Manni Kaur, director of projects at charity Hopes and Compassion, started the Letters of Kindness initiative.
During the first lockdown, Manni, 41, answered an appeal from a care home to send in artwork for residents to enjoy – but also encouraged children to write letters to them as well.
She said: "We are a charity for children with special needs and in the first lockdown, someone put in a request that they wanted some artwork for residents in their elderly home. I contacted them and said 'look, what about letters too?' With the charity, we had a few people that would be more than willing to write letters.
"So we started from there really. We started with one care home in London with 37 residents, then I had another friend in Cheltenham and I contacted three homes around here – so within three weeks we had 177 residents that we were writing to in five different homes. So it grew really quickly. The writers are from young mothers with children from two where they have been doing some artwork, all the way to people with mental health issues and some elderly – so we have got writers across the board.
"We were writing twice a month at the beginning of the first lockdown then when everyone was getting back into life, we decided to reduce it to once a month. We had about 25 children from one school writing. It's a local community initiative, we found out most of the elderly weren't allowed visitors, some didn't even have family, so it was a really tough time. After the first lockdown we felt it was vital to continue it as they were still isolated. And now, 10 months on again we are in a third lockdown and we have continued to write.
"The children have been absolutely amazing – to write one-way is really difficult. They have continued to do it. I have been in touch with the home managers and all the letters and the artwork have been displayed in the residents' bedrooms and the letters have been read to them. For us that makes it so rewarding and worthwhile."
Manni added: "It has been hard work, I'm a mother of two and I've worked during lockdown. But I just felt there was such a need for this. It's been a collective effort, particularly Gemma Box who has allowed people to drop off the letters at her cafe, The Green Tea Pot, her children have also been writing letters. There's been other people involved in this project, without them I couldn't do it.
"I think it is important to show people that we are thinking about them at this time – kindness doesn't cost a thing. To be kind to someone, it's about selflessness – service to others without wanting anything in return. It's really important. We realise and know that there's so many people out there without, but if we can have one gesture of kindness to let that one person know we are thinking about them, you don't know the difference it makes to them and their lives.
"In such unprecedented times, nobody expected to be in this situation, but to know someone is thinking of them and sending hope through artwork, letters and poems – it makes a huge difference."
Manni is also appealing for any local schools in the Black Country who would like to get involved in the project to email email@example.com.