The pen is mightier than isolation

Charlotte and Sr Isla have struck up a friendship on paper (VMCH)

Social isolation and teenage kindness have been the catalyst for some unlikely new friendships. Source: VMCH.

Year nine students from Aquinas College in Ringwood in Melbourne’s east have been writing to 12 new pen pals at VMCH’s Corpus Christi Aged Care Residence in Clayton since early May in a bid to lift spirits and connect.

This week, May 18-24 is National Volunteer Week and VMCH is celebrating the work of its 600-plus volunteers of all ages across its aged and disability services, including its newest letter-writing volunteers.

Charlotte, aged 15, has been paired with Sr Isla, aged 89. In her first letter, Charlotte wrote about her eight pets and love of sewing, singing, dancing and craft.

“I decided to join this program as I wanted to help the vulnerable people in our community at this time,” she said. “It has brought me so much joy that I can help someone who is isolated like myself. I think volunteering is a great thing to do because the rewards it brings are so nice. It feels really good to know you are helping someone!”

Sr Isla said she was “happy to see that students like Charlotte are reaching out into the community”.

Alistair, 14, was keen to give his pen pal Jim, 81, some advice for keeping entertained in iso.

“I hope you are okay and feeling well through these hard times of COVID-19 and that you are still seeing friends and family from afar,” he wrote. “Shows like Brooklyn Nine-Nine will help you feel less bored in this time. You can watch it on Netflix.”

Jim said: “I was very happy to receive the letter. I have never had a pen pal before. I wrote to Alistair that I’ve been spending my time doing things I enjoy, like watching news programs, Millionaire Hot Seat, playing bingo, trivia and word games.”

Alistair said volunteering was “a great thing to do, especially in these hard times”.

As restrictions begin to slowly lift across Victoria, the correspondence has likewise lifted the spirits of residents who have been missing physical contact with loved ones.


Pen pals bridge 70 year age gap (VMCH)  

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