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QE Students Send Letters to the Elderly in Isolation

Date Posted: 07/04/2022 | Posted In: Latest news

More than 20,000 letters have been sent to care home residents and older people living in isolation by teenage volunteers helping to combat loneliness during the Covid-19 pandemic. For the past two years, a group of students at QE have sent weekly postcards, letters and activity packs to ten care homes, assisted housing residents and scores of people living alone in Darlington, Hartlepool and North Yorkshire. At the height of Covid restrictions, when many had to isolate and visits to residential homes were banned, QE students sent out between 250 and 300 letters each week as part of their volunteering work for the college’s extra-curricular Interact Club.

Second year student Abbie Walker, from Sedgefield, said the letters helped cheer up elderly recipients who felt cut off and lonely. “It was important to ensure that those living in isolation knew that people still cared about them, so they never felt entirely alone,” said the 18-year-old, who is taking A Level Maths, Physics and Chemistry with plans to study mechanical engineering at university. “Many people really struggled during lockdowns with little or no social interaction, so volunteering to write letters allowed me to make a difference and do something positive in the local community.”

Prior to the pandemic, student volunteers would visit care homes close to QE to talk to residents, arrange games afternoons, and build relationships. Interact Co-ordinator Nancy Wall said students missed those weekly visits when restrictions were out in place. “They didn’t want those relationships they had built to just stop, so writing letters allowed communication to continue and other relationships to grow,” she said. “The students have received some lovely correspondence in return from those who have really valued their efforts.”

Interact Club members chose the style of their letters to include questions and conversation starters, to help evoke memories and allow for discussion among the older readers. They also sent Christmas and VE Day party kits, flower seeds to plant, and bird-spotting guides.

Darlington student Ffion Lawrence-Hall, who is in Year 12 studying History, Politics and Business, explained: “Younger generations, including myself, often take for granted how easy it is to socialise, talk and communicate. Even in lockdowns we were using technology to connect. “It’s easy to overlook the negative effect being isolated has on older generations, so it was important to keep conversations alive. We have so much to learn from them and they are an essential part of society, no matter how much life changes for the young.”

QE’s Interact Club allows students to volunteer and make a difference both in the local community and on international projects, as part of the college’s broad enrichment programme. Lauren Dowson, 17, from Bishop Auckland, added: “Being part of Interact Club is really rewarding, and the letter project is particularly worthwhile because you know you’re making a positive impact on someone’s day during a tough time.”