Hammersmith United Charities has connected more than 100 local children with older residents during the pandemic through a unique art and writing programme.
A local resident poses with a decorated leaf
The charity, which provides sheltered housing for vulnerable people over 60, has worked with schools across the borough, encouraging pupils to write to older residents on decorated birch leaves made from wood. Known as the 'Dreaming Forest project', the initiative has supported social interaction and creativity through lockdown, helping to provide a vital support network for those in need.
"We wanted to start a conversation between older and younger people, who have all have a difficult time during the crisis," says Hammersmith United Charities CEO, Victoria Hill. "Each child was given a blank birch leaf and asked the question: "what are you dreaming about"? They had to decorate the leaves in a way that answered this. Some of the answers were incredibly sweet, others were hilariously funny. We collected them all to distribute to older residents in sheltered housing. They received these leaves, along with a question from the children to get the conversation going." Residents all wrote back to the children and many have been exchanging letters, poems and hand-drawn pictures for months.
A young school child decorates her leaf
Eventually the charity hopes to unite the school children with the residents they've been writing to, once it's safe for people to interact freely. "It might be a while before we can arrange an event for everyone to meet, but for now it is nice for them to know that someone is thinking about them. We will run a similar project over Christmas and New Year," says Victoria.
Dreaming Forest was a collaboration between Hammersmith United Charities, artist and researcher Carolyn Defrin, Wendell Park and Old Oak Primary schools, Solidarity Sports and the LIDO Foundation.
Hammersmith United Charities has also been offering regular welfare checks and practical support to residents under its sheltered housing scheme throughout the pandemic.