Many Ontario residents have spent COVID-19 lockdowns honing in on new skills or perfecting existing ones as people across the province have remained isolated for months on end.
But last summer a Toronto teen decided she wanted to bring some happiness to seniors isolated in retirement and long-term care homes. Through the creation of a pen pal program called ‘P.S. I Love You,’ she did just that.
“I thought writing to them would be a good way to keep people entertained and to learn new stories about other people,” explained 13-year-old Aryelle Sigulim.
The program has become a huge success, connecting connected 90 students to more than 300 seniors through the art of handwritten letters.
“It makes me happy and kind of proud to write to so many people, especially because I know they appreciate it and it just makes me feel good that I’m writing to people who like to receive letters and making them feel better and happy,” she said.
Sigulim told Global News she has been writing to Laura Greenberg, a 92-year-old resident at Kensington Place Retirement Residence, for the past six months. Greenberg said she was shocked the first time she received a letter in the mail.
“When I first got her letter and I found out how old she was and how this thing got started I was amazed that a person of her age would put something like this together,” said Greenberg.
“How many letters do we get other than bills?”
The teen, along with some help from her parents and their dog Max, created ‘P.S. I Love You’ stationary so when seniors receive a letter it’s actually on customized letterhead.
“Both my husband and I are super proud of Aryelle and everything she’s accomplished with this, and I think it has changed her,” said Aryelle’s mother, Andrea Sigulim.
Greenberg recalled how when she was just four years old she sold raffle tickets for a retirement home on Cecil Street in Toronto. She said she did it with her late mother, noting she sees herself reflected in Aryelle.
“I see myself in her because she did something like this which is bringing people together and making people happy,” said Greenberg.
Even though the province is slowly reopening, Aryelle said she plans to continue and grow the program.
“Even though things will open up more and you can go and visit people and your life can get back to normal, I think it’s still important to reach out to people even if you’re busy and it’s just really nice to receive a letter,” she said.
Anyone interested in participating or receiving a letter was encouraged to email email@example.com.