Nina Rawal

Nina Rawal’s Caring About Seniors program not only sends pen pal letters – they also make and send masks to those in need. The program reaches senior living facilities around the Valley.

It has been a whirlwind year for everyone, and a group of local students has taken advantage of spending more time at home to make a difference to a special group of people. 

Earlier this year, Xavier College Prep sophomore Nina Rawal started a program called Caring About Seniors after speaking to her grandparents over the phone during quarantine.

“I realized they could not spend time with their friends and family,” Rawal said. “I just wanted to give them a bit of happiness in these unforeseen circumstances. I came to see how sad my grandparents had become, and figured that if they were feeling this way, other seniors probably were too.”

It was then that Rawal started her mission to lift the spirits of seniors suffering from loneliness. She contacted senior living facilities across the Valley to understand better what residents wanted and needed. From there, she set up a few programs on her website for pen pal writing, baking, mask-making and GoFundMe fundraising.

“I mainly just wanted to bring some happiness into their lives and help in whatever way I could,” Rawal said. 

The pen pal concept was the first idea that popped into Rawal’s head. She wanted to keep in touch with seniors without seeing them in-person due to safety concerns and social distancing. She wrote a few letters to seniors, and once the word spread, she enlisted the help of her friends to keep the messages going. The effort has grown to include more than 30 volunteers from Xavier and other schools, with Rawal writing over half of the letters herself. 

With 100 letters sent so far, Rawal hopes to continue supporting seniors through her program. Although it takes some time to decorate the letters and package a few masks to send with them, Rawal said it’s well worth it for these students to do their part and lift the spirits of seniors who may be feeling extra isolated. “It’s amazing to know that you’re helping someone with the letters you are writing,” Rawal said. 

Looking ahead, Rawal is eager to get more volunteers on board so they can expand their efforts to more centers and ultimately help more seniors. She also has some big plans for the future. “Once we can leave our homes more often, I was thinking of hosting a bake sale to raise money, along with the GoFundMe fundraiser,” Rawal said. “Maybe some of our volunteers can even meet some of their pen pals, once it’s safe.”

For Rawal and her fellow Caring About Seniors volunteers, it’s rewarding to foster community connections and let seniors know they are not forgotten. “It’s genuinely so heart-warming to know that one little letter or one little treat is bringing a smile to the seniors’ faces. That was my main goal in the first place,” Rawal said. “To know I’m succeeding in doing that is amazing and brings a smile to my face as well.”