Nfld. & Labrador

Pen pals to the past: Program puts St. John's students in touch with seniors

In the main room at the Kenny's Pond residence last week, a class of Grade 6 students met their pen pals — a group of seniors — for the first time.

Leary’s Brook learned lots from residents of Kenny’s Pond Retirement Community

Emily Ralph, left, and Alual Ring wrote letters to Ruth Goff, center, for about a month. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

In the main room at the Kenny's Pond residence last week, a class of Grade 6 students met their pen pals — a group of seniors — for the first time.

The intergenerational pen pal program put students like Alual Ring and Emily Ralph in contact with Ruth Goff.

"We talked to her about the things she used to do when she was younger and we told her about we told her what we do now," Ring said.

The pen pal program was something Claire Rouleau, left, and Erin Winsor have wanted to do for a long time. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

The group talked about their likes and dislikes, favourite colours and even music they listen to.

Both Ring and Ralph's letters won over Kenny's Pond resident Goff.

"I thought it was wonderful for these children to write these letters to see what would happen," said Goff.

The pen pal idea came from Erin Winsor and Claire Rouleau who got funding from an Arts Smart grant from ArtsNL.

"We wanted to teach kids about how aging works, how everybody ages differently and to not be afraid of that," Winsor said.

"Having kids around really can boost a seniors happiness."

A group of seniors spent the last month being pen pals with some local Grade 6 students. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

Winsor and Rouleau would work with the students to help them prepare their letters and then deliver them to Kenny's Pond where they would work with the seniors to write a reply.

"They would draw pictures too," Rouleau said.

"All the residents here get to keep the original letters. They have those keepsakes forever."

Grade 6 student Sophia Ebsary enjoyed the hands on approach to letter writing. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

Sophia Ebsary admits she doesn't hand write a lot of letters.

"Usually we just text," she said.

"But I really liked it, it was really fun."

It was also educational. Ebsary wrote to a senior named Mary Woodruff, who was born in 1928.

Ebsary was born in 2007.

"All we can remember is 2010 and they can remember from a long time ago," she said.

The students brought Christmas cards with them on Friday and gave them to their pen pals.

Students from Leary's Brook put on a little performance for their pen pals on Friday. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

The money from this year's grant has run out but both Winsor and Rouleau hope to find more funding to keep this program, or another student-senior project, going.

"We've talked about starting an intergenerational choir which could be really interesting," Winsor said.

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