Students at NUI Galway are reaching out to residents in the county this Christmas by way of pen and paper in the spirits of solidarity and friendship.
First and third year BA students in modern Irish culture studies at NUI Galway are writing open letters to residents in nursing homes across the county by way of intergenerational engagement and solidarity. The initiative, titled Comfort Words, is a partnership between the Centre for Irish Studies, NUI Galway, and Nursing Homes Ireland.
In the letters, students are introducing themselves to residents, informing of where they are from, their interests, cultural and life experiences, life ambitions, and their learnings about modern Irish culture at university.
Students have been encouraged to express their thoughts and feelings surrounding Covid-19 within their letters and provide their thoughts on responding to adversity during these difficult times. Messages of hope and positivity are engrained within the letters, with the students themselves having older relatives living in nursing homes and the wider community.
“Earlier during the crisis this year, there was a lot of media attention around young people in Ireland and how they were experiencing what has possibly been the most challenging year of their lives,” said Dr Nessa Cronin, lecturer in Irish studies at the Centre for Irish Studies in NUI Galway. “I wrote an open letter to my students thanking them for their hard work, empathy, and commitment to supporting each other while learning remotely in stressful times.
“The feedback I got from that first letter made me think that they too, in turn, could write letters to help others. I also knew, from having regular interaction with all of my students, that many of them were worried and concerned as to how the pandemic was having an impact on the lives of their families, friends, and wider communities across the country. They were very aware that the other generation to be disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, our elders, should know that the younger generation in Ireland are thinking of them at this time. And that’s how our comfort words initiative, writing open letters during lockdown to nursing home residents across all nursing homes in Galway city and county, was born.”
Tadhg Daly, CEO of Nursing Homes Ireland, added: “We’re very proud to have partnered with the Centre for Irish Studies in NUIG to support this special connection between university students and nursing home residents. This is a brilliant example of the positivity young people bring to Irish society and it is important to recognise Covid-19 has also caused considerable stress, worry, and anxiety for our younger people and had a huge negative disruption on their lives. The cross-generations have both experienced the most difficult changes to life brought about by the virus. Residents in County Galway nursing homes will be buoyed by the letters, appreciative of the comforting words and expressions of solidarity coming from the students. We in NHI and our member nursing homes in County Galway are very thankful to the students and Dr Cronin for their generosity and goodwill towards people in our nursing homes who helped build the country and society we live in.”