Ian Hodge, right, showing Cody Purnell and Tane Jenkinson his medals. PHOTO/ELISA VORSTER

ELISA VORSTER
elisa.vorster@age.co.nz

There may be an eight-decade age difference between some of the Opaki School students and their respective pen pals, but that did nothing to stop the excitement as they met each other for the first time last week.

As part of a school project to improve their formal writing skills, 52 Year 5 and 6 Kahure syndicate students have been exchanging letters with residents at three retirement homes in Masterton for the past few months.

During the project the students learned how people in a different era lived, as well as learn the patience required in waiting for a handwritten letter to arrive in the mail.

Residents from Lansdowne Park Lifestyle Village and Lansdowne Court were invited to a special assembly at the school last Thursday where the students put on a show before introducing themselves to their pen pals for the first time.

Ian Hodge had been writing to students Tane Jenkinson and Cody Purcell about his years of service as an officer in the Order of St John and brought his medals along for them to see.

“It’s been great,” Hodge said of the pen pal system.

Although he already had his own granddaughter to write to in London, Hodge had enjoyed encouraging one of the boys with his writing. He said one of them “deserves a badge of honour for his printing”.

Another pen pal, Isabel Campbell, had three students to write to, one of whom shared the same surname.

“She kept trying to figure out if we were related and I had to tell her ‘I’m not a Campbell, I married a Campbell’,” she said.

She was also asked to provide advice on what to take on a caravan, to which Campbell answered, “Very quiet games and some books”.

Student Lucy Wyeth said she has really enjoyed the pen pal system and was glad they could finally meet in person.

“It’s been really fun and we’ve all been looking forward to it.”

The students would continue exchanging letters with their pen pals for the remainder of the year.