Students spread festive cheer with Christmas buddy project for pensioners

  • Watch a report by ITV News Anglia's Hannah Pettifer

Students in Saffron Walden are spreading a bit of festive cheer to the elderly by means of a "Christmas buddy" scheme.

Almost a hundred pensioners have signed up to receive a phone or video call from their buddy every week and despite the generation gap some special relationships have already been formed.

Every year Saffron Walden High School holds a Christmas party for the town's pensioners but because of the pandemic, this year has had to be a bit different.

Instead, the school's sixth formers have paired up with an elderly person for a chat every week. The scheme has been running for four weeks, and already some strong bonds have been made.

Student Alex Shepherd said: "It's never something I'm worried about or apprehensive to do.

"I always look forward to speaking to Eric and he's always got so many stories to tell me, whether that be of his local trips into town or his childhood experiences."

Student Owen Godsall chats online to 83-year-old Sheilah Girgis-Hanna about rugby Credit: ITV News Anglia

92 pensioners have signed up to the buddy scheme - some live alone, some in care homes.

83 year old Sheilah is a former nurse - she lives by herself in Saffron Walden but quickly found common ground with her buddy Owen Godsall over rugby.

Owen said: "She's a very interesting person, we spoke about lots of her life stories and have lots of things in common like the rugby.

"She's a big Ireland fan, I'm a Wales fan so not the same but we like to talk about it."

Students at Saffron Walden High School packing Christmas boxes for older people in the town Credit: ITV News Anglia

Alongside the weekly chats the students are putting together a Christmas box for each of their buddies which they deliver in person in a Covid-safe way.

Alongside donations from local businesses, the scheme has been run purely by the students.