Charity Pen Pal Scheme links French Pupils with Care Home Residents

Schoolchildren in France have joined a new charity pen pal scheme in a bid to learn more about life in the UK during World War II.

The French students are writing letters to residents in Sheffield care homes as part of a pen pal scheme set up by the Sheffield Churches Council for Community Care (SCCCC).

Ben Webster, who runs the scheme said: “We have had a fantastic response to the pen pal scheme, what started out as a local campaign has now reached across the globe and we have received letters from Canada, Singapore, Japan and Greece.”

The idea for the letter-writing scheme came from an email Ben received from a school in Brittany, France, where pupils studying history, wanted to know more about life in the UK during the Second World War.

The group of students wrote letters about their lives in France and asked questions about the experiences people faced during WWII.

The latest care home to join the scheme is the award-winning Hallamshire Care Home in Sheffield, which specialises in high-quality dementia care. The residents have enjoyed reading the children’s letters and hearing about their lives in France.

Karen Betts, the care home’s manager said: “Residents were encouraged to read a letter from two children who live in France sent via the Sheffield Churches Council for Community Care Pen Pal Scheme.

“The letter was in handwriting which was difficult for the residents to read so it was typed out in large print to aid reading. Barbara and Nicole seemed to enjoy having the letter read out to them, whilst Norah Meurer and Bryan Clay read it independently.

Bryan was happy to go down memory lane and answer some of their questions about World War II and using this information we wrote a letter in reply and signed it.’’

Bryan’s letter on behalf of the care home will be sent back to the students in France via the SCCCC pen pal scheme.

Coordinator Ben Webster added: “Since the launch of the scheme we have received 6,500 pieces of happy post, reaching out to isolated older people across the city and helping to keep them socially connected.

“The feedback we have received has been incredible, it’s amazing the joy that a handwritten letter can bring to an older person living alone.’’

Find out more about joining the pen pal scheme at the SCCCC website.