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Indian American sisters help seniors combat loneliness during pandemic with letter campaign

Boston: In a world that can feel darker by the hour, two Boston sisters are spreading comfort.

Saffron and Shreya Patel founded Letters Against Isolation in early April. With COVID-19 especially affecting seniors — and with many nursing and care centers limiting visitors — the all-volunteer organization aims to show seniors someone out there is thinking of them through hand-written cards and letters.

The sisters were born in London and moved to the US six years ago with their parents, Sonal and Sanjiv Patel. They got the idea for the organization while video-chatting with their grandmother, who is self-isolating in England.

“Even though we call them and text them every day it was clear they were still getting a bit lonely,” said Shreya Patel. “And so one of my grandmother’s friends actually wrote her a letter, and it just made her whole day and we were inspired by that. We thought as to how can we spread that same positivity, that same love to people in our community?”

What started as two teenagers at their kitchen table now involves some 2,516 volunteers who have sent nearly 21,000 letters and cards to nearly 5,000 seniors in 39 nursing homes around the US, the sisters say.

“We intend to continue to send them letters and cards after the pandemic is over because senior loneliness is not something that is going to go away,” said Saffron Patel, ‘Letters Against Isolation’ co-founder and a rising 11th grader at Buckingham Browne and Nichols School in Cambridge.

The Patel sisters are looking for more volunteer writers. You can sign up on lettersagainstisolation.com.

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