The pandemic has changed the way everyone connects and socializes, forcing us all to be creative and innovative.
One example of this is a new pen-pal initiative that looks to bring our community’s youth and seniors closer together.
The program is called Brighter Buddies, and it’s being organized and led by Brighter Day – a project by YouthCan at Volunteer Campbell River.
“Brighter Buddies is a pen-pal style program between volunteers and senior residents we hope that will make both parties feel less isolated through these challenging times and give them both a chance to learn from each other,” says Volunteer Campbell River’s Youth Engagement Coordinator Shelby Ordano. “As we know this year has been an adjustment for all of us, but seniors right now, especially, are a bit vulnerable. They don’t have the same opportunities to get out and connect and have a social circle, and this is one way we can improve that for them.”
The pen pal program is one of many initiatives being taken on by Brighter Day.
This past summer the project collected over 1000 books to deliver to isolated seniors, as well as partnered with the global technology support organization Cyber-Seniors to help local seniors become comfortable using new technology.
Brighter Day is a new youth-led project out of Volunteer Campbell River that brings youth (15-29) and seniors (55+) together, building connections and relationships through shared activities, experiences, hobbies, and events.
It began thanks to a grant from the Campbell River Community Foundation and RBC Youth Launch, and it’s the program’s hope that youth and seniors will build a sense of belonging and decrease stigma and stereotypes of both demographics.
One of those stereotypes, Ordano says, is that today’s youth don’t care enough to get involved in volunteerism. Or that they’re too self-absorbed to make time for people they don’t know. The Brighter Buddies program is certainly disproving that idea.
“It’s actually been crazy to see the number of youth who want to get involved and engage,” Ordano says. “We actually have more youth involved than we have seniors for them to write letters to, which might be surprising to some people. We have 10 youth currently writing letters – plus a number of classes who have expressed interest in being a part of it – and only four or five seniors who have signed up to receive them.”
There aren’t any specific kinds of people they’re looking to get involved or specific topics they’re looking to have people discuss, so anyone can take part, Ordano says. In fact, the more diverse the conversations the better, she says.
“We have one youth that’s a mom of two kids and another that is a substitute teacher,” Ordano says. “We have one that’s younger who just moved here from Nepal a couple years ago. We go through the letters and try to match them to seniors we feel would be a good fit to receive them, but we have so many youth from so many different backgrounds and we really embrace that. Our hope is that we can just facilitate the initial connection and then they develop their own relationship and go forward from there.”
If you know anyone interested in becoming a pen pal in the program – especially if it’s you – please contact Ordano by email at firstname.lastname@example.org