What’s been happening at Heart and Soul Story?

On June 7th, Heart and Soul Story’s Founder, Samantha Heron, was invited to speak on intergenerational connection at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney for Awesome Sauce, a special Vivid Sydney event with partners The Awesome Foundation and VibeWire.

Sam recounted stories of connection from STEP – the Seniors and Teens Empathy Program she has been running with The Bowen College Maroubra and Elders at Bupa Aged Care Maroubra.

In June, STEP kicked off a trial for students from International Grammar School and residents at Opal Aged Care in Annandale. Youth off the Streets The Bowen College have their spring program underway at Bupa Maroubra over August/ September. To keep posted on this program and more from Heart and Soul Story, follow along on instagram (by clicking on one of the pictures top right of this page).

The wonder of Bringing Community Back Together

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Just as each remarkable sunrise can touch us with a feeling of amazement and admiration, so too can the energy of being in a room of people with over half a century between them as they give thanks and recognition for time shared together.

The Recognition Gathering week of STEP (Senior and Teens Empathy Program) saw students from Youth off the Streets Bowen College show their gratitude to their Elders in front of their community of parents and teachers.

The students had worked on gifts of respect as diverse as booklets of images of their time spent together, interspersed with pictures from their Elder’s homeland … to the making of an intricate dream catcher.

The Elders too, passed on their words of gratitude and recognition in cards. Some offering simple advice for the future such as ” Don’t smoke” … others crafting words from the heart about the journey ahead that the Teens will be able to turn to for years to come.

One of many incredible outcomes from this 8-week program, is that one of the students who was so motivated by her weekly visits with her Elders, she has chosen to go on to do her work experience in the Aged Care home this term.

Who of us in our digitalized and remote lives has not wondered about our disappearing sense of connectedness — face to face, person to person and within a tribe? The more we find ourselves hitting “send,” “reply,” and “post,” the less connected we often feel and become … there is a growing longing to return to a sense of real community ”

Mike Bodkin, Executive Director, Rites of Passage Vision Quest

STEP was designed using a Rites of Passage framework  as a program that aims to nourish and develop the souls of adolescents on their path to find purpose and meaning through a vision of life that is bigger than self. Simultaneously, it gives purpose and meaning to our wonderful Elders to share their stories and their advice from their life journey.

A modern-day rite of passage is achieved when the community create experiences for youth which are perceived to be transformative and, in fact, offer them increased status within the community and facilitate their healthy transition through adolescence” Blumenkrantz, 1996

Heart and Soul Story is excited about the potential opportunity to work further with Youth off the Streets to implement STEP as part of their Service Learning curriculum for 2019.

 

 

 

“Our students are already showing empathy and are learning from experiences from the past”

Screen Shot 2018-06-21 at 10.19.02 am.pngWith one final week of our 8 weeks of STEP coming up next week, it was time to get some feedback from the @youthoffthestreets Bowen College School Manager on what she has enjoyed about the program…

“Watching the young people take the time and having patience with the Bupa residents …. seeing rapport building up more and more each session between the students and residents.”

” Our students are already showing empathy and are learning from experiences from the past.”

“We really value this program. It is worthwhile, community spirited and builds empathy.”

 Bringing community back together like this is as much about educating our young people’s hearts as well as their minds.

#seniorsandteensempathyprogram #intergenerationalprogram #intergenerationalprograms #stories4connection #youthoffthestreets #heartandsoulstory #bupaagedcare #bringingcommunitybacktogether

“Music gives a soul to the universe… and life to everything.” 

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Around 2,500 years ago, Plato summed up the power of music up perfectly when he said

“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.”

The power of music to connect was seen is spades as laughter, tears and plenty of toe-tapping was shared by students and their Elder buddies during yesterday’s session of STEP (Senior and Teens Empathy Program).

A Spotify playlist of songs from yesteryear and today provided the perfect conversation starter and brought the generations closer as they teamed up in two groups for a ‘fierce’ competition to guess songs.

In a  2013 review of the research on music, Stefan Koelsch, music psychologist at the Freie University Berlin, described several mechanisms through which music impacts our ability to connect with one another—by impacting brain circuits involved in empathy, trust, and cooperation—perhaps explaining how it has survived in every culture of the world. ( Jill Suttie, Four ways Music Strengthens Social Bonds)

Music gives us an oxytocin boost … Oxytocin is a neuropeptide affiliated with breast-feeding and sexual contact, and is known to play an important role in increasing bonding and trust between people. Now researchers are discovering that music may affect oxytocin levels in the body.

Music is included as part of the design of STEP sessions as deliberate means of empathy building. The power of the love of music helping highlight another example of an equaliser between generations.

#seniorsandteensempathyprogram #intergenerationalprogram #YouthofftheStreets #BupaAgedCare#intergenerationalprograms #heartandsoulstory #stories4connection  #music4life #musicconnectspeople

 

“I don’t think she has heard a story like mine before… I knew I had a heart reaction”

 

So great to see both the students from Youth off the Streets and their Elders enjoying their time together so much during the STEP.

Unfortunately, last week the YOTS students had a clash of programs, so missed their visit to Bupa Maroubra … but no fear .. with the wonders of modern technology, the hip and happening septuagenarians and octogenarians ( phew that’s a mouthful) managed to record these lovely messages for their teen buddies.

John, born in Greece in 1933, is one of the residents at Bupa Maroubra participating in STEP (Seniors and Teens Empathy Program).  He is loving how polite and interesting and the teen he has been partnered with is.

” I like how intelligent she is, it’s very nice to talk to her and

I like the students learning about our lives”.

 John was asked what he’d rate the ‘life conversation’ sessions he’s had so far with the teens from 1 – 10 … he gave it a 10.5!

When Judy, aged 71, was asked what she is getting out of the Seniors and Teens Empathy Program thus far she replied

I don’t think she has heard a story like mine before… I didn’t want to see her cry, but I knew I had a heart reaction … I can touch someone else’s life”.

The students have described one of their favourite things about their sessions being that

 We get to see that they are very much just like us”. 

Everyone has a story that can touch another’s life in some way.

We just need to make the time and space to listen.

 

STEP educating hearts as well as minds…

 


Youth off the Streets Bowen College students were back for more conversations and laughter at Bupa Aged Care Maroubra for Week 3 of STEP ( Seniors and Teens Empathy Program).

Students fed back that their first week last week together with the residents was  “exciting, fun, interesting and cool”, citing the top things they enjoyed ” hearing their stories” and “just hanging out together”

One of many highlight moments of Week 3 was when one of the students beckoned me over to say how cool it was that when she asked her buddy Elder one of the conversation starter questions

“Who is a person in history you admire most? ” she said the former female president of India ….. because she “made everyone look up to a woman”.

Not only are the residents teaching the students a thing or two about history and important role models  …. they are proving to be quite amazing role models in resilience themselves.

The Elders taking part from Bupa Maroubra are reporting back how wonderful it is to have the company of such “polite, lovely and very funny students”.

 

Generations apart brought “Together” at last through the power of stories

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I’ve written previously about how in Feb 2017 I attended a Rites Of Passage Leadership training that helped give me a great design structure for S.T.E.P ( Seniors and Teens Empathy Program) … well, while I was there, I also put together this simple little vision of my aim for the program to simply bring “Together” the young and old, their stories being the bridge that connects them.

I am so thrilled to report that today I finally got to introduce students from Maroubra’s Bowen College Youth off the Streets to some of the wonderful residents my own children and I have gotten to know over the past two years … yes, S.T.E.P has made it to Bupa Maroubra Junction! The TOGETHER I have been working towards for my own Maroubra community has lift-off.

I have to admit, I was a bit nervous about how it might go… Bupa Maroubra is a high care home and some students admitted when they arrived they were feeling a bit scared to be there –  it can be a confronting environment when you first walk in if you’ve never visited before…. but half an hour into it we had one student and  a resident speaking Greek together and others chatting about the old days when trams used to run to Coogee beach.

Once again, I’ve been blown away by being witness to the power that sharing stories has to connect the unlikeliest of people.  We all have our stories… and, though sometimes we may not know it, often, deep down, we all want to share them with someone.

 

 

 

 

 

STEP kicks off with Youth off the Streets Bowen College

 

A great introduction session yesterday with Youth Off the Streets Bowen College for their upcoming S.T.E.P ( Seniors and Teens Empathy Program) with Bupa Maroubra Aged Care.

Harvey & Eddie helped lighten things up by proving not all 84 plus-year-olds are what you’d imagine… it was good for a few laughs, watch their hilarious interview here
We also covered some of the more serious topics, often elephants in the room, like Dementia and… yes… even Death.
The students from Bowen College have their first meet up with their Elder buddies next week for a term long program of S.T.E.P that will involve games, activities and most importantly, sharing of their stories.
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Heart and Soul Story also ran an introduction session for residents taking part at Bupa Maroubra this afternoon, and they were equally interested to hear about the teens they will be meeting next week … they spent time reflecting on what life was like when they were and teen and talking about some of the challenges and opportunities teens have today.
All in all, a great day spent separately getting Teens and Seniors to look through each other’s eyes … but the real richness starts next week when they start their journey together.
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The two way street of Intergenerational programs …

 

…. understanding from STEP Teens helps alleviate fears of the Elderly

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Some of the benefits to our youth of an intergenerational program like STEP were relayed by our lovely Teen participants from last year Amy and Imogen telling us they had more confidence to make new friends and felt gratitude for living in a day and age where they have such incredible opportunties as young women …

It’s important to hear about what the program meant to some of the amazing women at the other end of their lives. Today we hear from Margaret, who was taken by how easy and delightful it was to chat with such vibrant teens. The beneficial effect of the weekly conversations with her buddy, Immy, is evident as she tells us how she now finds it now not so scary to talk with other young girls the same age now given the understanding shown to her by the teens.
The studied benefits of intergeneratonal programs are numerous, you can go hear to The Senior Care Blog  to read more, however, sometimes it’s what really hits home is to hear it first hand from those taking part, so I’d encourage you to take the less then a minute to hear what Mararget had to say.

 

 

Youth, off the Streets …. and soon to be visiting their community Elders

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Heart and Soul Story was privileged to be present at the launch of Youth Off the Streets Bowen College in Maroubra today, and hear how well the current students are doing there.

Bowen College is one of Youth off the Street’s four accredited high schools dedicated to providing tailored and focused education for students who may be at risk of falling behind in mainstream schooling. Bowen Campus offers a curriculum catering for students’ academic, psychological and vocational needs

According to Marc Freedman, Fostering Intergenerational relationships for at-risk youth 

Many at-risk youth are growing up isolated from the range of caring and consistent adult relationships so important for navigating the treacherous course from adolescence to adulthood. An accumulation of research from the social sciences suggests that adult relationships — provided not only by parents, but by grandparents, neighbours and other interested elders — are a common factor among resilient children, who achieve success despite growing up under disadvantaged and stressful circumstances. ”

Marc’s goes on to cite a study from Philidelphia that looked at five intergenerational initiatives and aimed to provide a better understanding of what really happens when elders and at-risk youth are brought together. Amongst others, key findings were;

  • Bonds between Elders and youth will form in social programs structured for that purpose
  • Despite a sharply age-segregated society, participants in most cases were able to forge powerful attachments
  • These relationships appear to help change the life trajectory of the youth .. from one headed for failure to a more adaptive path of survival.
  • Elders interviewed found they were provided with a challenge of helping youth change their lives. The Elders also felt a special empathy that appears to derive from the marginal status shared by elders and youth in society.

Perhaps one of the study’s most striking findings is that the most effective elders were individuals who had not lived what would commonly be considered “successful” lives. Many had endured strained family relationships, struggled at low-paying jobs, and battled personal problems, such as alcohol abuse. Partly as a result of surviving–and surmounting–such difficulties, these elders seemed to understand the youth, were able to use their own experience as real-world teaching tools, and speak the language of their young partners.

Heart and Soul Story will be working closely with the amazing and committed team at Youth off the Streets Bowen College to develop the Seniors and Teens Empathy Program (STEP) to best fit the needs of the teens of Bowen and the Aged Care residents of Bupa Aged Care Maroubra.  in the hope we can report similar results in the not too distant future.