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Children from Dame Allan’s Schools in Fenham and Archibald First School in Gosforth have spread festive cheer to over 70 vulnerable Your Homes Newcastle (YHN) customers by sending Christmas cards and starting new friendships.

One of YHN’s Board members, Leisa Docherty, whose child goes to Dame Allan’s Schools, contacted us to see whether there were any vulnerable customers who may be feeling particularly lonely this Christmas and who would appreciate a card from a school child.

We manage lots of different types of accommodation and support on behalf of Newcastle City Council and Leazes Homes, and this includes specific developments for those over 55 and people with a disability, which helps vulnerable people to stay living in their own homes for longer. Staff members were aware of over 70 residents living in these developments who would benefit from receiving a card.

When we realised just how many cards we needed, the service manager responsible for this accommodation, Helen Sammut-Smith, decided to take action. She approached Archibald First School, where her daughter is a pupil, and asked whether they would like to get involved as well. The school children there were delighted to oblige, and soon everyone who had been identified by our staff had a handmade card ready and waiting for them.

Rebecca Turner, Head Teacher at Archibald First School, said: “As soon as Helen made contact with us, we knew this was a special opportunity for Archibald First School to be involved with. Our year four children were delighted to be asked to make the cards for the residents.

“It has been a turbulent year for so many of us, albeit in different ways, but at Archibald we aim to support our children to appreciate what we each have, whilst recognising the position of others.  Reading their individual messages really highlighted this, as well as bringing many smiles, which we hope will be the reaction of the residents.”

Mr Will Scott, Principal of Dame Allan’s Schools, commented “When YHN approached us, we were only too happy to be able to help.

“We are delighted that our pupils have been able to spread some festive cheer and bring a smile to the faces of so many people, especially at the end of what has been a difficult year”.

Helen Sammut-Smith, YHN’s Housing Plus Manager, said: “This year has obviously been particularly hard for our customers who have vulnerabilities, and many have had far less contact with others than they usually would, which has been isolating for them.

“Our staff have been fantastic throughout the pandemic but contact with people from outside of our developments is so appreciated by our customers and the cards from the children have brought so much joy. They have produced some beautiful cards, all handmade with lovely messages of positivity written by the children.

“We know that many of those who have received cards are keen to send them back, so they’ll be working with our officers to return this lovely gesture and we hope this may lead to some new pen pals!”.

This is one of many projects we’ve worked on to try to reduce loneliness in our Housing Plus developments, including customers being helped to form support bubbles within their schemes so they’re able to have some company.

One of the developments we manage on behalf of Leazes Homes has an onsite café’ that is offering to deliver two course Christmas dinners for £10 to all Housing Plus customers who would like one, so we’re working to ensure that anyone who wants a sociable Christmas lunch can have one, in line with the guidance.

The following are quotes from some of the residents who received cards:

“Thank you very much Sam. I am very grateful for the lovely card. It is nice to see that children are being told about loneliness at Christmas time for the elderly” – Dororthy
“Thank you very much Zak and Leila, the cards are lovely. Merry Christmas and I hope that Santa is good to you”. – Maureen
“Thank you, Albert for my card and for being very thoughtful and kind. I wish all the children a very merry Christmas” – Robert
“It was a lovely surprise receiving my card from Will and I am very grateful that the children have been thinking about us”- Sadie
“I would like to pass on the biggest THANK YOU to Raneer for my lovely card” – Rod “It was a nice, unexpected surprise thank you”- John
“What a very thoughtful gesture, I loved my card, it is really nice to think that the children are thinking about us” – Pat
“It is lovely that the children are being taught to be kind and thoughtful, it was a lovely card from Ethan” – Irene
“I was very touched at receiving a card from Felix it was a lovely idea thank you” – Debbie