It may be ‘old-school’ but for hundreds of COVID-19 isolated Australians, receiving a handwritten letter is helping them find new friends and a new lease on life.
Handwritten notes and drawings from strangers have been a saviour for hundreds of seniors during lockdown, but while restrictions are easing in some areas, communities are being urged not to forget about their most vulnerable.
Jo Winwood, from Be Someone For Someone – the charity that launched the 1,000 Notes of friendship campaign, said the incredible uptake, which saw the target of 1,000 letters achieved in record time, showed the appetite of the community to forge important connections with isolated seniors and the joy that the program had created for both the sender and recipient.
She said that while some were experiencing loneliness for the first time because of the pandemic, many, many more seniors face isolation day after day, perhaps because of ill health, disability, location, lack of transport or caring responsibilities.
‘For some seniors, loneliness is a challenge they faced long before coronavirus, and it’s not going to go away,’ she said.
‘Now, 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
‘Letters have been coming in thick and fast since restrictions were introduced.
‘We’ve been lucky enough to see first-hand the difference these letters have made to those sending and receiving them.
‘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.
‘There are so many people suffering and human connection in any form is the cure.’
Maureen Hore, 73, said she was thrilled to receive a letter from Cassia Cruz and her children, Reef and Piper, 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.’
Incredible feedback from families, schools and kindergartens
Ms Winwood said there was a lot to be gained by everyone who participates 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.’
Be Someone For Someone will post the card to a senior. If you’d like the opportunity of a return letter, include your address.
People can hand-write a card, letter or poem, or draw or paint a picture. Leaving a return address is optional and return letters can’t be guaranteed.
1,000 Notes of Friendship Campaign
PO Box 585
For more information visit https://besomeoneforsomeone.org/1000-notes-of-friendship/