Kesgrave children bring joy to neighbours with pen pal project

Jane Robinson receives a letter from her pen pal at Kesgrave High School

Jane Robinson receives a letter from her pen pal at Kesgrave High School - Credit: Kesgrave High School

In today's hi-tech world, it is all too easy to send an email or WhatsApp message.

But these Kesgrave students have gone back to old-fashioned methods of hand-written communication to become pen pals with residents in their community - to help combat loneliness and isolation in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

The Student Council at Kesgrave High School started the Keep in Touch project to connect with people who may appreciate a friendly letter after months of limited social contact.

With so much reliance on digital devices during the pandemic, the young people hoped the hand-written letters sent to people across the town - complete with a free mug and a teabag - would be appreciated.

And while there was no obligation for recipients to respond, many have done so and struck up a warm correspondence with the students.

Jane Robinson, who was one of those to reply, said: "This is a really good way of bringing different generations together.

"As a youngster, we had our own stresses of the time and today’s youth have different types of stress.

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"We can learn a lot from this pen pal scheme and I think it is a great way for young people to flourish and know that they can achieve great things despite difficult obstacles in their lives."

The Student Council also hopes to host an outdoor afternoon tea event in July to further strengthen community connections.

Student Council member and head girl Daisy Linassi said: "Our project has undoubtedly brought together generations within our community.

"I believe it’s so vital that the importance of inter-generational bonding is recognised, especially during times when many people are feeling isolated.”

Student Council member and deputy head girl Poppy Brown added: ‘"I think the project is important not only because of how important we know it is to connect since lockdown, but also because it is nice to be able to contact and become a pen pal to a member of our community who we don't usually get to talk to.

"I think it is really positive for both involved and I can't wait to be able to respond to my pen pal if they decide to reply."

Student Council member and afternoon tea event leader Amber Rippeth said: "The project is a lovely way of connecting with the older generation who haven't been able to see loved ones this past year.

"I really like the pen pal scheme as it allows us to keep in touch. I hope our afternoon tea project is able to go ahead as it would be great to host an outdoor event for our community."

The students had to present their project to East Suffolk Council and Waveney MP Peter Aldous in order to gain funding.

Councillors Mark Jepson and Mary Rudd, cabinet member for community health at East Suffolk Council, said they were "blown away" by the idea.

They added in a statement: “We had no hesitation in supporting this project with the necessary funding and are really pleased to see it in action as the students hand-deliver their letters to residents in this wonderful youth-led inter-generational project.”

Kesgrave High School headteacher Julia Upton said: "It is wonderful to see young people making connections with older generations.

"We have seen many examples of how our students have helped neighbours and kept in touch with older relatives to avoid a feeling of isolation through these recent times.

"It is lovely to see this care for others in our local community sustain and expand through this project."