Village News

Generational pen pals

04 June 2024

Greenwich Gardens' pen pal group

Building cross-generational friendships through letter writing.

Some say gone are the days of putting ink to paper, especially among our youth. But when Mānuka Primary School approached Greenwich Gardens to help keep the art of penmanship alive, our residents jumped at the chance to support their local community.

Designed to ditch the digital devices and improve the children’s English, the school set up a pen pal group with the support of Greenwich Gardens Events Coordinator, Eileen Verona.

“They had a group of 13 students aged between 8 and 9 who were looking to improve their grammar and spelling and practice conversation skills, through letters,” says Eileen.

When village residents Jeanette Hayden (a former St John’s volunteer) and husband George got wind of it, they couldn’t wait to get involved. Not only was it a way for the couple to help people, but it was also a golden opportunity to interact with different age groups.

“We don’t get to see our grandchildren too often, so it was a great way to connect with the younger generation, who need a lot of help,” says Jeanette.

“I also enjoyed hearing about their lives and thinking how they differ from when I was eight.”

Although they started off as strangers, as the pen pals began sharing their hobbies, interests and life experiences, friendships began to blossom.

Their first in-person gathering – an invitation to attend a play at Mānuka Primary School – was highly anticipated.

“We had front-row seats, and each class put on a piece. It was outstanding.”

After the event, official introductions were made, accompanied by lots of excitement, big hellos and plenty of hugs.

“George’s little pen pal clung to him like a limpet. She absolutely loves him,” says Jeanette.

At the end of last year, the couple were also invited to afternoon tea at the school, where they played games, listened to the children sing and exchanged gifts.

“We left our personal address in case they wanted to correspond after they moved classes. We are still in contact with George’s pen pal - in fact, we sent her a letter this morning.”

Jeanette and George found the experience so rewarding that they are eager to sign up for a new student pen pal this year; they are just waiting for the call!

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