Young connect with seniors as ‘pen pals’

Penpals from yallambee village, Revesby - Stanley Dunn, Laura Lester, Marie Longley, Kathleen Pont, Steve Hall Photo by Radim Cechvala

A LARGELY forgotten skill in an age of texts and emails, primary school students and seniors are putting pen to paper and reviving the art of writing letters.

Coolaburoo Neighbourhood Centre manager Rossana Umansky says their new intergenerational project, ‘Pen Pals’, encourages children from local schools to write letters to seniors in nursing homes.
Students from St Therese Primary School in Padstow and Revesby Public School, are already exchanging letters with seniors from the Yallambee Retirement Village and South Haven Aged Care.
“The project has already started and has had an amazing response from both seniors and children,” Ms Umansky said.

Originally trained as a journalist, Coolaburoo child and family worker Deanna Wilson admits she is passionate about the art of letter writing and says the Pen Pals program was created because there was a need for intergenerational communication within the local community.
“We wanted kids to take a step back from their screens and we wanted older members of the community to understand the kids of today,” she said.
“There are many residents who were initially hesitant to write as they didn’t know what to say, and now they are drawing pictures, asking for special nicknames and planning to meet each other.
“The letters shared between pen pals are truly inspiring.
“Residents are encouraging the children to follow their dreams and are giving career advice.
“One resident even discussed his biggest regret which was taking up smoking, and asked his young pen pal to not make the same mistake.”
She said the program allowed members of the community to have their voices heard and their stories shared.
Funded by the Revesby Workers’ Club through ClubGrants, Ms Wilson says she also delivers the program to Coolaburoo’s Revesby Friendship, Mosaics and PiKassos groups, with many of the staff and volunteers also involved.