Photo credit: Valerie Ho


Valerie Ho is the founder of “Penpals in the Community”, an initiative started during the COVID-19 pandemic to help connect the younger and older generations of Singapore through traditional snail mail. The intent of the initiative is to help the seniors in our communities who might face social isolation during the lockdown period, giving them a chance to continue experiencing social interaction. She shares her experience reacquainting with the art of letter writing.

Dear Youth,

Do people still enjoy writing letters? I used to think I was the odd one who still enjoys the old school way of sending letters and postcards via snail mail. But that perception changed when I read about an article on how a hospice care centre started a penpal programme for the seniors in the home during Singapore’s circuit breaker period.

It inspired me to do something similar for the community, an idea of having penpals in a bigger community, especially for seniors who are living on their own.

And that was how Penpals in the Community was born. Letters used to be a common mode of communication, and something that many old folk are familiar with.

Through conversations with our “pioneer penpals”, I learnt that having penpals in the past was a common thing – magazines enabled people to find a penpal with similar interests so they could start writing to each other! This was incredibly fascinating to me.

The main goal of this initiative is to form a bridge between the older and younger generations by enabling them to exchange letters to connect and share stories. Seniors may experience increased social isolation due to the COVID-19 restrictions, and these restrictions have also taken a toll on millennials’ mental well-being.

Writing to a penpal is an exciting way of connecting and getting to know someone new. We hope that this little activity has brought our seniors some joy, from the moment they open their letterbox and find a handwritten note just for them.

Moreover, I believe this initiative relieves everyone of a little loneliness. It is important that our elderly know they are not alone and there are people who are interested to learn about their stories.

While the journey hasn’t been all that easy, knowing that the seniors and their penpals are enjoying the process gives me the motivation to continue pushing forward to reach more people to join in the activity. When I call the seniors to check in on them, I can sense their joy at having a penpal.

Doing this has given me a sense of fulfilment and satisfaction. Writing letters or notes may seem like a small action, but it definitely has the power to bring smiles and joy to the recipients, especially older folk who may feel left out in this digital age.

I’m really excited to see how the initiative will impact more of them in the future!

This article was published on Aug 16, 2021

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