Dear St Crispin ...
A pen pal project between our retirement living customers and local school children has proved invaluable during the many weeks of lockdown and restrictions on gatherings and visiting.
Customers living at St Crispin retirement village, Duston and pupils from neighbouring St Luke’s Church of England Primary began corresponding about two years ago as part of the School of Life initiative with Voluntary Impact Northamptonshire.
The young letter-writers were then invited to meet their pen pals at St Crispin’s and this led on to regular visits and participation in shared activities including a weekly reading club.
So when lockdown descended, St Crispin’s activities co-ordinator Anna King was quick to ensure the established relationship was not lost.
“After a week or so of huge uncertainty and upheaval, it was clear we needed to keep our inter-generational community bond going to reduce loneliness for our residents and try to avoid the poor mental health associated with social isolation,” explained Anna.
“So we set-to re-establishing our pen pal pledges to keep spirits high during these challenging times.”
The first letter received was from football-loving pupil Tom who got back a reply from our customer Bill.
“Tom is a Man City supporter so I wrote back about football and The Cobblers, our local team in Northampton," said Bill. "It was lovely to be sent the letter. Small gestures like this can really make a difference to someone’s life, both young and old.”
Sonia Clews, head teacher of St Luke’s school, added: “The pen pal project enables our children to write for a purpose and to a different audience. The children enjoy writing to the residents, and it is good for us as a school to be able to explain to them the importance of writing.
“They love to receive letters back and there is always a sense of excitement when they read the responses.
“In addition to the letters the children really enjoyed going over to the retirement village and reading with the residents before social distancing began. They have always returned beaming with the interaction they have had, and they know they have made a difference to the residents they visit.”
Anna added: “What is clear is that despite the age gaps, we need each other more than ever – whether that’s a Zoom, Skype or FaceTime conversation, phone call or a good old-fashioned letter.”