The Valley Letter Project
Loneliness. This is a feeling we have probably all felt at some point in our lives. Probably even more so in recent times, with the term ‘iso’ becoming a part of our everyday language and social distancing rules putting a stop to any face to face human connection we would normally have.
Unfortunately, for the population most vulnerable to COVID-19, the elderly, loneliness and isolation was an issue that prevailed well before social isolation and social distancing came into place. Not only can loneliness and isolation have a direct impact on physical health, but it also comes with its own set of mental health impacts.
Now, even with social distancing rules beginning to lift, and being allowed to see more people outdoors and visit their homes, I fear that the last group of people we will flock to see is our elderly community. Our grandparents, aunties and uncles, elderly family friends and the elderly couple down the road. This may be out of good reason for wanting to protect their physical health or because hanging out with friends again is much more important. However, I feel these are the people that might benefit most from social connection or even a simple hello.
When COVID-19 really hit the fan and ScoMo himself called Lewis and told him that The Valley was to be cancelled, I began thinking of ways that we could get the young people of The Valley Youth involved in the broader community in a meaningful way, amidst this strange time of elbow bumps, face masks and isolation. How could we be a part of something bigger than our Friday night live streams as a youth group? This is where the idea of the ‘The Valley Letter Project’ came from.
I am not sure if you have ever personally received one of those weird paper things in your mailbox, you know the ones that are usually addressed to your parents, in a (usually) rectangle envelope that people (pre-COVID) sealed with their saliva??? Well, I certainly have and every time I get one it is literally the best day of my life, my smile is bigger than my face, I skip inside and eagerly open it wondering who has invited me to attend the red carpet. That is, until I realise it’s a notice that my car registration is about to expire.
The sad thing is, you don't often get personal letters in the mail anymore, instead its a DM on instagram, a TBH on instagram stories, a Zoom call, a FaceTime, a snapchat. A letter was one of the original ways that people connected with other people that they couldn’t see face to face. I think there is something so special about receiving a letter these days, and maybe even more so for the older generation, especially if it came from their grandchild.
I wonder if this letter project could be a way that the youth of The Valley could connect with the elderly people in their life. A way to ease a little bit of the loneliness and isolation the elderly might be feeling in this time.
When I was a teenager, connecting with my grandparents was one of the last things I would think of doing. I didn’t like phone calls, I didn’t know what to talk about with them, I thought talking to my friends on social media was way cooler and more entertaining. But, as I have gotten older I have learnt to value the stories that my grandparents have to tell me (no matter how many times they may repeat them), the wisdom that they share, the hardships that they have faced over the years. This is connection that I won’t get when they are gone and it is a connection I will truly miss.
Young person of The Valley Youth, I want to encourage you to reach out to an older person in your life that might be missing that social connection, that you might not be visiting because of their health or because they live far away. I know that the elderly people in your life will cherish this. Seriously, they will be talking about it for weeks.
There is an online form to fill out at https://www.thevalleyyouth.com.au/mailbag. All you have to do is fill in the name, address and write a letter. Lewis will print these letters out and mail them himself, so you don’t have to worry about it.
After you have written a letter to that older person, you might want to spread the love to someone else in your life that you know is struggling and has been feeling lonely, isolated, and disconnected. Pass on that amazing feeling of receiving a letter in the mail with your name on it.
I can’t wait to see where The Valley Letter Project will go, and how many people will be receiving something completely unexpected in their letterbox.
Oh, and aren’t you glad we made it an online form and we didn’t make you use those things called pen and paper.