Highbury woman launches pen pal initiative to fight lockdown loneliness

Vivi Babalola

Vivi Babalola has set up Letters Against Loneliness. - Credit: Vivi Babalola

A Highbury woman is proving just how mighty the pen can be in the fight against loneliness during lockdown.

Just days before the government's third coronavirus lockdown came into force, Vivi Babalola set up a pen pal scheme called Letters Against Loneliness.

It sees volunteer writers connect with anyone who would like to receive a letter from a regular pen pal - there is no eligibility requirements to get involved. 

A Highbury resident of more than 30 years, Vivi had the idea last year after spending three months in a health centre receiving therapy for her mental health.

"The letters I wrote helped me rediscover a love for writing," Vivi told the Gazette. "And the letters I received gave me a lot of hope and encouragement - a handwritten letter from someone who cares makes a big difference. 

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"Other people in treatment didn't receive any letters, and I could see the effect it had on them, and the effect it [receiving post] had on me.

"It made me feel excited. It's the hope and encouragement of hearing from people that love you.

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"I have got one friend who's particularly religious who would send me quotes from the bible and my husband telling me he loved me and supported me and my grandchildren telling me about school."

The 61-year-old semi-retired businesswoman, who previously owned beauty brand and computer skills training companies, also takes a letter to Morrisons and gives it to an different employee during her grocery shop each week, so they "know what a difference they are making to my life and how appreciated they are".

She has already recruited 30 volunteer writers, the oldest of whom is 70 and the youngest is nine.

Vivi monitors the letters written - reading them before sending them on to the intended recipient - both to protect the personal addresses of those involved and to make sure there is nothing "hostile or inappropriate". 

She has been spreading the word over social media and has already reached far and wide. Vivi has received joining requests from Scotland and Dubai.

However, Vivi believes many people who could be interested in the scheme might not be signed up to social media.

Anyone interested in getting involved with Letters Against Loneliness should email vivi.lettersagainstloneliness@gmail.com

READ MORE: New Islington book club campaign to tackle loneliness

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