For many elderly residents in the community, the lockdown has resulted in an increase in loneliness, but working with Age UK Southampton, students from Ballard School in New Milton have been working to combat the problem by penning letters, drawings and poems for elderly residents.
The idea was proposed as part of the students’ work for PSHE (Personal, Social and Health Education) lessons, by teacher Mrs Catherine McCleave, working with Age UK Southampton’s ‘From Me to You’ initiative; a scheme that encourages young people to send letters, poems or drawings to elderly members of the community during the lockdown.
The suggestion sparked creativity across years 6 to 10 at the school, with dozens of the pupils responding with missives sharing their personal experiences of lockdown, information about the lives of their families, and offering heartwarming, optimistic words, along with favourite drawings, photos, jokes and poems.
In order to avoid any potential health risks to the community, the letters will be scanned and printed by Age UK Southampton, and attached to food parcels, all funded by donations from Hampshire Constabulary, local companies, and residents. They will then be sent to elderly people in Southampton and beyond.
Adding to this display of generosity, Ballard School has covered the £100 cost of postage and packaging for their letters, and donated a further £100 to the cause.
Claire Roberts, Head of Services at Age UK Southampton, said: “The letters are amazing and certainly made me smile and shed a tear. I’m sure each and every one will make a difference and bring joy to those who receive them. A huge thank you to all of the pupils who took part.”
Talking about the reasons behind her suggestion, Humanities teacher Catherine McCleave said: “Life on lockdown can feel tough at times for all of us, but for isolated and vulnerable older people this might be a period of profound loneliness. That is why we were so keen to get behind this initiative, so thoughtfully suggested to us by the parents of a former Ballard head boy.
“The pupils really embraced the opportunity to spread some smiles and have clearly enjoyed writing their letters. We hope they can bring some joy to those isolated and alone at this time.”
Headmaster of Ballad School, Andrew McCleave was delighted by the display of kindness from the pupils, adding: “Week after week during the COVID-19 lockdown I have been struck by the compassion and generosity of spirit shown by Ballard pupils reaching out to lift up others around them – and this is another example.
“Having read through all the letters I know how moving and thoughtful they are and, once again, I am extremely proud to be the Head of a school with such empathetic and considerate pupils.”