Lives Through Letters: Dubuque middle schooler reaches out to community seniors

Saanvi Ram, then a seventh-grader at George Washington Middle School, spells a word during the 2020 Telegraph Herald Regional Spelling Bee. She has applied her love for words to create Lives Through Letters, which connects students with seniors by letter writing. PHOTO CREDIT: JESSICA REILLY Telegraph Herald

“The Scripps National Spelling Bee is canceled due to the ongoing concerns of COVID-19.”

When I received an email that explained that this event was canceled, I was disappointed. However, I also was grateful for all the words I learned and what the process had taught me about working hard.

I also knew that I wanted to put my love for words to use in a new way — not just in competition, but instead, in service to the community that made everything possible for me.

My grandparents live in a rural town in India, and we don’t see them very often. However, they call us a lot.

They are drowned, day in and day out, with the only sound they hear — their breathing. What my grandparents were and are continuing to going through is a daily dose of loneliness.

Through them, I began to understand how there were so many elders in our community that likely were feeling the same way.

Family is forever. But for these seniors, forever might end in a few years. Every minute is precious when it comes to being able to spend time with their family. This is especially true for grandparents and their grandchildren.

Most grandparents in nursing homes do not see their grandchildren often. Yet, they look forward to these beautiful moments. And now, with the pandemic, moments like these are not permitted.

By connecting my love for words and the situation that has left so many isolated, I created an organization called Lives Through Letters. Through this initiative, kids in middle and high school can write letters to the seniors in their communities.

“For one thing, nursing home residents enjoy getting letters,” said Jerry Bell, manager at Sunset Park Place, a senior living community in Dubuque. “Letters bring smiles to their faces and brighten their day.”

One letter doesn’t take more than a couple of minutes to write. When the seniors in our community open them, they are overjoyed and treasure them.

I hope that whoever reading this will take the time to write a letter to any elder in their life, shining a light in the isolation they face by giving them something to look forward to.

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