Intergenerational placement project: from pen to pal

Monday, 18 June 2018

Dr Tamara Blakemore, Field Education Coordinator and acting Head of Discipline for Social Work has worked with in home nursing care provider, Hunter Nursing and Valentine Public School to develop and implement a novel placement opportunity.

Between February and June this year, two third year social work students, Jessica Phelps and Katyana Shultz Goodger, have supported the implementation of a highly successful intergenerational pen pal program between year 6 students from Valentine Public School and clients from Hunter Nursing. Neither setting is a traditional site for Social Work placements and bringing the two together was a new and exciting opportunity.

Twenty eight student and client pairs - participated in the program in which they exchanged narrative letters over eight weeks on six topics: love & security, health, participating, identity & culture, material basics, and learning. These topics map to the Federal Government evaluated and endorsed, ARACY common assessment framework for well-being.

Feedback from the project has been overwhelmingly positive from both sides.

“If you ever want to run this project again, I’ll be here. I think it’s wonderful”, Hunter Nursing client Dianne said.“It’s great for the children, as well as for me”, she said, adding that when she feels a bit down she reads her letters and they make her feel better.

Year 6 student Amber said "When the letters are delivered to our teacher and she hands them out, it's like Christmas!"

On Friday 15 June, the school hosted an emotional celebratory morning tea where the pen pals were able to meet face-to-face, enjoy morning tea together and exchange gifts.  With great enthusiasm and support from both sector partners, there are plans to replicate the placement model in 2019, with other industry partners also interested in its potential expansion and inter-disciplinary delivery to diverse community groups.

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The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.