Students become pen pals with pensioners to tackle loneliness

A group of students have made an unlikely connection with care home residents after becoming pen pals.

Friday, 25th June 2021, 5:00 pm
Leeds College of Building students, Ben Pratt and Zara Dupont, with their letters from care home residents in Birstall
Leeds College of Building students, Ben Pratt and Zara Dupont, with their letters from care home residents in Birstall

The Leeds College of Building students, who are studying GCSE English alongside vocational construction trade programmes, took part in a pilot scheme with Priestley Care Home in Birstall.

The initiative involved college students writing to the pensioners to alleviate the isolation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, while positively improving literacy.

Residents had the opportunity to respond and keep the dialogue going between students who chose to participate.

Sarah Heaton, English lecturer at Leeds College of Building, said: “During the first lockdown, there were such desperate tales about how isolated residents were while relatives cried outside, unable to visit.

“We wove this pen pal pilot into our blended learning scheme for GCSE English.

“The vetted correspondence was really uplifting. Students asked residents questions, told them about their vocational courses, hopes for the future, and lockdown coping skills.

"One student talked about how they’d redecorated their own house and another how they’d sewn their own clothes.

“This project has been extremely rewarding and enriching. I’m extremely proud of our students who all loved taking part.”

Zara Dupont, 17, a plastering student at Leeds College of Building, said: "I really enjoyed taking part in the pen pal initiative.

"It was really rewarding, knowing we were making a difference in such terrible times.”

Fellow plastering student, Ben Pratt, 16, said: “It's great that the residents were able to respond and tell us about themselves and their experiences and that they loved our letters so much."

A spokesperson at Priestley Care Home said: “The pen pal initiative between Priestley and Leeds College of Building has been a big boost to our residents.

"The letters have helped alleviate some of the loneliness that the residents have felt during this past twelve months.

"The letters have allowed our residents to feel connected to the outside world.”