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Holy Rosary learners write to Ron Smith Care Centre residents

Holy Rosary School teacher Barbara Cooper gave her Grade 7 girls a project… To write a letter to a grandparent. The aim was for them to learn how to write and correctly format a friendly letter.

Barbara hoped the letters would provide enjoyment to some of the residents at Rand Aid Association’s Ron Smith Care Centre, but they did not expect any replies – of which they received a few! 

Ron Smith Care Centre sent the names of 58 of its care centre residents to Barbara, who tasked the girls to write a personal letter to each of them.

Strict Covid-19 protocols were observed in terms of sanitising the girls’ desks, pens and other stationery and envelopes, and the letters were delivered to the care centre on 6 April.

“I personally delivered the letters to each resident with an Easter chocolate, which everyone enjoyed. I wanted to explain who had written their letter and to witness and record our residents’ reactions,” says Debbie Christen, Rand Aid’s manager of recreational services.

“It was a fascinating project to see 12- and 13-year-olds writing to elderly people, mostly in their 80s and 90s, as there’s a large generation gap,” she adds.

Debbie explains that the youth of today don’t often write letters. They are used to texting and using acronyms and emojis to communicate. “This wonderful project taught them how to compose a letter and how to express themselves using full sentences,” says Debbie.

As some of the care centre’s residents do not have contact with young people, they didn’t understand the concept of online versus onsite schooling, so it needed to be explained to them.

“There is potential for developing the project to involve students and residents becoming pen friends and possibly visiting with each other after Covid-19,” says Debbie.

“We have several former school teachers who received letters and said it was most interesting to see their responses,” she adds.

Many of the residents commented on the students’ lovely, neat print handwriting, which led to the observation that children don’t seem to learn cursive writing these days – they all print.  “This led to residents having memories of how they had to learn cursive writing in their school days and they remembered the pen strokes they had to learn in their writing class,” says Debbie.

“Residents were asked if they wanted to read the letter out loud or if they preferred to be read to. This was a good opportunity for me to assess their reading ability and comprehension. Many enjoyed reading out loud. Some residents spontaneously stated that they were going to write back,” says Debbie.

Some special responses

Marie Roberts from River Lodge 1 received a letter from Shac Lee du Plessis.

“How sweet,” said Marie. “She wouldn’t believe all the things I’ve been through in my life. At 98, I’ve seen two World Wars, political and economic upheaval and I’ve had Covid-19, but I’m still here. My niece said they’d have to feed me arsenic to get rid of me,” she laughs.

Marie Roberts.

Cecilia Lombard from River Lodge 1 received a letter from Anastacia (Annie).

Cecilia is blind. “Annie has blessed me with her beautiful letter. I love her! Tell her I enjoy nature and gardens,” said Cecilia.

Cecilia Lombard.

Joy Klopper from River Lodge 1 received a letter from Megan Wadsworth.

“What a gorgeous letter – it’s too beautiful! Thank you,” said Joy.

Joy Klopper.

Sylvia Kree from River Lodge 1 received a letter from Raquel De Matos.

“This letter makes me feel all shivery because she took the time to write such a caring letter. I want to cry. She’s brought me such joy today,” said Sylvia.

Sylvia Kree.

Maureen Morrow from River Lodge 1 received a letter from Rania Kalogerakis.

Maureen smiled throughout reading the letter, especially when she heard about Rania’s irritating brothers!

Maureen Morrow.

Sarah Richards from River Lodge 2 received a letter from Carmen Wasowicz.

“I am so thrilled to receive this letter. What a delightful surprise. Look at how lovely she has decorated the envelope and her handwriting is so lovely and straight. It gives me a soft feeling. She is a very special little girl. This is going straight up on my wall and I am going to show this letter to my grandchildren who are coming to visit,” said Sarah.

Sarah Richards.

Eddie Lazer from River Lodge 2 received a letter from Annie.

Eddie read the letter on his own and was smiling throughout. “Very sweet. I appreciate this.  I will write back,” said Eddie.

Delyse Burgess from River Lodge 2 received a letter from Sabrina.

“This letter is gorgeous and made my day. What a delightful surprise! I don’t know how this happened, but Sabrina is my granddaughter Donna’s friend. Can you believe it? I was craving something sweet with my tea and now I’ve got it,” said Delyse.

Delyse Burgess.

Denise Anstey from River Lodge 2 received a letter from Isabella Fernandez.

“Lovely letter. She writes well. I would like to write her back,” said Denise.

Denise Anstey.

David Scott from River Lodge 3 received a letter from Tyra-Jane Davies.

Debbie read Tyra-Jane’s letter to David when he was sitting in the Lounge.

Fellow resident Grace Verster was sitting next to him and she immediately leaned in closer so that she could also enjoy the letter. She was hanging onto every word and taking in Debbie’s explanations. Because she was so interested in the letter, she even scored an Easter egg!

Dave said it was very nice, thank you, and shook Debbie’s hand.

Joy Smith from Cedar Park received a letter from Claire Thompson.

“What a lovely letter. I know the school well. I love the flowery stationery and the way she decorated the envelope,” said Joy.

In response to the advice written on the envelope (live your life to the fullest), Joy said we are all very lucky to be living in a peaceful time, not having to experience the horrors of war. 

She added that Ron Smith Care Centre is a beautiful place to live and to be well.

She enjoys the sunshine and the rain to the fullest whenever she can. When she was given the Easter egg, her eyes lit up and she said: “Oh yes! Yes! Yes! I’m going to enjoy this.” 

Then she very nimbly opened the little wrapper and polished off the chocolate in one go.

Joy Smith.

Mick Veltman from Cedar Park received a letter from Tawana Zifamba.

“I know where her school is. She has nice handwriting. It’s a lovely letter. She is gifted and I like the artwork on the envelope. I would like to write back. It is nice to know that I can still do something that may bring joy to someone that I don’t even know,” said Mick.

“When Mick said this, I immediately thought how wonderful it would be if we could set up a pen pal project and get letters going back and forth and perhaps even set up a visiting programme after Covid-19,” says Debbie.

Mick Veltman.

Doreen Woodward from Cedar Park received a letter from Nolwazi.

“This is a lovely letter and she has such beautiful handwriting. I know Holy Rosary School well,” said Doreen.

Doreen Woodward.

Marge Trinder from Lakeside received a letter from Dunsin Ajagunna.

Marge’s grandchildren attended Holy Rosary and had similar interests to Dunsin. She remarked on the lovely printing, beautiful drawings and the fact that children don’t seem to write in cursive anymore – they all print.

Debbie had a discussion with her about penmanship and how cursive writing used to be learnt in school.

Dunsin said children don’t usually write letters, they text and WhatsApp. This comment sparked a conversation about how we learnt how to write business and friendly letters at school and the parts of a letter, said Debbie.

When Dunsin used the phrase: “On the otherhand,” Marge remarked how grown up she sounded and that she was only 11! Marge laughed about Dunsin having to wash the dishes at home during lockdown and about the fact that there was no cheating with online schooling! 

Marge very enthusiastically stated that she must write back and even got her daughter, Marion McKinnon, who is the headmistress at St Benedict’s, to deliver her letter to Holy Rosary.

Marge Trinder.

Gladys Rosenberg from Lakeside received a letter from Abigayle Danckwerts.

“Look how nicely this is written! What she said about her gorgeous grandfather reminds me of how much my grandchildren adored their grandfather,” said Gladys.

Gladys Rosenberg.

Louise Newman from Lakeside received a letter from Daniele Jansen van Rensburg.

Louise liked the colours in the lovely butterfly stationery. She loves fabric painting and colouring-in, so she is very aware and appreciative of colour, form and design. “Such a lovely thought to write this letter – it is very special. Thank you,” said Louise.

Louise Newman.

Ellen Quinn from Lakeside received a letter from Tonith Ally Horsten.

“Beautifully done – she writes well! Shall I write back and then I can tell her a thing or two about me,” said Ellen.

Her responses to Tonith’s statements were as follows:

  1. The advice on the envelope ‘smile/do something nice for someone everyday: Ellen said: “I do have lots to smile about. This is just the best place to live. I don’t have to do the dishes!”
  2. Tonith: “It’s horrible to have to wear masks!” Ellen: “I agree with you, girl.”
  3. Tonith: “What I liked about lockdown was the luxury of being able to sleep in in the mornings.”  Ellen: “And me too, girl. I love to sleep in!”
Ellen Quinn.

Sylvia Lasarow from Lakeside received a letter from Kirsten Ayer.

Sylvia wrote a letter back to Kirsten, thanking her for an interesting letter which she so enjoyed reading. She said her letter was ‘charming’.

Sarah Goldberg from Woodlands received a letter from Angelina Joseph.

“A lovely, sweet letter. Very precious! I’m going to show my daughter. It’s lovely how youngsters these days just come out and say what they want to say,” said Sarah, who laughed when Angelina said that her brothers are the most annoying people on earth.

Sarah Goldberg.

Brian Russell from Woodlands received a letter from Catarina Braga.

“How delightful! I will definitely write back even though I haven’t written an actual letter in a very long time,” said Brian.

Brian was the first person to write back, no doubt having always practiced his generation’s letter–writing etiquette of responding to letters promptly.

Brian Russell.

Henriette Oosthuizen from Woodlands received a letter from Isabella Willems.

Her immediate response: “There aren’t any spelling mistakes. How unusual!” Spoken like a true former teacher, Henriette said she loved working with the Grade 7s. “They were on the edge of being a teenager; they wanted to be grown up, but they were still children,” she said.

Henriette Oosthuizen.

Jill Jones received a letter from Kate O’Donohue.

“How lovely! I’m definitely going to write back, but I’ll use my computer. My handwriting isn’t that good anymore,” said Jill, who was the second person to write back.

Jill wrote three-page letter and sent another page of photos of herself, Annie (her cat) and art projects she has completed. She used to teach geography.

Ethelwynne van Eck from Woodlands received a letter from Chloe Ullbricht.

Debbie left her to read the letter on her own, but she was already laughing at what Chloe had written on the envelope: “Life is something you will never forget!”

Ethelwynne used to teach biology.

Beth (Nanna) Roberts from River Lodge 3 received a letter from Andrea Adonis.

Nanna is a former English teacher who was very involved in teacher training and developing reading programmes for children. 

She read Andrea’s letter out loud (with great expression) and responded: “How nice to receive this letter – what a lovely surprise!  Andrea sounds very grown up and wrote this letter so nicely!”

Beth (Nanna) Roberts.

Sue Bohmke received a letter from learner Jenna Shaw.

“How sweet! What a blessing. I will write her back. I need some paper and an envelope,” said Sue.

Sue Bohmke.

Cathy Basterfield received a letter from leaner Vittoria Zambon.

“I’m very happy to receive this letter and chocolate. Thank you,” said Cathy.

Cathy Basterfield.

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