This pandemic pen pal program sparked friendship for keiki and kūpuna
Since January, retiree Carol Tashima has sent letters back and forth with two students at Pearl Ridge Elementary School. She’s pen pals with sixth grade students Destiny and Carlos.
"I look forward to a letter. As soon as you get the letters, I usually send them back within a day or two," Tashima said.
Tashima is part of a program with the city’s Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), which was part of a pen pal project with Pearl Ridge Elementary.
RSVP's Kimberly Itagaki said the seniors partnered with Pearl Ridge Elementary three years ago, during the pandemic, as a way to connect keiki and kūpuna as pen pals.
"This year, which was so heartwarming, is reading some of the students' letters saying, my sister, my brother was in this project, and I couldn't wait to be a part of a pen pal," Itagaki said.
Typically, the program ends without the pairs meeting one another in person, but that changed on Monday when the retirees and students were brought together.
For the meet, Tashima traveled to Aiea from Hawai'i Kai.
"Normally at the end of the year, we send them a lei and a little gift and our last letter, one of encouragement, wishing them well in their continuing education," Tashima said before the meet. "So this is really exciting for us because we're going to meet the kids we correspond with. I'm tickled I can't wait to meet my two kids."
The generation gap has offered a learning experience for everyone involved. Tashima said she's learned all about video games from Carlos this year.
"The first thing he wrote to me, I didn't know what he was talking about," Tashima said. "I find myself Googling a lot. So like he'd say, play Fortnite. I don't know what this is. I need to look it up."
And for sixth grader Carlos, he said he’s going to miss writing to Aunty Carol.
"It's fun and also exciting to see what your pen pal will send you next," Carlos said. "It feels like you have someone to talk to you and in detail, like what your week has been and how it's been and the ups and downs."
The program ended with a luncheon yesterday that boasted smiles, laughs and the hand-off of that one last letter.
"From what the teacher told me, one of her students got all teary-eyed after the meet and greet luncheon because she was so sad that she's not going to be able to write to her pen pal anymore," Itagaki said.