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Penpal Project Proves Popular

Writing a letter seems like one of those quaint, old-fashioned pastimes that we look back on with nostalgia but which has no place in today’s modern, electronic, fast-paced world. Why spend all that time and effort writing something by hand when you can quickly send a text?

Yet at several residences facilitated by Communitas Supportive Care Society, residents and staff are proving that the form a piece of communication takes really does make a difference. When Herma Roffel, a mental health activity worker in Chilliwack, was brainstorming ways to help residents in the home where she serves feel more connected, she came up with the idea of a Penpal Project.

“I thought that maybe other people within Communitas might also like to participate and so we reached out through our program director,” Herma says, adding that she hoped perhaps one other residence would respond.

Her idea proved popular, with several residences participating, from Chilliwack all the way to Campbell River. Herma says it has become a highlight for many.

“When the mail carrier arrives everyone gets excited and starts asking ‘is there anything for me?’,” she says.

Jackie mails a letter in Campbell River bound for another Communitas home in Chilliwack

In Campbell River, manager Stacy Waffle-Reine has a similar experience. Mail delivery is eagerly awaited and the two residents who are participating love receiving something special.

“It’s been so nice to have this to look forward to during the pandemic,” she says.

That is also true in Aldergrove, where residential support worker Deanna Esau helps one of their residents, Thelma, by reading her letters to her and helping her compose a response.

“Thelma loves it,” Deanna says. “She chose some special stationery and she and her penpal have had fun sending photos and colouring pictures back and forth.” (Thelma’s letters and special stationery are in the photo at top.)

Herma says that the extra effort that it takes to write by hand, to choose stationery, or to create a special card is exactly what makes this project so special. Electronic communication seems impersonal by comparison.

“There’s just something special about seeing an envelope with your name hand-written on it, come through the mail,” she reflects. “It tells a person that they’re special enough to make such an effort.”

Herma’s family has also joined in the fun, with her nieces sending special cards to residents.

Alvin holding some of the many cards and letters he’s received through the Penpal Project.

“I’ve seen how meaningful it is to those who receive them,” she says. “It has brought tears to their eyes and they proudly display their card and letters in their rooms.”

Given this powerful response, it would appear that the extra effort is worthwhile. Who knows? Perhaps this Penpal Project will prevail beyond the pandemic.

“It’s turned into such a blessing,” Herma says. “We’ll keep doing it and see where it goes.”


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