Employees at a Derbyshire company have given a huge boost to a campaign designed to lift people’s spirits by sending them personalised letters.
The Give … a Few Words campaign was set up during the Covid pandemic in 2020 to try to reach out to isolated people by matching them up with volunteer writers who would send them a letter with a personal touch. Letter recipients were initially from care homes but the campaign has now expanded to include those who are isolated in other settings, as well as families going through a tough time who may appreciate the boost a letter can bring.
Lubrizol, a company with branches all over the world including at Hazelwood near Belper, has given the campaign huge support with more than 40 employees signed up to write letters to people they have never met, including writers from Mexico and the USA.
The campaign has recently launched a festive #Letters for Christmas drive to reach out to people who may be alone, or otherwise struggling, during the festive period – and a team of Lubrizol employees have been taking part.
One of them is Jagienka Harrison, from Allestree, who knows a thing or two about the importance of letter writing. When she arrived in the UK from her native Poland aged 19, Jagienka relied on letters to keep in touch with her family.
Jagienka said: “When I first moved to England in 1999, the Internet wasn’t a thing and I used to write letters to people. I used to try and ring my mum every now and then but it cost a lot more in those days. Letters were great and I used to receive a lot of them.”
When writers take part in the Give … a few words scheme, they are given some details about the interests of the person receiving the letter, which may range from handicrafts to sport, history or even a love of jokes! The writer then crafts a personal letter which is sent to the charity’s post box in Huddersfield where it is then forwarded to the recipient – and only positive content is allowed! They are also able to write an email – the idea is just to communicate personal positive messages through the power of the written word.
Jagienka, an HR administrator for Lubrizol, said: “I think it’s a great scheme. It pushes you a little bit! What I always think about, especially over Christmas last year, is that although my grandmother is no longer alive, if she had been, she would have felt very lonely in Covid times on her own, I’m sure, and she would have loved to receive a letter from somebody.
“I just think that it doesn’t cost anything apart from a piece of paper and a stamp but you might just make somebody’s day.”
The idea of the Give … a few words campaign is that it is not intended to be a long-running pen pal scheme, which may make participants feel the pressure of long-term commitment, but rather, a one-off letter.
Founder Sharron Wilkinson, of Huddersfield, has now set up the campaign as a community interest company.
She said: “Some people receiving these letters have been in tears. They are overwhelmed. There is something really, really special about receiving a gift of something and there is nothing expected in return.
“Care homes have had such a tough time. Residents have had a tough time. A letter gives everybody a lift.”
Sharron said Lubrizol’s support for their campaign had been “amazing”, with letter writers from its branches overseas having got involved outside the festive season too.
She said: “Lubrizol has really, really embraced this. They have been involved from really early on. We are highly appreciative of their support and kindness.
“Some people are on their own, that’s the reality. Or they might be having a tough time. It’s just a really nice thing to be able to do to give some people a bit of a lift, and a bit of a smile.”