News & Events

Connecting through COVID-19 one letter at a time

December 13, 2020

The thud of an envelope dropping in the letter box always brings a smile to Harriet Auld’s face.

She is pen pals with Liscombe House resident Georgina Simmons, and the journey which began in the middle of March this year has already shown the power of letters in building friendships.

“We have discovered we have a lot in common with each other, not least having families in the UK, enjoying writing, and a love of nature,” Harriet said.

She became involved in the pen pal initiative after her boss, Rose Hiscock, told her about the program. Rose volunteers with her dog Peggy at OCAV’s Rushall Park village.

“I have always loved writing letters, and this seemed such a good opportunity to connect with someone else,” Harriet said.

She moved from the UK almost eight years ago. Keeping up with her family and has involved letter writing as well phone calls. She loves receiving handwritten letters but admits that her writing borders on illegibility so she resorts to typing.

For Harriet, writing to Georgina gives her the chance to focus on what she loves doing in her new ‘home.’ Before lockdown, she and her partner would head off exploring regional Victoria, hiking in the outdoors and enjoying the birdlife in and around her local suburb of Thornbury.

“I particularly love the Rainbow Lorikeet and the Kookaburra. My family in the UK often comment on the sounds of the birds in the background of our telephone calls. They are interested in the different sounds, which are very different from those in the UK and much louder,” she said.

When she is not writing letters, Harriet works as a Development Manager for the University of Melbourne where she is involved in Science Gallery Melbourne. It is a new gallery space being built on the corner of Grattan and Swanston Street. The gallery is designed to inspire young people aged 15-25 years with art and science, and is due to open early next year.

Last year, she and her colleagues organised a pop-up exhibition called Disposable, which focused on human wastefulness and sustainability. The exhibition brought together artists and scientists to create interactive art installations to raise awareness about the environment and sustainability.

Some of the installations included a 10-metre-long eel trap created using indigenous knowledge and practice, which was launched onto the Maribyrnong River to collect rubbish and other pollutants, a series of pollution pods that demonstrated the air quality of major cities around the world including London, Beijing and New Delhi.

“Participants were able to walk through each pod to experience the different pollution levels of each city. The artist used synthetic smells and smoke machines to create the atmosphere. This art piece went on to the UN Climate Action Summit as a powerful tool to communicate with policymakers and influencers ,” Harriet said.

While Harriet has plenty to keep her occupied for work, she always loves the moments she takes to think about what to write to Georgina.

“It is a real pleasure sitting to reflect about what is important to me and to be able to write about the small but beautiful things in life,” Harriet said.

She is hoping that soon she will be able to hand deliver a letter and meet Georgina.


Josephine Katite may be a long way from Kenya, where she was born and lived until 2005 but the experience of looking after her elderly grandparents is very much with her every day in her work at Liscombe House.

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