A brilliant new initiative by Lenamore N.S. in Ballylongford, entitled ‘Letters from Lenamore’, is working to teach pupils not only about the art of letter writing but also helping to combat loneliness in the elderly community in the area.
he project – which sees pupils writing letters to elderly people in the community – was started by Lenamore teacher Anna Curtain with a little help from a local retirement group.
Speaking to The Kerryman, Anna said that she hopes the project will not only help the pupils academically, but that it will help teach them vital life skills.
“With all the doom and gloom around the place, we wanted to see if we could do something positive that would have an academic benefit as well. I was brainstorming with the principal, Ms O’Keeffe and we came up with the idea of reviving the art of letter writing,” said Anna.
“We thought that seeing as the older generation have been impacted probably the most that we would try to aim it towards them,” she continued.
It was then that Anna got in contact with Kitty McElligott from the Ballylongford Active Retirement group who came on board to help get the ball rolling on the project.
Kitty McElligott of Ballylongford Active Retirement is delighted with the initiative, saying the letters are welcome during this difficult time when their group has been prevented from meeting up
“Kitty was very positive about the whole idea and she said that she’d love to get involved and that she would spread the word amongst the members of the Ballylongford Active Retirement,” Anna said.
“Kitty actually wrote us the very first letter which was like a local history lesson in itself and the kids were enthralled by how different times were in the 1940’s in school. Now, one of our sixth class pupils have written back to her in the mean time and and she’s actually writing her another letter at the moment. It’s lovely, they’ve almost become like pen pals,” said Anna.
Going on, she said they received their first actual letter in the post on Thursday morning along with an email as well and that she is hopeful that this is the a sign that the project is starting to build and take off.
“We’re hoping that it will grow into sending letters back and forth and that in the lead up to Christmas, we might be able to start sending them out Christmas cards as well,” said Anna.
Speaking about the project too, Principal Anne O’Keeffe said that writing a letter to someone can make a huge difference in that person’s life.
“Although the community can’t interact in the usual ways with the school, it is important that children are encouraged to remember those who are vulnerable during at this time,” she said.
“The simple gesture of writing a letter can make a big difference to someone living alone, and it gives children the opportunity to practice the art of letter writing and learn something new about others in their community. We hope that it becomes a mutually beneficial exchange,” she continued.
One of the big hopes for the project for Anna is that the kids come away from it with a greater understanding of life skills such as empathy for others and an appreciation of how lucky they are to have the things they have in life,
“Kitty said in her letter that at Christmas, she used to only get an apple or an orange from Santa and sure the kids could not believe this when they heard it. I hope that hearing things like this will help the kids be more grateful for what they have.
“We want them to acknowledge all that they have and all the things that their parents do for them. It’s not just about writing letters, it’s about learning these skills such as empathy and holding a conversation with someone and how to ask questions about someone’s life.
Obviously, the academic side of things is very important but for them to learn these life skills is very important too,” she said.
If anyone else would like to get involved with the project, they can write to ‘Letters from Lenamore’, Lenamore National School, Lenamore, Ballylongford, Co. Kerry or email email@example.com
Read Kitty’s letter she wrote to the Lenamore pupils:
My name is Kitty. Today I am writing to you about my national school days at Ballylongford National School. Ballylongford National School was situated across from where St. Michael’s graveyard is today. This road was called the School Road.
It is 75 years since I first began national school. In my class there were 35 pupils. The school had six classrooms, three on the left for the girls and the three on the right were for the boys. You had infants, high infants, first class, second class, third class, fourth class, fifth class and sixth class. Infants, high infants and first class were grouped into one classroom, second, third and fourth classes were in the next room and fifth and sixth classes were in the third room. You had three teachers for the girls and three for the boys.
We learned a lot of our subjects through Irish because some of our teachers were from the Dingle area and they had fluent Irish, with the result we couldn’t add in English we were so used to doing it in Irish. We had the catechism and the table book off by heart, these were the priorities. The system for heating our school was that any child whose parents had turf, they brought a pony load of turf to school for the year.
I walked three miles to school each day. We had no transport, we wore shoes until April and from April to September we had no shoes but walked barefoot to and from school. In those days, especially for big families it was not possible to afford a pair of shoes for each child. So some members of the family went to first mass and they gave their shoes to the remainder of the family to go to second mass.
Each of us hung up a stocking (an ordinary stocking) at Christmas. We each got an apple and an orange from Santa at Christmas. A barmbrack was a treat at Christmas.
We usually had a goose or a duck for our Christmas dinner. On St. Stephen’s Day (The Wren Day) we walked six miles and whatever we collected we gave it to our parents that evening in return for our supper.
I will write again but in the meantime, I look forward to your letter.