One day in 2005, when Mangla Bansal was 17, seemingly out of the blue, she received a lengthy email from a 93-year-old woman.
The senior, Kay Charter, responded to a story in a Burnaby newspaper about the then-high school student who was involved with Amnesty International and other humanitarian projects.
“Many older people think that all young people are bad, which isn’t so.” Charter wrote. “Also, many young people think older people are all cranky and out of touch, which isn’t true either.”
The email, writing about the challenges of life and the importance of positivity, concluded with: “So, go get ’em, Mangla.”
For the next three years, the two exchanged detailed historical, philosophical and emotional letters.
They were pen pals.
Eventually, they met in person, first at a Church Christmas dinner, then for other outings, often just walking in a park and talking.
It turned out they lived just two blocks apart.
Bansal, now 29, describes her relationship with Charter, now 104, as a “healthy, female version of Tuesdays with Morrie,” alluding to the story of a sports reporter’s relationship with his former professor.
Charter now lives on Vancouver Island, but the pair still regularly communicate.
Photo: Kay Charter and Mangla Bansal when they first met in 2005.
The two are equals with a 75-year age difference, Bansal says.
“The generation gap is a bit of a blessing.”
A video producer, Bansal has brought her outlook on friendships to a new project called What Generation Gap?
It’s a video training and story-sharing project for youth and seniors in Surrey.
Youth aged 15-18, chosen by partners at the Surrey School District, will be strategically paired with a volunteer senior citizen who will share their story.
The selected youth will be trained to write, direct, shoot and edit a three-minute video telling the story of the senior.
Still accepting interviews with seniors for a few more weeks, Bansal has her spring and summer planned out for the project.
The seniors and organizers will meet June, she will get together with the students in early July, and filming will take place on July 14 and 18 at a park in Newton.
The movies will be shown at the What Generation Gap? project gala on July 23 from 12:30-4:30 p.m. at the Surrey Arts Centre (13750 88 Ave.). The public is welcome to attend. Admission is free.
One more information session is planned for Tuesday, April 19 at 1:30 p.m. at the Newton Seniors Centre, 13775 70 Ave. Seniors are welcome to share their stories with organizers.