Kevala Van Volkenburg is connecting seniors in care homes to their communities with a Letters to Seniors project.
The project sees community members e-mail letters, drawings and videos of support to Van Volkenburg who goes through them and forwards them to care homes in northern B.C. where they are printed and distributed to residents.
Van Volkenburg was inspired to take on the project after seeing a similar initiative taking place in Fort St. John.
“I saw a project started by Kelly White in Fort St. John at Peace Villa in the hospital and I used to volunteer there so I heard about it and I was like ‘oh this is such a good idea and we should try to implement this in other places in the north’,” said Van Volkenburg. “So I set up an e-mail, email@example.com and have been asking the community to send letters in.”
She started the letters project in Prince George where she lives but through family and friend connections the initiative has quickly spread to care homes in Dawson Creek and The Dunrovin Park Lodge in Quesnel.
Van Volkenburg explains that this project is an important one for her because she believes during the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting social distancing safety guidelines no community was left more isolated than the residents of care homes.
“I think that COVID-19 has been really hard on everyone and a group that has been kind of left out is our seniors in the care homes because they were so isolated,” said Van Volkenburg. “No mail is allowed in or out and it’s hard on them, so I think that the community showing support to them is important both for their mental well being and to let them know that they are not alone and that we care.”
So far VanVolkenburg says she has received about 40 letters as well as some wonderful art from children and even a video of someone doing a highland dance. She has also been in touch with Michelle Sargent, a teacher at North Cariboo Christian School in Quesnel whose class has started to send letters to the project.
Van Volkenburg says she is touched by the support for the project she has seen from the community and she hopes the letters continue to pour in now and long after social isolation restrictions are lifted.
“So far we’ve had a great response from the care homes. They say it’s really good for the residents and that they have really enjoyed reading the letters,” said Volkenburg. “I’m hoping that this project can continue to help bring awareness to seniors that are in these care homes and that we need to support them during these hard times and not just now but all the time. This letters to seniors project can continue even when [visitors] are allowed back into care homes.”
Van Volkenburg is hoping more community members, groups and schools join in on the concept as it moves forward. Anyone interested in sending a letter to the project or contacting her can do so by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.