At the end of the 2019-2020 school year, SHA launched a new senior citizen pen pal program with Surrey Services. With options for direct service limited and many older adults living alone at home, a group of students decided to forge relationships with them through pen and paper. Many of the new friends wrote to each other during the summer and continue through this new school year.
Kiley Krug and Kyra Santora, members of the Class of 2022, reflected on their experiences of being a senior citizen pen pal.
What made you want to be a pen pal with a senior citizen?
- Kiley: Something I have always enjoyed is talking; I love learning about new people and their stories. Senior citizens are a specific group of people with numerous stories and life experiences. And ever since attending Sacred Heart and participating in Day of Service, I have always looked forward to signing up and going to senior living centers and getting the chance to talk to the residents. I think the pen pal program is a great way to continue this communication during the pandemic, so I was thrilled by the opportunity.
- Kyra: The reason I wanted to be a pen pal is to have the opportunity to learn about someone new. I also knew it was hard for senior citizens to see and talk to people during the pandemic and I thought this would be a great opportunity. I love learning new things about people and talking to people so this was a perfect opportunity to do so. I am glad I have had the opportunity to do this for the past few months because it is a great experience to get to know someone that you would have never got to talk to before.
What was it like to handwrite letters to another person?
- Kiley: I really enjoyed writing handwritten letters. This way of communicating is no longer a popular option, however, it adds to the experience. Sending the letter and waiting for a response in the mail is always fun. I am a very talkative person and I would say my pen pal is as well, this makes it easy and fun to communicate.
- Kyra: I enjoyed writing these letters to my pen pal! We are still sending the letters today and I am always happy when I see the letter from her in the mail. Our letters are normally pretty long to each other as well because we always have so much to talk about!
What have you learned and what has been rewarding about this experience?
- Kiley: With everything being shut down during the pandemic, I know it is difficult especially for senior citizens. I think it is important to reach out to senior citizens during this difficult time. They are one group especially affected by the virus causing them to take extra measures to make sure they are safe. Another rewarding part is the knowledge I have gained. I was able to spend time learning about someone new and their life stories, it helped me to get off of my cell phone and I look forward to checking the mail for a response. Just the other day was her birthday and she told me her fun plans and how happy she was to see her family after being in quarantine for so long.
- Kyra: This experience gave me an opportunity to talk to someone I would have never gotten to know. I am so glad I had the opportunity to do this because I got to know someone through writing to them. I am also glad I was able to make my pen pal’s day because she is not really able to see anyone because of the pandemic. She was a teacher for many years, but is now retired and writing a book and we have had wonderful conversations.
How does this experience connect to the SHA goals?
- Kiley: The pen pal program connects to most, if not all, of the Sacred Heart goals. A specific goal it is especially related to is Goal IV: the building of a community as a Christian value. By participating in the pen pal program we expand our community to make others feel welcome, even if it is only through letters. This communication shows a deliberate effort to reach out and communicate with new and different people we may not always talk to, and by doing so hopefully making them cared for and welcomed.
- Kyra: I agree with Kiley that this relates to Goal IV: the building of community as a Christian value. We invite each other into our communities by getting to know each other. Our community is welcoming and I am glad that this opportunity allowed me to have a chance to learn about someone else and bring some joy to their days.
Thank you to Kiley and Kyra for sharing their experiences and their time with members of our larger community. Special thanks to Surrey Services for partnering with SHA as we continue to build relationships within our area. As Surrey Service’s mission states, they inspire and enable all of us, as we age, to live with independence and dignity, and as engaged members of the community.