By A. Jade Munsie
Residents at The Waterford of Summerlea retirement community are picking up their pens and paper with NAIT students.
Following the success of the first pen pal program at Norwood, NAITSA has expanded the program to Waterford residents. The Waterford Pen Pal Program begins February 19 to April 30. The volunteer-based pen pal partnership is a way for students and seniors to connect.
Kevin Lim, the volunteer coordinator for NAITSA recognized the popularity of the program and expanding it has been a priority despite pandemic challenges.
“This program is very important…because seniors are isolated due to visitation restrictions. […] Senior homes are more hesitant. Some homes that were willing to participate had to cancel because they are going through vaccinations and are busy, and some homes had an outbreak,” sais Lim.
Natalia Pavlyk, the recreation coordinator at Waterford understands the challenges of organizing activities during the pandemic. With gathering restrictions in place and moderated social activities, she hopes the pen pal program will encourage seniors in a new way.
“I wanted to bring in something different because some people are very lonely, and I thought it would be nice for the seniors to contact young people. [One of our residents] used to be a journalist, and for her, a pen pal might help. She’s very lonely, first of all, she’s deaf and she can’t contact other seniors and I thought well, she likes to write,” said Pavlyk.
Isolation has taken its toll on many seniors and students who have been separated from family and loved ones this past year. Pavlyk would like to see the letters bring a youthful energy to the residents.
Registration is open to current NAIT students. Upon a screening, volunteers will be matched with a senior based on interests and hobbies. As a pen pal, they are expected to write a letter to their senior once a month, dedicating a total of five to 10 hours of their time.
“It’s been difficult to find [volunteer] opportunities for students that follow the mandatory health guidelines. The writing part is done digitally, and the seniors will get it through a printed copy or they can read it on their tablet,” said Lim.
Pavlyk will oversee the program at Waterford and deliver the letters.
Additionally, students will earn hours that can accumulate into rewards by signing up for the NAITSA Student Volunteer Program. Potential rewards include gift cards and movie streaming subscriptions.
“Volunteering is a great way for students to interact with the community, and it’s good for their resumes… It shows that students are proactive. They go out of their way to seek new opportunities,” said Lim.
For more information visit Ookslife.ca and sign up for The Waterford Pen Pal Program and the NAITSA Student Volunteer Program.
Students can also register for the NAITSA volunteer newsletter at NAITSA.ca to stay up-to-date with opportunities.