadians, a project started by a pair of Victoria siblings.

The project has partnered with Historica Canada, which will store some of the postcards in the archives

Jasper Johnston and Aysha Emmerson created the Dear Canadians project to help people express themselves and feel a sense of community with other Canadians during the pandemic. (Submitted by Jasper Johnston)

People across Canada are writing heartfelt digital postcards from the pandemic, some of which will be memorialized in the national archives in a project started by a pair of Victoria siblings.

Aysha Emmerson and Jasper Johnston, who are currently living and studying abroad, came up with the idea for Dear Canadians.

Emmerson, a student in resiliance studies at Harvard University, was inspired by a similar concept developed at the school called Dear Harvard, in which students who were "exiled" from campus due to the pandemic could write digital messages to each other. 

"We came across this Dear Harvard project ... and we began to think, 'think big' and think about how this could be applied to the Canadian context," Emmerson said.

An example of one of the postcards submitted by Canadians for the Dear Canadians postcard project. (Submitted by Jasper Johnston)

Emmerson, Johnston — a graduate student at Oxford University — and a group of the siblings' friends worked together to create a version for Canada. 

"We experienced this palpable sense of togetherness and community and that was really encapsulated through the 7 o'clock cheer," said Emmerson, referring to the public's daily recognition of health-care workers. "So we wanted to think about how that kind of energy and togetherness and solidarity could be sustained."

The website officially launched on July 1. Anyone can upload a short message and a picture that is meaningful to them or choose from a selection of available photographs. The digital "postcard" is reviewed by the team before being posted on the website for anyone to read.

Johnston said that project spread through word of mouth and endorsements from organizations and influencers.

"It was sort of a snowball factor where we saw more and more cards coming in from every single province and we were very fortunate to have Historica Canada come on board and connect with us," said Johnston.

Historica Canada, a charitable organization dedicated to the preservation of Canada's history and perhaps most well known for the Heritage Minutes commercials, has made a commitment to incorporate and store some of the digital postcards in the national archives.

The full team behind the Dear Canadians postcard project (from top left to bottom right): Jasper Johnston, Katherine Lou, Aysha Emmerson, Vicky Xu, Sophie Webster, Lara Teich, and Rob Walker. (Submitted by Jasper Johnston)

Some of the postcards have expressed sentiments of gratitude and reflection on what issues Canadians are facing today, said Emmerson. 

She says she would encourage people to participate in the project for a chance to be a part of history.

"Your voice matters. Your voice is a part of history. We want to hear from you and your future self wants to hear from you, too," she said.

The project has the support of Historica Canada, which will incorporate and store some of the digital postcards in the national archives. (Submitted by Jasper Johnston)

"This is a really great way for people to come together across different backgrounds and share a little piece of themselves and benefit from the warmth of that collective strength," Emmerson added. 

To check out the digital postcards, or write your own, you can visit dearcanadians.ca

With files from All Points West

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

now