A group of primary school students in Galway have used their time during Covid-19 to reach out to the elderly in the community.
The youngsters aged 10 and 11 from Lavally National School have been writing letters to the residents at Central Park Nursing Home in Clonberne to help encourage each other during these difficult times.
Encouraged by their teacher Mary Griffiths, the letters from the students were full of news and stories, covering everything from their pets to appreciation for the world and nature.
Rois McDonagh, the recreation director at the Central Park Nursing home, says the letters also captured this time in Ireland through the eyes of a child when everything has changed in their daily lives.
The children embraced the “new normal with care and attention, and thoughtfulness, and reached out to the residents to offer comfort, laughs and fun, and bringing the community together", she says, "and the resident’s responses to the students confirmed how important inter-generational care really is and the values and benefits that spans the age groups."
She says the residents read the letters, and it "provided them with the opportunity to reminisce about own childhoods as they took trips down memory lane of countryside and walks, friends, ducks and dogs, home baking, catapults and football".
Rois McDonagh, who won an NHI recreation and social award in 2019, says the 60 plus residents and the students were able to relate to each other.
"Many of our residents and also the children share an agricultural background, so they shared stories of their animals and nature, in addition to sport. One boy was asking advice about a particular problem chicken. They certainly boosted each other during this difficult time, particularly with the residents unable to receive family visitors, while many of the children were unable to see their grandparents."
McDonagh says the programme was a huge success with many benefits, including rediscovery of the art of letter writing, while the connections that were built between the generations were very special, particularly during Covid-19 when everyone has to stay apart.
"These students and residents have shown that we can all be together through the good time and bad times. It is a very solid programme to put in place at any time, but during Covid, it was more special, more meaningful."
The students involved in the project, were Aoibheann Duffy, Aoife Hogan, Lucia Gallagher, Katie Moran, Sorcha Beckett, Hughie Gallagher, James Kelly, Kevin Munnelly, Kian Gilmore, Rian Murray, and their teacher Mary Griffiths.
Excerpts of some of the letters from Lavally NS Students
“My name is Aoife Hogan and I go to Lavally National School. I am 11 years old and I am in 5th class. I have not been in school since the Thursday before St Patrick’s Day because of Covid-19. We are off school so long now, we call it Coronacation. We have two pet calves that we have to bottle feed a few times a day, that’s fun when the sun is shining. Maybe Ms Griffiths will organise for us to come to visit you when this is all over. We can sing a few songs together.
“My name is Hugh Gallagher. I like cycling my bike, playing piano. Last week we went to the bog and footed 60 yards of turf. The weather has been quite hot ,so it will soon be ready to take home. We have been growing some carrots and beetroot and we have planted some fruit trees. How are you keeping? I know it must be hard for you too, as you cannot have visitors. I think it would be good if you could see your family and friends by video calling them using iPads. Also, a pet like a cat or dog can make very good company. I’d suggest a cat to begin with because they are self-cleaning and self-exercising."
"My name is Rian Murray age 11. I go to Lavally national school. I am in fifth class. It is very annoying that rugby and football training is not on at the moment. I hope things can start up again soon. My sister cuts my hair now, it's ok. My sister told me that our school visited you last year, so maybe next year we can visit again. Thanks for reading my letter."
"My name is Lucia. I am in 5th class in Lavally National School. I hope you enjoy reading all the letters and I will write again. Here is some Irish I did.
Lucia is ainm dom
Tá mé i rang a cúig. Tá mé aon bhliain d’eag d’aois.
Is í Ms Griffiths mo mhúinteoir.Tá sí cineálta agus tá sí go deas.
Is aoibheann liom scoil. Ba mhaith liom du ar ais.
Tá 3 capaill agus 4 cait agam.
Fuair mo mhadra Ryley bás ar an mbóthar.Bhi brón an domhain orm.
Ba mhaith liom Trampoline. Tá an aimsir go brea.Téim ag rothaíocht gach lá."
Katie Moran – 5th Class Lavally NS. “We are going through some very strange times.”
"My name is James Kelly. I am 11 years old. My birthday is on January 7. Recently I have been looking at leaves. I think it's interesting that they are all different. We have lots of trees around our house so I have identified species we didn't know were growing here. I got a programme on my computer where you take a photo of the leaf and the computer identifies the tree for you. I found larch which we thought was just a pine. We have lots of beech trees-some are very old and big. I identified Sycamore, Alder, Hawthorn, Birch and many more."
"My name is Kevin Munnelly. I am 12 years old and will be 13 on Monday May 18. I think it is hard for everyone, especially for sick and old people. It’s difficult when you can’t see your friends and family. I miss my grandparents; I haven’t seen them since my grandma’s 80th birthday in February."