UHD's Gator Pen Pals Sharing Messages of Hope
By Mike Emery
A short note can make a big difference in the life of a senior who may feel isolated during the pandemic.
Thanks to more than 20 University of Houston-Downtown students, area seniors are receiving notes and cards to let them know that they aren’t alone during this time. In recent months, the Gator Pen Pal Program has brought together students to write letters and create cards that are delivered to members of Houston’s senior community.
Chemistry major Mahalia Ogude launched this project with the goal of helping her fellow Houstonians during the pandemic.
“I wanted to step up and do something positive to make a difference … something in which I can also get my peers involved and remind people that they are not alone,” she said.
Gator Pen Pals have been corresponding with area seniors via letters, and recently, crafted handmade Thanksgiving-themed cards to help brighten the season. The cards were part of what she calls Autumn Happy Mail, which also included decorations, jokes, hot cocoa and word searches (all focused around the fall season). These Happy Mail packets were delivered to 26 residents of a retirement facility.
“One of the goals of this project is to increase communication opportunities among the elderly by giving them the option to become pen pals for a semester with a UHD student,” Ogude said. “In doing so, students are helping to minimize loneliness among the elderly by giving them another way to feel needed and find a sense of joy by sharing stories of their memorable experiences and accomplishments, as well as sharing advice and knowledge.”
Following finals, Ogude hopes to bring additional cheer to seniors with more Happy Mail focused on December holidays.
“This holiday season is like no other for many seniors who no longer live with their families,” she said. “Many nursing homes are on lockdown because of the pandemic. Residents are unable to get visits from family or interact with each other. I greatly appreciate the time, effort and commitment my peers have put into connecting with the elderly and bringing a smile to their faces. It is absolutely beautiful what we can accomplish when we work together. It is because of caring and selfless UHD students that the Gator Pen Pal Program has made an impact this semester and this holiday season.”
Students interested in becoming Gator Pen Pals should reach out to Ogude at GatorPenPal@gmail.com.
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD)—the second largest university in Houston—has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974.
As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive four-year university led by Interim President Antonio D. Tillis. Annually, UHD educates more than 14,000 students; boasts more than 51,000 alumni and offers 44 bachelor’s and eight master’s degree programs within five colleges (Marilyn Davies College of Business; Humanities & Social Sciences; Public Service, Sciences & Technology; and University College).
UHD has the most affordable tuition among four-year universities in Houston and one of the lowest in Texas. The University is noted nationally as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, Minority-Serving Institution and Military Friendly School. For more on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit www.uhd.edu.