A 21-year-old from Devon, England, who was left cut off from the world due to illness, has started the Rainbow Cards project to help the world’s LGBT+ community overcome loneliness, especially during the holiday season.
Ellis Roberts-Wright – who is transgender and bisexual – launched the project from his home in Axminster with the idea to send Christmas cards to LGBTQ+ people who have been disowned by their own families.
Five years ago, Ellis was bed bound with ME, unable to move, brush their own teeth or even hold a conversation.
Ellis was cut off from the world, and depended on parents for everything – they even needed to be spoon fed. Instead of talking, Ellis’ friends sent letters – “even though I couldn’t send them back”.
The comfort Ellis took from the letters is one of the main reasons why they decided to start a GoFundMe to kickstart the Rainbow Cards project.
Ellis said: “When I came out as bisexual I was overwhelmed by how supportive my parents were and it made me think about the people who aren’t supported.”
The idea caught on, and Ellis ended up sending 4,000 cards to people in 35 countries last year. This year, they are planning to send even more.
“I think the youngest person I’ve sent a card to was 13. Fifty is the oldest,” Ellis said.
“The majority are in America but some are in countries where it’s illegal to be gay. There’s a lot of people from religious backgrounds, a lot of people from the bible belt. There are also quite a lot in Britain.
“I get emails from people or a card thanking me. But it’s for them, it’s not about me,” he said. “There are a lot of people who say ‘this is the only card I’ve gotten.’ I’ve had so many people tell me they cried when they got it. A couple of people said it saved their lives because they felt so isolated.
“For trans recipients it’s quite a big thing. A lot of them don’t have people in their life who call them by their own name, or address them by the right pronoun.”
People can sign up to become a recipient through a form on the project’s website therainbowcardsproject.org. They can also sign up to write cards, which go to a PO box address. Ellis processes the cards and sends them to the addresses, which are kept private.
“I don’t give out addresses. My main focus is on safety. I wanted people from unsafe situations to be able to sign up without any fear,” Ellis said.
“I knew all the cards would have to come through me, so I’d need a PO box.”
“When the project is in the press I get a lot of ‘why are you doing this, there’s much bigger problems in the world’. I think people don’t really understand people not getting Christmas cards is a symptom of a much larger rejection.
“It’s not the Christmas cards, it’s that their family doesn’t love and support them anymore.”