#UPMandelaMonth: UP students reach out to elderly with Adopt a Grandparent initiative

Posted on July 01, 2021

University of Pretoria (UP) students have initiated a letter-writing programme to make contact with elderly residents at senior homes who may be feeling isolated and lonely as a result of COVID-19 restrictions that prevent their grandchildren from visiting them.

Michelle Kretzschmar, a microbiology student at UP and house committee member of Azalea residence, put forward an initiative at her residence called the Adopt a Grandparent programme, which entails writing a letter to grandparents who reside at senior homes Ons Tuis, Van Rensburg and St Johns Home.                                                                                                                                                                           

“I’ve learned that children and students are sometimes scared to engage with older people,” said Kretzschmar. “Taking an interest in them truly opened our eyes. Through the Adopt a Grandparent programme, we now have the opportunity to get to know them and learn from their amazing and interesting experiences.”

Nothemba Magadla, a second-year biotechnology student, was part of the group of students who put pen to paper. “I decided to take part in this initiative because I’d never heard of anything like this before,” Magadla said. “I felt these letters would make a difference, even a small one, in the lives of both the writer and the receiver.”

Every letter was unique and personally addressed to the adopted grandparent. “In my letter, I reflected mostly on COVID-19 and my life in general thus far,” Magadla added. “It didn’t feel like I was writing to a stranger. In a sense, it was very cathartic because it seems more meaningful than sending a text or making a phone call. It felt like the equivalent of having a conversation.”

Kretzschmar delivered all the letters to the home. “The hand-out of the letters was such a special, humbling experience,” she said. “One lady couldn’t resist the suspense and immediately opened and read hers. I’m really passionate about this programme and hope this will be an ongoing project for our residence. I can’t wait for our next engagement.”

Magadla encouraged everyone to take part in similar initiatives this Mandela Month. “Mandela Month is a great incentive for people to do some good in the community. Although, I think that for most people, Mandela Month is every month or even every day, because many people often perform small, random acts of kindness.”

Be part of the Adopt a Grandparent initiative

- Author Mecayla Maseka
Published by Hlengiwe Mnguni

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