Introduction

The extraordinary situation that engulfed the word at the beginning of 2020 was unfathomable. The effects were felt far and wide, across nations, industries, economies and deep within families and homes. 

Restrictions brought isolation, isolation brought loneliness and vulnerability. Connection became critical to our new way of life. Many Australians had to learn to connect online, as family celebrations became video calls, work meetings transformed into virtual catchups. Social media was embraced stronger than ever before, and collectively, society seemed to be connecting in a unique, and promising way.

As society collectively connected, a distinct gap, and a vast distance, began to creep its way in to some homes. These were the homes of people without access or capacity to engage with this online world, out of reach of this blossoming online community. Generally, these people were our senior Australians, people with disabilities and chronic health conditions. Isolation and loneliness, an ongoing and ever present health and community issue, became acute for this population. 

During some unremarkable moment, I began to think of these people. The memory of my grandfather came to mind. He had passed years earlier, at the age of 95, after a very wonderful life. But his limitations and ailments reappeared at the forefront of my mind, and I realised there would be so many people in similar situations to what his had been. Living alone, unable to engage with technology, and distressed at their restriction from seeing their beloved family. Perhaps access to their family was ‘the light of their day’ as some have since recited.

This unremarkable moment led me to create a platform to facilitate connection and engagement in this population, to help them become part of the momentous and promising connection the pandemic had borne. Connected AU was built, and a fast and furious framework of support was created. 

The foundation of this platform became The Letterbox Project. A simple yet impactful project, sending handwritten letters from people all over Australia, to people who are isolated and lonely. Within 7 days we had over 500 people registered to write, from individuals to schools, families and community groups. Kindness became contagious and the registrations flooded in. We now have a solid network of people registered to reach out and write, and a growing network of facilities and services nominated people to receive. 

Connected AU is for the community. It is an initiative to do good. And any and all support and involvement is welcomed. This experience, this awful, and distressing experience, may just bring out the collective best of human nature.