Almost 50 students from leading independent school Millfield in Somerset have partnered with local care home residents on a virtual pen pal project to share letters and birthday cards during the pandemic.
Millfield’s ‘Pen Pals Plus’, which saw over 100 cards and letters delivered to six local care homes in the Street and Glastonbury area in its first two weeks, now includes over 83 residents.
Millfield students have regularly visited residents in local care homes for many years, organising tea parties and entertainment both at the homes and on the Millfield campus; however, the global pandemic has meant the students have had to get creative to continue their relationship with the residents.
In Autumn 2020, students from Millfield set up a support network for residents which saw them meet virtually under supervision with students from over 10 different countries and fundraised to buy a tablet for residents at Southlawns Care Home in Street. Art scholars from the school also created memory boards that were used to stimulate conversations.
Millfield Teacher and EAGLES volunteering organiser, Jo Szymkow, says, “Lockdown has been quite a difficult time for all of us, and some of the people who are the most isolated are also the most vulnerable. We all know how lovely it is to receive a card or letter, and this simple act means a great deal to the elderly residents who feel really cut off. We’re so pleased that we have been able to continue our relationships with local care home residents in a safe and positive way.”
Activities Manager at Wessex House, Emma Green says, “Our residents here at Wessex House love to receive letters and cards as it keeps them connected with the outside world and the joy it brings to their faces. They also like to write letters and share their story with others. In an ideal world they would love to have face to face contact and Millfield pupils would be welcome to Wessex House any time. We are very grateful to be a part of The Pen Pal project and look forward to more letters coming.”
The project is growing, with organisers working with the Glastonbury Support Network to develop contacts with people who are isolated in the community. When students return to school, the volunteers are hoping to resume and extend the Zoom call virtual visits and will continue with the cards and letters.