Students from Maitland Christian College are making connections the old fashioned way, sending hand written letters to aged care residents and remote students across the country.
Year seven and eight girls are sending letters to girls their age living in remote and isolated areas, and year ten boys and girls are writing to elderly people in living in aged care facilities.
The program is part of The Letterbox Project by Connected Au, who keep the sender and receiver safe by vetting all letters and making sure identities are kept hidden.
Stella Gaffney, head of wellbeing and head of english at Maitland Christian School, hopes the program will help combat loneliness both for her students and the person on the receiving end.
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Ms Gaffney noticed after the second lockdown in 2021 that a lot of her students were getting comfortable with being disconnected and ended up in a bit of a funk.
"We're really hoping that the connection will open their eyes and help them realise there is importance and value in connecting with the wider community," she said.
"And that helps to combat that sense of loneliness."
The students are given names and a little brief about the person they are writing to, and the school can match them up with a person who they think will love to talk to.
"I'm really excited to see our kids connect with the elderly and hear their stories, and share that 'I went through that too', because even if they're 50 years apart they can understand each other," Ms Gaffney said.
"There is a generation there just like us who need connection and would love to hold a letter, and to have someone who cares."
Ms Gaffney said The Letterbox Project is a proactive way to improve the wellbeing of the students.
"When our students write their letters they learn to hear shared stories and deepen their understanding of the collective human experience," she said.
"During the lockdown, our students were drawn into a false sense of connection, leading to an increase in loneliness, anxiety and genuine disengagement.
"We want to combat this by helping our young people to engage with others, and hear and share their stories."
This year is the first that Maitland Christian School is taking part in The Letterbox Project, and next year they hope to open it up to more year groups.
Year seven students Sarah McKinnon, Abigale Bott and Ella Redman are looking forward to connecting with people outside their school.
Sarah said she sees it as an opportunity to communicate with someone she wouldn't normally get to, and is planning on sharing stories about her family, hobbies and the silly things her cat does.
"I'm looking forward to hearing about someone else's experiences that are different to mine," she said.
Abigale said it's not every day you get to bond with another person by being a pen pal, and she thinks it's a great opportunity for people who might be shy to connect with someone they can trust.
"I'm excited to be there as a compassionate friend to them," she said.
Ella said she is most excited to be able to send her pen pal little drawings and gifts.
"I'm hoping to share what my school life is like and be able to compare how different or similar school can be," she said.
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