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Postcards project breaks down age and language barriers

Vassinee and Rose meeting for the first time

A new pen pals program is helping aged care residents build connections while breaking down cultural barriers and strengthening English skills for migrant students.

Residents from Bolton Clarke’s Rowes Bay residential aged care community are writing to local TAFE students who are learning English as a second language.

CVS Coordinator for Community Gro Colleen says the Pen Pals Program was born out of the need to build social connections during a time when many older people have been isolated due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“We were trying to find a way for people to still contribute and to keep that social interaction alive,” Colleen said.

“We linked with adult migrants who are learning English - as part of their 10-week program they started by writing postcards as a nice introduction to English in the written form.

“A lot of the students are young and have left their families behind so it’s nice for them to connect with someone who is their parent’s or grandparent’s age.”

For Rowes Bay resident Rose the program has a created a chance for her to get to know people she may not have ever crossed paths with, including meeting her pen pal in person.

“My pen pal Vassinee gave me a rose and a great big hug when she saw me – it was such a pleasure and she reminds me of my granddaughter,” Rose said.

“The whole thing has opened my eyes up to new Australians.”

Rose’s pen pal and TAFE student Vassinee says it was an opportunity she couldn’t pass up because of her own family connections.

“I’m really close to my mum and not being able to see her often made me understand how lonely older people can be,” Vassinee said.

“The idea in my head when I was writing the postcards was to make her day every time she received one.

“At first, I didn’t expect anything because the only information we received at the start was a name but after I met Rose and saw how much it meant to her, it just filled my hear with joy,” she said.