31st January 2019

The Super Power Agency is a literacy charity based in Edinburgh which runs writing workshops powered by volunteers to help close the attainment gap in education. We take the pupil’s writing and publish it professionally, with each young person getting a copy of their newly authored books.

In late 2018 we were welcomed into Mr Brown’s English class at Broughton High School to run a project based around what it means to be different, and what it means to be an outsider.

The project we settled upon became our intergenerational pen pals project, where we linked each young person with a member of an older generation to exchange letters the old-fashioned way and discover the life of someone very different to their own via envelope.

The LifeCare centre in Stockbridge became our first community link for the project, and many of the adult pen pals were drawn from across the range of LifeCare’s community.

The exchange of letters saw the growth of pen pal friendships across the gulf of age, and watching the excited faces of each young person as they awaited their letter from the Super Power Agency Post Box showed the impact the project was having on the pupils.

After the initial pen pal project, we hosted a big meet-up of all the participants at Broughton High School. Nerves were high across the generations, from 13 to 93.

Upon finally meeting their older-generation pen pal our pupils were polite, inquisitive and thrilled as they sat and chatted for over an hour over tea and biscuits. The grey, dull day outside was put out of everyone’s mind by the vibrant conversations inside, and it was the perfect way to spend a Wednesday afternoon.

The letter exchange between pen pals so different has boosted our young people’s writing ability, vocabulary, confidence and self-esteem – and the big meet has helped them get to know and understand a section of society which may have seemed very distant previously.

The letters from this project, ancillary writing from the pupils and pictures from the big meet will be published by our publishing imprint Superpower Books in Summer 2019, in a book provisionally titled by the pupils ‘Mystery Faces’.

It couldn’t have happened without our older pen pals – many of whom are well kent faces around LifeCare in Stockbridge – so many thanks to them for sharing their wisdom, stories, time and love of writing, making a real impact in the lives of the young people of Edinburgh. For more information or to volunteer with the Super Power Agency find & follow: SPA Main Site / Instagram / Twitter / FB

Cal McDonald

Our lovely Pen Pals included: an international basketball coach; a Senior Guide at Edinburgh Castle; a European BBC correspondent and an actress.