Firefly Project’s Medical Students and Penpals

Firefly Project’s Medical Students and Penpals
A Lump in the Road column I’m waiting for a letter, and it’s going to be here any day now. Not an email. Not a bill. Not a catalog. A real letter, written just for me by a real person, a person I don’t even know yet. Firefly is a project of the Art for Recovery Program at the University of California San Francisco, and it connects UCSF medical students and Bay Area teens with patients who have serious illnesses. I learned about it when I was at the hospital with breast cancer, and through it, I was matched with amazing students with whom I corresponded over the course of a school year. At the program's end, I got to meet my penpals in a healing ceremony facilitated by UCSF’s Art for Recovery staff. By the time we met in person, I felt like I knew them well, and it was fun to see what my penpals looked like compared to how I had visualized them, sort of like meeting a character in a book. Now that a new year is underway, a fresh batch of students will participate, and I am so excited to correspond with a few of them. Cynthia Perlis, the program's founder, has brought students and patients together for more than 20 years. She is one of those rare individuals whose compassion is matched only by her determination and intelligence, and this combination makes her uniquely effective in her quest to help others. The idea started when she was working at the hospital with cancer and HIV patients, and, sitting at their bedside, she experienced first-hand their loneliness and isolation.
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