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November 6, 2016

​Community Correspondent: Joyce Aveyard wrote to us about the Writing Back Penpal Programme​

My name is Joyce Aveyard. I would like to relate the benefits of writing to another person. Did any of you have a pen friend in your youth? I had several, in various countries, the anticipation of eagerly awaiting a letter with a foreign stamp dropping through my letter-box bringing me more information about my friends.

This brings to mind a project that was brought to my attention several years ago by Miss Georgina Binnie at Leeds University. Her idea: to match a final year English student with an elderly person.

Many are the advantages to the project to cross barriers of age: exchanging ideas, opening mutual interests, giving back lifestyles. When you were young the material items, which would not have been available in your youth for various reasons, how did one manage without these mod-cons? What are your family backgrounds? So many subjects for you to write about.

Each person will have various experiences, different lifestyles. Between us we will have a multitude of memories to explore, places of interest you were happy to visit. Remember many of these young students could have arrived from various parts of our British Isles.

My experiences with this project are invigorating, interesting, a learning curve giving me tremendous pleasure, no need ever to feel lonely; each person, no matter what circumstances, has plenty to give and gain.

The ‘Writing Back’ project is the brain-child of miss Georgina Binnie at the School of English, Leeds University. That’s all you have to promise to do: write back at least once a month, or more if you wish, at no cost to you as writing materials and postage stamps are provided.

So successful has the project become, from its first term, the amount of writers have at least trebled, due mostly to the hard work and organisation of its originator Miss Georgina Binnie.

All one’s letters are addressed to your penpal, care of her, and are placed in appropriate slots to await collection. Your letters are addressed by her to you — it’s really up to you if you want to reveal your own address.

Today there are many other methods of communicating: faster, cheaper, but in my opinion certainly not as satisfactory.

Each term Georgina will give you the opportunity to meet with your penfriend over a delicious buffet lunch.

I sincerely invite anyone to accept this opportunity to reach out and write back.

Joyce Aveyard