Postcards of Kindness is an initiative that now sees over 1770 care homes sent heartwarming cards by loved ones and strangers from all over the world. We spoke to founder Louise Baker to find out more.
In 2018, Postcards of Kindness was formed. What originally started as a platform to combat isolation and loneliness for those living in care homes, as well as a way for the relatives of residents to share their day-trip highlights and summer escapes, two years on, has evolved into something much greater.
Right now, we’re all feeling the knock-on effects of self-isolation, but for the most vulnerable, the ones who this project was founded, Postcards of Kindness has never been more important. It’s now found a home on a Facebook page with over 40,000 members, and in the current climate it’s a place for family and friends to offer the support residents now lack due to social-distancing. Be it their observations when they take a break from their home office, recording the sights and sounds from their daily dose of exercise, or how the kids have repurposed the living room into a playground, it’s providing a sense of community to those feeling most alone.
“We hear so many stories of the conversations that they have, inspired by an image on a postcard or words from the sender”
We spoke to Louise Baker about the beginnings of Postcards of Kindness and how the postcards serve as a lifeline to the outside world, now more so than ever.
What was the initial aim for this project and how has this evolved?
The mission always has been, and continues to be the enjoyment of residents and staff, the inspiration of conversations and memories, and to combat isolation and loneliness.
What is it about this project that most inspires you?
I am inspired by the stories we receive from homes and senders; I love to hear how much the homes enjoy receiving cards, but also from senders who have found new purpose in keeping in touch with the care homes. There have been some really lovely stories of new friendships, and of residents who may not engage much coming out of their shells to talk about postcards.
How did the movement take off?
During summer 2019, a month or two after we launched our appeal was shared by Age UK and the Royal Mail. We have also featured on Heart FM’s Breakfast Show, and a few local BBC radio broadcasts.
What’s the media coverage been like? And how has that helped this project succeed?
I think I answered that above 🙂 The media coverage has told more people about us; it has helped us to reach further than we could have hoped.
What’s the response been like on social media?
Besides our members finding us, we have been aware of lots of shares, and plenty of people talking about us — we generally find that our memberships increase when someone has shared our page to a group! Teachers and teaching assistants have been particularly active in sharing the page, as a means for children to engage with a meaningful activity.
Do you have close relatives who are in a care home right now?
I don’t personally, no. We sadly lost my grandmothers almost a year apart in 2017 and 2018. They would have loved this project, and would have been proud of it, I think. I know many of our own care home residents well from telling their stories via articles and social media posts that we share for them — they all adore the postcards.
Why do you feel that sending cards to those in care homes is important?
The postcards have become a lifeline to the outside world, particularly now. They remind residents that they’re still a part of the community, and keep them engaged. They love to know that people are thinking about them. I feel that the importance lies in their ability to inspire and stimulate, and to improve mental health and wellbeing. Especially at times, such as now, when residents cannot receive visitors, they are boosting morale and wellbeing.
How has this helped residents in care homes?
They are rallied. Many of them wait patiently for the post, and we hear so many stories of the conversations that they have, inspired by an image on a postcard or words from the sender. It’s not just postcards now; greetings cards, letters, photographs and song lyrics are all sent — so many crafty items and pictures sent to evoke nostalgia.
What do you love about sending cards?
How simple it is; how quick and easy, yet impactful our words can be.
How can the members of the public get involved with this movement?
How can schools get involved with this?
In much the same way; a member of staff such a teacher will usually register to jin the Facebook page, and take the list away to her class to choose who to send to.
So far what kind of responses have you received from care homes receiving these cards?
All positive; staff and residents love the cards. We hear about particular residents’ stories and how they have remembered things thanks to the cards, and we get to know a little about life at the homes in turn. It’s been a great way to grow a community that inspires and supports one another. There are homes that write to one another — everybody tries to keep in touch if they can.
Has the current situation increased the number of cards being sent?
We have had more homes registering, having found out about us after locking their doors to non-urgent visitors. The cards are a way for residents to stay connected. We have had new members after a Heart FM broadcast, too.
Have you got any heart warming stories to share from this experience?
We have had residents tempted to join in with activities who maybe wouldn’t have before, and senders with anxiety or depression who have found great comfort in sending cards. I love to see children involved, and hear about the homes writing to one another and connecting. It’s been really humbling.
How important is this movement especially in these current times?
I hope that people appreciate its value. I understand it’s very difficult during these unprecedented times; we’re all worried about what’s going on around us, and with our family members and friends. I just hope these cards bring peace and comfort.
What vision do you have for the future of Postcards of Kindness? Where do you see it going from here?
We will carry on as we are, gathering members at a pace. My biggest hope is that we continue to bring joy to senders and residents. We have no grand ambitions as such, as I think the group already brings a lot of happiness in its current form.