Children at Bracken Lane Primary Academy – part of Diverse Academies Trust – have been sending letters to residents at The Hollies Residential Home as part of their ‘community champions’ initiative.

The group of thirteen children in years 2 to 5 began meeting after school every Wednesday to plan positive community activities. One of their ideas was to contact The Hollies, a care home in Retford with residents aged 80 to 100 years, to see if they would be interested in a pen pal initiative.

Bracken Lane teaching assistant, Christine Collins, organised the first set of letters to be sent to residents just in time for Christmas. Since then, children have sent cards and letters for Valentine’s Day, organised a delivery of over 40 cards for one resident’s 100th birthday and have more recently sent care packages for Easter.

Della Jackson, activities co-ordinator at The Hollies said: “The residents weren’t allowed any visitors throughout lockdown and felt incredibly isolated. Receiving letters from the children was like a breath of fresh air – you could visibly see the mood lift and delight spread through the home.”

The residents themselves were overwhelmed with the special delivery, thanking the children for writing, and cheering them up. One commented: “We received our beautiful cards and thought it was lovely and a nice surprise… you’ve made us all smile today. We look forward to hearing from you all again.”

When asked about the letters from the residents, one of the children from year 3 beamed broadly and said: “He is just like me! I like animals and he likes animals. I can’t wait to write back, maybe we can send him some chocolates for Easter!”

Christine is thrilled with the positive effect letter writing has had on the children and their desire to learn about the lives and interests of others. She said: “When the children received the cards their faces lit up, they were so inspired to hear about the lives of the residents.”

Christine is currently putting plans in place for an after-school trip for the children to go and visit The Hollies to meet their pen pals in person. She added: “The children are especially excited to meet some of the residents who have written with stories of their youth, such as a resident who used to play football for Retford Town and got picked to play for Nottingham Forest, and another who was an apprentice joiner on power stations.”

From inspiring children to undertake the art of letter writing, reducing loneliness and building relationships within the community, the work Bracken Lane’s community champions are doing in Retford is wonderful to see!