Elderly people have been hit the hardest by COVID-19 and are isolated from their families. Now young people are writing them letters with messages of love and hope.
In times of isolation, fear and uncertainty, ten cousins are trying to have a simple equation sweep the world — one letter, one smile.
From 14 to 24 years old, the group came together to put those smiles on people in a specific demographic: the elderly.
The One Letter, One Smile initiative connects people who want to write a letter to the elderly currently on lockdown across France and Belgium.
The elderly are the most at risk from COVID-19. Ninety-five per cent of those who have died from the disease are over 60 years old, and 50 per cent were over 80.
Because the threat is so high, old people's homes are on lockdown around the world. Stories have emerged of husbands and wives, separated with only a short amount of time left to spend with one another, grandchildren kept away from their grandparents, and of terrible loneliness in those stuck inside, with little contact. One Letter, One Smile sends notes of hope and happiness to those who need it most.
"It's a very simple interface, where anybody can log in and write a letter, and this letter we send it to elderly people who are isolated, in retirement homes," explained one of the founders of the programme, Alienor Duron.
The initiative started in France, and has already expanded to Belgium with Switzerland up next. Duron said the goal is to expand everywhere they can, with the UK and Europe the most logistically possible next stops. The expansion is driven by a the tidal wave of feedback Duron and her cousins have already received.
"We've had great feedback," she told Euronews.
Many of those who receive the letters aren't in a position to respond, but the opportunity for pen-pal friendships to develop is there.
"There's currently an option for the elderly people to respond to the letter if they want to, they can access the email of the person that send them the letter," said Duron.
"Our goal really is to send love letters their way, and if they can't answer back that's okay."