“Look on the bright side, there will be one”
Pearl, Pen Pal
Fall into Place have been running the Pens to Pals scheme for the past six months. This project is about connecting older people with children as penpals, as part of the Time to Shine programme.
This project was coming to a close when Covid 19 hit. I was feeling very worried about all our groups when this happened. Naomi and I set up Fall into Place to reduce social isolation and increase wellbeing by bringing people together through drama and other creative activities. How were we going to keep that going when we all had to be isolated?!
We held an emergency meeting where we discussed how we could carry on human connection and creativity without meeting in person. One of the first things we thought of was the Pens to Pals project.
Writing a letter is a very special experience. It isn’t something you can do quickly, so it encourages people to take their time and put some thought into their words. I don’t know about you, but as an adult it’s also so exciting to receive a letter that is handwritten, and isn’t a bill or junk mail!
So we asked school children to write a letter and email it to us or post it to Kentmere Community Centre where we are based. We received over 30 letters from children aged 5 to 11, which was amazing. Reading their lovely messages and seeing their colourful artwork made me beam from ear to ear, and we couldn’t wait to share them with their older penpals.
Getting the letters back and maintaining social distancing was an interesting challenge! We told our older pen-pals that we’d pick up the letters at a set day and time, and asked them to push them part way through the letter box. It felt very exciting going to people’s houses and finding a letter there – like we were spies receiving secret messages! We did have the odd mishap – one lady left her letter on the garden wall and it flew away in the breeze – I wonder if anyone found it!
Reading the older people’s letters back, it was clear how much joy the children’s letters had brought. A few older people also rang up Seacroft Friends and Neighbours (who kindly helped us to identify which older people might most benefit from a letter) to say how delighted they were to read their letter.
Two of our matched pen-pals were school child Taylor Jay, and Pearl, an older resident, both living in Seacroft but never having met. They kindly agreed to let us share their letters, so here they are below.
It’s been a real privilege to be able to keep people connected through letter writing. We can’t wait to see what the children say in their next letters! Perhaps some new, cross generational friendships will blossom out of these difficult circumstances. As Pearl says, that would certainly be the bright side of this.
If you’d like to get involved in the PenPal project, you can write a letter and post it to:
Fall into Place, Kentmere Community Centre, Kentmere Avenue, Seacroft, LS14 1BW
or email us your letter: firstname.lastname@example.org
Prompt Questions to help you with your letter:
What your favourite hobbies are
Your favourite subject at school
What your favourite food is
What you do to take care of yourself during the isolation
(Please do not include any personal information in your letter such as your home address or mobile number. This is just to keep you safe.)
We need for home address to send a letter back to but please keep this separate from your main letter.