A Meadows homecoming
Ice cream, letters of reference and a chance to connect with old friends were just a few of the highlights at the recent Intergenerational Day Canada at Coldstream Meadows.
On June 1, former students and participants in the Meadows School Project gathered for a day of celebration and it was a chance to share stories, laughter and friendship.
Spearheaded by teacher Sharon MacKenzie, the Meadows School Project ran from 2001 to 2008 with students from Kidston elementary school and residents and staff at Coldstream Meadows Retirement Community before rolling into a second phase in Williams Lake and the newest MSP in Kamloops. The project model bring a class of intermediate students into a makeshift classroom at a seniors’ residence for two full months of the school year.
The reunion brought together students and seniors, including special guest Marie Firth, who turns 99 this year. Firth wrote 10 children’s books which were published with MSP students as illustrators, and the funds from book sales has created a $500 scholarship that has been given at Kalamalka secondary for the past six years to a student of the project or who is involved in volunteering with older adults.
“I have heard from many via e-mail as they are off in new places with their young adult lives and they all spoke so positively of the experience they had during the project,” she said, adding that letters of reference regarding students’ involvement in the project were made available for those who would like to add to their resumés.
Alyssa Ward, now 21, said the project has meant a lot to her throughout her school years.
“I was always proud to say that I had been a part of an experience that most children my age had not,” she said. “The project taught me many things in the eight weeks that I was at Coldstream Meadows.
“I learned a lot about patience and the importance of slowing down time to enjoy the moment. I was taught a heightened insight into the respect due to my elders and gained much from their understanding of the world. I was happy to be able to listen to the diverse life stories of each person I met as well as share in the story they were still writing at Coldstream Meadows.”
Now, 10 years after her participation in the project, Ward has graduated as a Licensed Practical Nurse who works with the elderly, and many other generations, on a daily basis.
“I feel that the Coldstream Meadows Project has helped to prepare me for my life-long career,” she said.
Now 24, Tia MacLachlan said while she had always cherished her own grandparents, she hadn’t given much thought to them beyond the importance of bridging the gap between seniors and youth.
“I remembered thinking how boring it would be to attend school beside a seniors’ community home every day,” she said. “My thoughts changed dramatically in a short period of time, and I soon acknowledged that I was a part of something important.
“We changed their notions about us as being reckless and disrespectful kids, and they quickly showed us that they were interesting, witty and kind. Our energy was contagious, and soon the seniors wanted us to be a part of their world.
“I learned that intergenerational relationships go beyond grandchildren and grandparents; it’s the everyday kindness between generations. It can be as easy as taking the time to slow down, smile, and say hello to a senior on the street that you don’t know. Maybe before this project, I would have just walked on quickly by. It’s realizing that every generation has something to offer, and we are doing a disservice to ourselves and others by generalizing entire generations. I’m so proud of what the project has become, and I’m glad that I could have been a part of it.”
Meadows School Project is the banner initiative of the i2i Intergenerational Society, founded in Vernon, led by former student participant, president Sam Nolan. The society provides free resources and assistance to those wanting to start or share intergenerational projects. Four years ago it launched June 1 as Intergenerational Day Canada and in 2013, more than 100 cities representing every province and territory proclaimed the day.
Now executive director of the i2i Intergenerational Society, MacKenzie said the intergenerational message is being carried throughout British Columbia, across the country and around the world.
“There are now three MSPs running in Alberta and B.C., with others in the works for next year,” she said. “The spin-off from this one project in little ‘ol Vernon has led a significant wave of interest in the benefits of intergenerational connection. We can’t forget the wonderful resource that our growing population of older adults can provide, if we only facilitate the connecting to young people,” said MacKenzie. “I am very proud of my students, the seniors and the community that was so supportive of this precedent-setting initiative.”
For more information, see www.intergenerational.ca