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Tuesday, April 13 • 12:05pm - 1:05pm
Paper Trails: Using letter writing to understand social isolation and poverty in a rural community.

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Communities living in rural poverty experience social disconnection and isolation, especially amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic. Our research team explored intergenerational letter-writing as a response to isolation of people living in rural Lancaster County, PA. Letter writing was used as a qualitative research strategy to access the narratives of both individuals living in rural poverty and MU Undergraduate social work students in a freshman seminar course, who were paired as pen pals.

The letter-writing exchange enhanced students’ understanding of the daily experiences of individuals living in rural poverty. Data collected from letters demonstrated that social isolation remains a central concern among poor, rural residents. Letter writing supported a sense of personal connection between students and community members; these social connections may have attenuated the pain of social isolation that many community members experience.

Innovations in technology-based research strategies may lack the capacity to capture the complex, lived experiences of individuals and families living in rural poverty. Narrative inquiry and the use of letter writing as a research methodology allowed us access to greater understanding about the lived experience of rural poverty and access to rich, qualitative data. People living in rural poverty experience a layered isolation that keeps them separate from resources and each other. This realization requires innovative attention in both research and practice. This presentation will explore implications for practice and further research will be discussed.


Brittany Leffler

Social Work (MSW)

Rachel Preibisch

Social Work (MSW)

Tuesday April 13, 2021 12:05pm - 1:05pm EDT
Live Zoom Presentation
  Social Work, MSW