A 10-year-old schoolgirl has struck up a touching friendship with a care home resident under lockdown
Sofia Bird, a pupil of St Mary’s Aided School, in Overton-on-Dee, is the new pen pal of Susanne Lewis, 41, who has lived at Pendine Park’s Bryn Bella care home in Wrexham for the past nine years.
They regularly write letters to each other and the two finally got to meet each other when a socially distanced meeting was arranged outside the home.
The initiative was the idea of the school’s deputy head, Darren Morris, who was inspired after seeing the effect an older person such as fundraising hero Captain Tom had on young pupils.
While Sofia wrote to wheelchair-user Susanne, who has Spina bifida and visual impairment, her sister Adelina became the letter-writing buddy of a care home resident in Oswestry.
Darren said: “While closed we had around 10 pupils who are the children of key workers in school. They are a lovely group and very caring in their nature. I thought it would be nice to write letters to care home residents and perhaps brighten their day.
“I contacted Sarah Edwards, the Pendine Park Artist in residence as well as an Oswestry care home and set about organising the children to write their letters using Captain Tom as an example of what older people can do.
“The children thoroughly enjoyed writing their letters and were thrilled when they received replies. There are some nice friendships forged as a result It’s been a fantastic little project.
“In the future, once the pandemic is over, it would be nice to visit Pendine Park which would give children an opportunity to sit down and talk to their new friends.
“We are even looking into the possibility of holding a Zoom meeting so children can chat with their new friends.”
Sofia and Adelina are the daughters of Louisa Bird, the school’s nursery teacher, who said it had been a great learning experience.
She said: “It’s been a lovely project and given them an insight into other people lives. And while Susanne isn’t old, she has substantial physical issues that mean she needs permanent care.
“It’s lovely to see how Sofia gained an understanding of Susanne’s life and what living in a care home means.”
Sofia and Adelina went to Bryn Bella too for a socially distanced meeting with Susanne and presented her with flowers.
Sofia said: “It’s been nice to make new friends. I have had a pen pal before but that was a young person like me who lives in London.
“It was nice to learn about a lady in Bryn Bella Care Home and hear about the times she has been in hospital.
“I want to know more about Susanne. It must be really difficult being in a care home when you can’t have visits from your family and friends because of the virus.”
Adelina added: “It was lovely giving flowers to Susanne and she gave us pottery hedgehogs she had made herself which we are going to very carefully look after.
According to Susanne Lewis, she was deeply touched and delighted to finally meet her new pen pal.
She said: “It was a really nice thing to do and I enjoyed reading the letters and writing back. It was also nice that they brought me some flowers. I loved giving them some pottery animals I made in our art sessions.
Lockdown hasn’t been easy and we have had to be very careful. So, when Sofia and Adelina came, I wasn’t able to get very close to them and had to keep a face mask on.
“It will be nice to learn more about them, and I’m going to keep writing. Then when lockdown ends, they may be able to come and visit which would be great.”
According to Pendine Park Artist in residence Sarah Edwards, they are always looking for opportunities to share inter-generational experiences.
She said: “I was really pleased when Darren contacted me to see if the children could write to residents.
“I think it was a lovely idea and I know residents such as Susanne have really enjoyed writing replies.
“It’s obviously been very difficult living under lockdown for all our residents so any opportunity for social interaction is good. It’s nice that children have taken an interest in care homes and what life is like for residents.”
She added: “I certainly hope, once lockdown ends and we get back to whatever the new normal is, we can invite the children of St Mary’s to Pendine Park to share some time with residents and cement their new-found friendships.”