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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Pen pals just the write cure for pandemic loneliness

A charity’s call for pen pals for lonely Seniors during the COVID-19 pandemic is celebrating an important milestone.

The charity, Be Someone For Someone, launched its ‘1,000 Notes of Friendship’ campaign to encourage old-fashioned communication during the health crisis, with many Australians confined to their homes to observe public health measures.

Those taking up the challenge were asked to write and send a heartfelt note, poem or letter to ‘be someone for someone’ during the health crisis.

Head of Be Someone For Someone, Jo Winwood (pictured) said the charity saw an incredible uptake of the idea, with the target of 1,000 letters achieved in record time.

“For some Seniors, loneliness is a challenge they faced long before coronavirus, and it’s not going to go away,” she said.

“Because of the pandemic, many people have realised the importance of taking time to make meaningful connections with others, and we want to make sure this becomes a permanent way of thinking.

“Letters have been coming in thick and fast since restrictions were introduced.”

She said it had been a privilege to see first-hand the difference the letters have made to the lives of Australians – for both the writers and the recipients.

“There are so many people suffering and human connection in any form is the cure.”

She said that while some were experiencing loneliness for the first time during the pandemic, many more Seniors faced isolation day after day because of ill health, disability, location, a lack of transport or caring responsibilities.

“We are passionate about continuing to spread the magic by facilitating the chance for people to keep up these lovely connections, after we are back to normal. For this reason, we will carry on our letter writing program permanently.”

Maureen Hore, 73, (pictured, above) said she was thrilled to receive a letter from Cassia Cruz and her children, Reef and Piper (pictured, below) who have vowed to be ongoing pen pals.

“I’m disabled and live alone with my two Jack Russell dogs, so it has been really nice to get to know another family,” Ms Hore said.

“My only child lives in America with his wife, and I usually go over to visit for a couple of months at Christmas each year, but I expect I will have to miss this year due to coronavirus.

“I have been visiting them every year since they married in 2011, so this year will be different and difficult, so it’s great to know I have support if I need it.”

Ms Winwood said there was a lot to be gained by everyone who participated in the program.

“We’ve had incredible feedback from families, schools and kindergartens where important lessons have been learned,” she said.

“By discussing what the recipients of letters may be going through, children are learning to have empathy for others, understanding how loneliness can impact people and discovering all the benefits of a meaningful relationship between the younger and older generation.

“One teacher reported that many children in their class do not have grandparents or seniors around their families and it was so important for them to understand what it means to grow older.

“We’ve also heard of some beautiful stories of friendship as a result of this program, including one family who was able to re-connect with their Great Uncle.

“Another resident was brought to tears upon opening her letter, which was signed by a lady called Darlene. She told us she had a young daughter named Darlene who had died from cancer and the letter had been a lovely reminder for her and the late Darlene’s siblings.

“The letters have been distributed to seniors in the community as well as residents in Aged Care, and I know a number of letter writers that have received beautiful return letters – starting a wonderful new connection between the generations.”

With the campaign now finding a permanent home with the charity, Jo said people can hand-write a card, letter or poem, or draw or paint a picture, and send to the 1,000 Notes of Friendship for distribution.

If you would like to get involved in the campaign, the address to send your letter/note/poem/drawing is:

1,000 Notes of Friendship Campaign
PO Box 585
Byron Bay
NSW 2481

For more information on the campaign, visit https://besomeoneforsomeone.org/1000-notes-of-friendship/

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