Derbyshire youngsters have been battling loneliness caused by the pandemic by exchanging letters and emails with residents at a local care home.
A group of students based at Victoria Park Leisure Centre in Ilkeston struck up correspondence with residents at the Canal Vue Care Home as part of a programme coordinated by the Prince’s Trust Team programme.
The Prince’s Trust Team Programme is delivered in the area by WCG, which is the largest provider of programmes for the Trust in England.
The young and young at heart built up meaningful friendships across a twelve-week pen pal programme, which culminated in a digital meeting which allowed participants to finally put names to faces.
Fun was had by all as the newly acquainted friends took part in a 1930s to 1980s quiz, sang along to old favourites, and took part in a virtual game of play your cards right to mark the occasion.
Rosemarie Vickers, a student who took part in the scheme, said: “Having a Pen Pal was like having an adopted grandparent. I became excited to get my letters and I wanted to write back straight away.”
One unlikely pairing was 106-year-old Donald Rose and 17-year-old Jack Barker, who each discovered that their partner had a fascination with firefighting. Jack will be applying to the local fire service’s training programme when he turns 18, while Donald, 90 years Jack’s senior, was able to check off the final item on his bucket list in June by riding in a fire engine for the very first time.
Naomi Allsop, who works at the Canal Vue Care Home, said: “I am absolutely thrilled that The Prince’s Trust decided to reach out to us to take part in their project and I’m thankful we were able to work together to make this project a great success.
“It has been fantastic and the residents have loved doing it. They have made lifelong friends now and hope that it will stay that way.
“The residents always have a huge smile on their faces when they receive their letter from their pen pals and cannot wait for them to visit their homes and hopefully can visit regularly.”
Jane Sandall, The Prince’s Trust team leader at WCG, said: “The scheme was a huge success for both parties, and extremely rewarding for everyone involved.
“We’d love to make this a regular feature of our The Prince’s Trust Team programme, particularly with the younger students who might never have spent time with people of this generation.
“It was great to be part of the virtual meet up and see everyone getting along and getting to know each other. I know that this meant a lot for certain people, both young and old, and goes to show what can happen when you talk to people you normally wouldn’t think to engage with.” To find out more about The Prince’s Trust and programmes available through WCG visit https://wcg.ac.uk/page/25/princes-trust