Award-winning project Writing Back, which pairs University of Leeds students with older local residents as pen pals, has been celebrated in national media throughout the festive season.
Much of the positive response has been due to the publication of a new report by the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, a cross-party initiative set up by the late Labour MP. According to the report's findings, loneliness affects nine million people of all ages across the UK and is as detrimental to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Writing Back received specific praise in the report for its efforts to address this issue in the Leeds area, and pen pals involved in the project were invited to attend the launch event in Batley. You can read a summary of the Commission's findings and recommendations on their website.
Dr Georgina Binnie, Writing Back's founder, spoke about the project on BBC Radio 5 Live and BBC Radio Sheffield, and was joined by Classical Civilisation student Becky Hewitt for a turn on the famous BBC Breakfast red sofa. Meanwhile English student Ian Simpson and his pen pal Joyce spoke about their mutual love of a good story on BBC Radio Leeds, and PhD researcher Kun Li told the Yorkshire Evening Post how writing to his pen pal Heather has allowed them to share their cultures with each other.
Loneliness can be especially difficult to cope with during the Christmas period, so unsurprisingly Writing Back also received season-specific appreciation. The Yorkshire Post cited the project's success as a reason to send handwritten cards and letters to loved ones at Christmas time, arguing for the value of tangibility and the personal touch. In the same spirit, Elle UK included Writing Back in its list of 13 festive activities for those who, for whatever reason, are unable to spend Christmas with family or friends.