I was moved by the number of people who showed up to walk with residential school survivors on the first official National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Manitoba. Supporters came by the hundreds to walk from The Forks to St. Johns Park on Sept. 30.

I was moved by the number of people who showed up to walk with residential school survivors on the first official National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Manitoba. Supporters came by the hundreds to walk from The Forks to St. Johns Park on Sept. 30.

The day after, I was still feeling those emotions of positivity and hoping this strong momentum would be carried out through the year. I knew from being involved with previous residential school events that once the publicity dies down, the message of healing and reconciliation dies with it. The public loses interest.

I wanted to start an initiative to try to carry that message forward, even if just in a small way, and I came up with Postcards for Reconciliation. I would have people send postcards to me at my post-office box (P.O. Box 16015, Centennial PO, Winnipeg, MB, R3A 0B1), including messages that explain how they plan to carry the torch of reconciliation throughout the year or how that Sept. 30 day affected them.

I posted the idea on my Facebook page and did a radio interview on CBC about my project. People enjoyed the idea and it began to get shares on my social media page.

The other reason I wanted to receive postcards is because I am a residential school survivor myself. In residential school at Christmas time, the children were usually sent back home to spend the holidays with their families. However, one Christmas my sisters and I were not picked up by our parents. Instead, we were shipped off to Winnipeg to spend the holiday with church families.

An older church lady had taken me in for the holidays. It was rather fun spending Christmas with her. I even got to spend time with my sisters. There was lots of good food. I felt safe.

Then my sisters and I returned back to the Cecilia Jeffery residential school in Kenora, Ont. A few weeks later the housemother called my name out, telling me there was a package for me.

I was surprised to hear my name being called and even more surprised that there was a package for me. The package contained little red hearts of candy from that church lady in Winnipeg. No letters, because I couldn’t read very well yet.

To have my name called out and to have a personal package made me very special. It was one of my very few good memories of residential school.

I got my first postcard a week-and-a-half after I put the call out — a postcard from Winnipeg. I was so excited to see it in my post-office box. I could see it sitting inside, but I hesitated to pull it out to look at it. Words of reconciliation sent to me personally. Thoughts of the church lady’s package when I was at residential school came to mind. I felt special.

I pulled out the letter and read it as I walked about the store. It was a homemade postcard — even more special. The words "I will listen, and I will confront racism. I will do my best to work towards reconciliation" were written on the back, words that were encouraging to read from the writer. It was a good start to my Postcards for Reconciliation project.

Over the next couple of weeks, I received more postcards, and even a long letter. I loved looking at the pictures of where they were from. I even received one from as far away as California. Each card had a positive message about how the sender would carry the message of reconciliation. Each writer shared with me on a personal level their commitment and how they’d been persuaded to walk this path.

Each postcard sent to me was like a seed being planted, seeds of reconciliation to a residential school survivor, seeds that will grow into actions that will continue, for myself and others.

Today and all the tomorrows.

Vivian Ketchum is a member of Wauzhushk Onigum First Nation. She is an award-winning freelance writer, digital story teller and photographer. Vivian was born in Kenora and is from the Treaty 3 area. She is the youngest of six children, all of whom attended residential school. Her parents also attended residential school. Vivian began writing as a way to empower herself and to raise awareness of social issues. Over the past 30 years her voice has only gotten stronger and clearer.

fpcity@freepress.mb.ca