Lifting spirits through letters

Maddie is aged 14 and has recently completed her Bronze Duke of Edinburgh award. She spoke to us about her experience of volunteering during lockdown. The award comprises of three parts, a skill, sport and volunteering. With cooking as her skill and netball as her sport, Maddie found her volunteering options limited due to lockdown. “The usual options such as volunteering in shops or helping out with local Brownie groups were not possible. At the time we were seeing a lot of information in the news about care homes. The residents were not able to see their families and were isolated from the community. I thought it would be nice to send them letters to help them feel less lonely.”

Maddie made a connection with Suffolk Lodge through a community contact and started to exchange letters. “I did not know the feeling I was going to get from doing it. The warmth and joy, it is surprising how something so small can bring so much. John, who is a retired teacher even corrected some of my letters.”

Janet explained 

“The residents really enjoyed reading all the letters. Lockdown has been hard for everyone and every contact has mattered so much. It helped to lift their spirits during a time when their families were unable to visit them. Some of the letters created conversations around people’s own memories of their youth and schooldays, which is beneficial for those living with dementia.”

With resident’s being provided activities in smaller groups and no longer able to enjoy their regular activities such as bingo, quizzes or singing due to social distancing guidelines the letters provided a welcome relief to lockdown boredom too.

Maddie shared her advice to others who may be thinking about writing to their local care home. 

“I think it's a really good idea to do this. I did not know how people would react, but it has been really good and feels really good to do. Once I started writing I realised that it is not so scary. I have a better understanding of people in care homes. I have received emails and photos of people reading my letters, keeping me updated on the residents. I also received a birthday card made by the residents and some chocolates, which was a lovely surprise.”

“I want to say thank you to Janet and the people at Suffolk Lodge for letting me write to them. It has been a fantastic experience and I really appreciate the opportunity. I have been really surprised by the reward that I got back, I am pleased that others enjoyed my letters.”

“It has been perfect timing, to link up with a care home. They could not have family in during the lockdown and it was nice to step in. Now things are easing, and families are back in I am going to slowly step back. We will still keep in touch though.” Maddie is now looking forward to beginning her silver award next year.

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