By Julia Gregory, local democracy reporter
“I was determined to keep helping care home residents as I knew they would be feeling more lonely than ever given the circumstances,” said Hammersmith student Nina who has been named as a Covid champion.
“A letter is never ill-timed, it never interrupts,” said author Lois Wyse.
Nina took that idea and ran with it – she encouraged other students to sit down and write a letter.
And letters from students have brought a connection and sunshine to thousands of care home residents thanks to the bright idea of the Hammersmith pupil.
It has taken off and students from 250 schools have sent letters to residents in 250 care homes, with letter writers in Manchester, Bristol, Cambridge, Edinburgh and Dublin.
Nina said the scheme really struck a chord across the generation.
“After a few months, my letter writing project Community Senior Letters had expanded across the UK and internationally, benefitting hundreds of thousands of residents.”
And pupils in North America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia have joined in the scheme.
The 17-year-old Latymer Upper School pupil came up with the idea to send some joy to older residents during lockdown when they were unable to see family or friends and were feeling very isolated.
She’d already set up Community Senior Music which saw young people go into care homes and perform music for the residents.
But like so much of normal life, that had to stop last year when the pandemic hit.
Nina told the LDRS service: “I started this letter-writing project after my first project, Community Senior Music, was unable to continue.
“This project involved matching semi-professional musicians to care homes around London, and for the musicians to perform small concerts to the elderly residents.”
“Unfortunately due to Covid-19, this was unable to continue, but I was determined to keep helping the residents as I knew they would be feeling more lonely than ever given the circumstances.
“I decided to switch musical entertainment to letter writing, matching schools to care homes so that students could write letters and do drawings for the isolated elderly residents.”
She started her project in April 2020 just after the first lockdown when people were uncertain and anxious about what was happening.
The idea was to send a human connection by mail to ease feelings of isolation which was exacerbated by Covid and affected people of all ages.
Nina said: “Since care home visits are limited, the elderly residents are feeling lonelier than ever as they are isolated from the outside world, which is why it is so crucial during this time to keep in contact with those who are alone and more vulnerable.”
And she said by creating links across the generations “it can teach the students valuable life lessons, such as compassion for those in vulnerable situations, selflessness as they carry out good deeds for the benefit of others, and to be mindful in these uncertain circumstances.”
It has helped friendships form over the generations despite the challenging circumstances and built a sense of community.
Nina has just been honoured in the Hammersmith & Fulham Youth Achievement Awards 2021 and was named Covid -19 Champion.
The awards started in 2019 and are organised by Hammersmith and Fulham Council’s Youth Council and the Young Hammersmith & Fulham Foundation, with the support of local businesses and organisations.
She’s also been given the Prime Minister’s Points of Light Award, Children and Young People Now: Children’s Achievement Award.
Like thousands of other students she’s currently sitting school exams.
Whilst it’s a busy time for students, Nina added: “I hope to continue this letter writing as long as I can, and I hope to get more students involved to help run this project once I am unable to do so – eg when I go to university.
“I have tried to match the schools to care homes in their local area so that once lockdown has lifted, the letter writing can be switched to in-person visits, and the relationships they have formed.”
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