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Pen Pals making a comeback

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Remember when everyone seemed to have a Pen Pal? It might have been a friend living interstate, a cousin living in the countryside or even a Pen Pal from overseas who you had never met.

Despite the introduction of email and real-time online video chats, there is still something special about writing and receiving a letter.

Catholic Healthcare’s Volunteer team has set up a new Pen Pal program with a group of Year 8 students from St Ignatius’ College Riverview. The boys have been individually matched with a resident and have started writing hand-written or typed letters. The first letters have been sent by the students and now residents from Catholic Healthcare Homes are writing back.

Katherine Zerounian, Riverview’s Faith in Service Coordinator, says the students have committed to the Pen Pals program for Term 2.

“The boys have committed to writing at least four letters this Term,” says Katherine.

"We have 35 Year 8 students involved in being a Pen Pal and we hope to expand the program over the coming months to involve students in other year groups.”

So far, 26 residents from Homes including Bethlehem House in Kogarah, St Paul’s Northbridge, George Mocker House in Mona Vale, Holy Spirit Revesby, McQuoin Park in Wahroonga, Lewisham Aged Care, Emmaus Village in Kemps Creek and St Hedwig Village in Blacktown are participating in the program.

The joy and excitement of receiving the first letter has already made such a difference in the lives of the residents.

George Mockler House resident Mervyn (pictured below) was so happy to receive his letter from student George. The letter brought up many memories for Mervyn about his life and childhood. He is putting a lot of thought into his reply.

Anna from St Hedwig Blacktown was also happy to receive a letter from her new Pen Pal friend, Sean. Reading his letter, she found it very interesting and loved how they already have some things in common. Anna was amazed at Sean’s intelligence and the travelling opportunities he has had at such a young age. She looks forward to writing back and sharing her stories and travels with him.

Pat from McQuoin Park (pictured below) was excited to receive her letter and immediately started putting pen to paper to try and create that true Pen Pal experience. Pat is hoping that she will inspire her Pen Pal, Daniel, to take up reading and is offering some great advice on how to start his reading journey.

And some sound advice from St Paul’s resident Nancy (pictured main photo above with a Riverview boy), whose face lit up when she received her letter. She is intent on stressing to her Pen Pal to study hard as she never did and has since regretted it all her life.

“The boys are already enjoying the opportunity to brighten or bring joy to someone’s day,” says Katherine. “They are keen to learn more about what life was like for their Pen Pals when they were young and to help ease feelings of being alone while visits to Homes are restricted.

“Often boys this age feel like they can’t do much to help older people, but this offers them one way to make a real difference.”

If you are alone at this time and would appreciate a friendly call or letter from one of our trained volunteers please contact our Customer Care Team on 1800 225 474. More information about Catholic Healthcare volunteers here - https://www.catholichealthcare.com.au/volunteers/