Sydney aged care residents treated to messages from schoolchildren during coronavirus isolation

Originally Published by: ABC News

View Original Article

Key points:

  • Lawyer and writer Mea Campbell set up the non-profit Connected AU in response to the pandemic
  • The web-based concept includes an online library, hobby groups and the project to connect letter writers to recipients
  • People of all ages have signed up to write, including students, families, middle aged and older people

Margaret Van Sclochteren has received a letter in the post, and it's made her smile.

The aged care resident, who lives at Summit Care in Baulkham Hills in Sydney, has found the coronavirus lockdown lonely and scary.

"When it happened, I thought oh no, oh no, not this, it's a terrible thing," she says.

Margaret is 84. She usually sees her adult son frequently but of late has only been able to see him through glass at the nursing home where she's been isolated with other residents due to their high risk of catching COVID-19.

That's made receiving a handwritten letter even more meaningful.

"Dear Margaret," she reads. "I am writing to encourage you and keep you going. I hope you are doing well through the tough time."

The letter has come from a primary school student in Dubbo in Western New South Wales.

The school is one of 11 participating in the Letterbox Project, which is connecting people to those who are isolated and lonely around the country.

Three-and-a-half-thousand students and individuals have signed up to handwrite notes, especially to the elderly and disabled who have found the pandemic especially challenging.

"I'm writing this because I hope you feel better after this pandemic," reads Macquarie Anglican Grammar School student Rafan Ahmed from the letter he has written.

"I want them to get encouraged that this will end," he explains.

"I wanted to make their day happier, like they're getting a letter from a nice person that's put a lot of time into it," fellow student Charlotte Campbell adds.

The project was her mum's idea.

Lawyer and writer Mea Campbell set up the non-profit Connected AU in response to the pandemic.

The web-based concept includes an online library, hobby groups and the project to connect letter writers to recipients.

She was inspired by memories of her late grandfather, Colin McDermid.

"He wouldn't have been able to engage with the online world at all," she says.

"He even found it difficult speaking on the phone because of not hearing very well so he would have been awfully affected and he would have found it very difficult not to see all of us."

People of all ages have signed up to write, including students, families, middle-aged and older people.

"I think it's giving a lot to the people who are writing the letters," she says.

"It's giving them a chance to do something in the community when maybe they weren't sure how to otherwise."

Connected AU has since received the backing of the Council on the Ageing (COTA), with the project added to COTA's national hotline (1800 171 866) to make it easier to find.

Rhoda Swanson, who is in her 90s, says the loss of weekly shopping trips has been the hardest thing during the pandemic.

"The day those gates open, I'm going," she laughs.

"It's really got to a lot of us."

She received Rafan Ahmed's letter from Dubbo.

"I feel like I know him," she says.

"I feel like I've got something to continue and I'd like to get to know him."

Margaret Van Schloteren also feels a connection with her writer.

"I sort of feel she'll become part of my life. It's a really strange feeling," she says

"It made me feel really nice.

"It's a really wonderful thing that somebody would sit down and take the time to care enough to write to elderly people, and this little girl, she must have a beautiful heart."

Both plan to write back to their new penpals.