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The Norwood Pen Pal Program

By Nicholas Hotte

The Norwood Pen Pal Program is a new program at NAIT. It gives NAIT students the opportunity to communicate with a senior citizen and grow a connection with them. In the Norwood pen pal program, students will hand write a letter and be linked up with an individual at Capitalcare Norwood.

“With COVID being an issue at the moment and the pandemic creating social distancing and isolation situations, we wanted to develop some ideas that were safe for students to be able to still have some volunteer opportunities, but also giving back to the community,” said Natalie Sarzynski, NAITSA volunteer coordinator.

“Seniors [are in] the position where they are the most isolated out of everybody, because they’re the most affected by it.”

Pen Pal is brand new for Norwood. It’s an alternative way to communicate with seniors while also respecting social distancing.

“We’ve had NAIT students volunteer at Norwood for several years now and with the inability to have people into the building easily, we thought pen pals were a good opportunity for NAIT and something a little different for our residence,” said Linda Ruggles, Volunteer Coordinator at CapitalCare Norwood.

Students will be matched up based on similar interests, that way you can have some common ground for conversation.

“Seniors and younger disabled folk are interesting. And I’m hoping the students will gain an appreciation for working with what looks like a different population, but are also just people,” said Ruggles.

In taking in this volunteer opportunity, students will be expected to exchange one letter a month. The total time commitment would be 5 to 10 hours between now and April 2021.

Pen Pal is a community effort to help seniors and those who are excommunicated due to the pandemic. The program filled up very quickly.

“We filled up the positions almost immediately. We had twelve spots for students to sign up for and we had to raise it to fifteen. It definitely surprised us with how popular it is,” said Sarzynski.

There are still some similar events that involve CapitalCare.

“With the same senior home we are having a really cool virtual open mic that’s going to be coming up November 11. The concept of it is to create a little bit of entertainment for the seniors,” said Sarzynski.

There are also plans to continue something similar to the pen pal program in the future.

“Coming up in the new year for the next semester, we’re anticipating that we’d definitely like to expand it a little more. Ideally we’d like to include a few other seniors so that we can have multiple organizations to work with,” said Sarzynski.

CapitalCare is grateful to NAIT for its contribution, and hopes to continue those connections in the future.

“We’re happy to have the NAIT students,” said Ruggles.

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