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”.


Our brains are wired for story….

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It should come as no surprise if you have sat through a bulleted “death by powerpoint meeting”, that Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos has replaced powerpoint presentations with narrative memos at Amazon.

What is surprising is that it’s taken us this long to realise we need to go back to basics.

What would you prefer … someone, to intrigue you with the story about what’s happening in the picture of Rosa Parks, or provide you with a list of historical bullet points?

As Carmin Gallo reminds us;

Narrative storytelling might not have been as critical for our survival as a species as food–but it comes close. Anthropologists say that when humans gained control of fire, it marked a major milestone in human development. Our ancestors were able to cook food, which was a big plus.

But it also had a second benefit.

People sat around campfires swapping stories. Stories served as instruction, warning, and inspiration.

Stories are persuasive… they inform, illuminate and inspire. Neuroscientists have found that emotion is the fastest path to the brain. In other words, if you want your ideas to spread, story is the single best vehicle we have to transfer that idea to another person.

We knew it back in the days of sitting around campfires, it’s good to see the richest man in the world has figured it out too ….

Read the rest of Carmin’s article here and next time you feel tempted to use bullet points, remember…

Bullet points on a slide, don’t inspire.

Stories that convey heart and soul, do

The dreams that you dare to dream, really can come true …

I’d love to see the result of a collaborative effort between the likes of Melbourne base ThomsonAdsett who are leading the way in Aged Care design in Australia and architect Takaharu Tezuka, who has designed this incredible space for children in Tokyo (that allows for freedom, increased outdoor activity, open plan to foster social interaction, trees for climbing)   

Just imagine an intergenerational facility full of life and soul that their combined creative brains could come up with???

Sometimes the people who dare dream, do make those dreams a reality  #Intergenerationaldesign #bringingcommunitybacktogether 

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Thank You Awesome Foundation!

Still reeling from shock that I won!

My heartfelt thanks to Awesome Foundation Sydney for the opportunity to pitch my idea for STEP (Seniors and Teens Empathy Program) last night and the incredible effort you all go to, to give community-based projects a much needed helping hand.

Thanks to all those last night who believed in the vision of what I am doing!

I was honoured to stand alongside 4 amazing women, each with incredible community projects including Taboo TalkAttitude Foundation LimitedCook For Life Foundation Jewelz A Hoopz – check them out… they rock, and I am already thinking about a collaborative program bonanza that the Seniors and Teens will love ! All in time ….

A special shout out and thanks also to Kids Giving Back Co Founder Ruth Tofler-Riesel for your constant belief and support, help recruiting the teens for the pilot, and introduction to Youth Off The Streets Bowen College Maroubra who will be the next teens to take part in STEP Bupa Australia Aged Care Maroubra.

I’ll keep you all posted on how it goes!

Community as a potent cure for illness


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Fabulous evidence from the Somerset town of Frome strongly suggesting that ‘social contact should be on prescription’ … hear hear!

This wonderful article, shared by Compassionate Communities Hub, a digital platform set up by the GroundSwell Project who are interested in partnering and supporting efforts to grow the compassionate communities movement in Australia, details provisional data that appears to show  ” when isolated people who have health problems are supported by community groups and volunteers, the number of emergency admissions to hospital falls spectacularly.”

Research shows that strong ties in the community and between generations result in psychological, social and economic benefits. It’s not rocket science, it’s what we intuitively know when we stop being too ‘busy’ to care.



Teens confidence increase as a result of befriending their Elders

Imogen, a year 7 student, was a participant in STEP last November ( Seniors and Teens Empathy program developed by Heart and Soul Story and run with thanks to Kids Giving Back recruiting the Teens) .

It is heart warming to hear Immy relay how she is” feeling more confident” and that “making friends for me is now a lot easier” as a result of the time she spent with the residents of Bupa Australia Queens Park.

Bill Damon, a Lead Researcher at the Stanford Centre for Adolescence, states ” the biggest problem growing up today is not actually stress, it’s meaningless”.

It was wonderful to see the teens participating in STEP, not only increase their empathy and confidence, but find meaning in the friendships they developed.

Psychologist and clinical Professor at UCLA, Stephanie Mihalas’ list of benefits to children from knowing old people includes a sense of belonging, hope, feelings of security, something to look forward to and a feeling of being part of the “pack.

“Children who are not naturally exposed to older people in their everyday life may be drawn to seek them out, from volunteering somewhere with old people to hanging out with peers’ grandparents.
You hear a bit of a sense of loss with some teenagers who say they never had a grandparent, don’t know what it’s like.
They’re not sure what they’re missing, but they know it’s something.”

As Immy reflected after STEP ” Just because there is such a big age gap, doesn’t mean we can’t become friends, once you got to know your ‘buddy’, who they were and what their life was like, it was just like you were having a cup of tea with an old friend”.




Amy, a Year 8 participant of STEP ( Seniors and Teens Empathy Program) shares her thoughts on spending time with the residents at Bupa Aged Care last year.

Highlights include:

– how hearing about real life historical events was so much richer than just learning history from books or television “someone sitting in front of you, recounting what happened to them !”

– acknowledging that it was hard to make a connection at first, but that the program running over the weeks helped form a connection that ended up in friendship

– the appreciation expressed as a result of realising how lucky she is to live in a generation where women have so many more rights and where she can go to school to learn.

– her recognition that she is not as nervous as she was prior to the program, as she know finds it easier to talk with people.


What’s the next chapter in your story ?

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Over a week into the New Year already and many of us will already have the roller skates on, zooming into 2018 ( and possibly have some lofty NY goals and resolutions to try and fulfil) … However, before we race into what next, it’s important to take the time out ( preferably in nature… which can just be sitting on the grass under a tree anywhere, but away from distractions of home/work) and reflect on the story of the year you have just had.
Have you taken the time to really think about what made you smile & laugh the most, which worries turned out to be completely unnecessary, what you deserve a pat on the back for, what you might do differently and why?
The questions on either of the sites below are a great place to start …
Heart and Soul Story wishes you a year of finding peace, fulfilment, joy and purpose … being mindful to embrace, accept and breathe through the challenges along the way.
What’s the next chapter in your story ?

The power of bringing together community



“ When it’s rainy look for rainbows. When it is dark look for stars”

This was the quote painted and presented by one of our Teens to her new Elder buddy in our final gathering with the simple explanation “I just feel happy when we are together”.

On Wednesday 22 November, 2017 our Teens and Elders came together with their families and staff in a final week Recognition Gathering of STEP ( Seniors and Teens Empathy Program). I was blown away by the emotion in the room. The Tribute’s the Teen’s had prepared for their new Elder friends Bupa Australia QP were each unique and heartfelt ….

There were incredible words shared about how their time together had taught them so much, amazing pictures presented of the Umbrian countryside, rainbows painted and even a mobile app coded and made especially so one of the Elders can keep track of his favourite football team and play his own game of soccer !!

The Elders acknowledged the qualities they admired about their new Teen friends, and offered them advice for their futures… including wise words as simple as ” Be friends with everyone”

This 6 week pilot program is just the first STEP (excuse the
pun ) – relationships have been forged, families were introduced, tears were shed… info packs on opportunities for further volunteering opportunities to interact with Bupa’s inspiring residents were eagerly requested.

Thanks again to Kids Giving Back who have opportunities for programs in Aged Care and a range of other community experiences.

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)

STEP was designed using a Rites of Passage framework – you can learn more about this here…/recognising-the-critical-i…/

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 ” (

The next STEP will likely run late Jan/ Early Feb so if you are interested or know anybody who you think may be please go here and share 

The sharing of stories …. community + connection = love

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Elders can provide essentials our children require – kindness, patience, humour, comfort, lessons in life, wisdom of a life lived …

On Wednesday 15 November, 2017 (when many around our nation were celebrating a vote for yes for Love), it was obvious that loves comes in many forms – the friendships between our Teens and their Elders were in full bloom by week 5 of S.T.E.P.

Some of the Teens have described their experience over the past 5 weeks as “interesting, fun and informative ” others as ” exciting, interesting and joyful”.

One went so far as to call it “sublime”.

Their Elder at partners at Bupa Australia Queens Park have described a “joy and happiness” to have the Teens visit each week.

“I’m just happy they are here !”

Studies have shown a relationship between volunteering and increased self esteem, doing for others, may stimulate the release of endorphins, linked to improved immune system, physical and mental health. Research also shows that strong ties between generations result in psychological, social and economic benefits.
Thanks again to the amazing Kids Giving Back for their unwavering support to get this program off the ground. For more opportunities on the other incredible volunteer opportunities visit For more information on S.T.E.P follow along Heart and Soul Story

Images:  @joshuayeldham and @lalalandshop

Moving out of our comfort zone can bring the best rewards

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“I learnt Te Amo means I love you in Italian” was just one of the great things our Teens reported that they liked about hanging out with their Elders in Week 3 of STEP ( Seniors and Teens Empathy Program) with HSS and Kids Giving Back

It’s not always easy… ” I sometimes found it difficult to keep the conversation going….but once we got it started again it was fabulous !”….. but that’s part of this program – to realise it’s not always going to be easy .. and that’s ok !

In the fourth week of the 6 week program , there was much fun had again sharing stories …..modern mobile phones were compared to the Post Office phone interchange where one resident worked years ago;  music was compared on Spotify  (Irish folk v some modern thrash). Love for art was shared as another resident reminisced about a time he loved to sketch. And, if you can’t take your resident to visit your horse at Centennial park stables, next best option for one of our Teens was to draw some maps and sketches herself.

When the old are not allowed to tell their story…….the young grow up without history. When the young are not listened to…..we lose unique ideas and have no future.
Gunhild Hagestad, Ph.D *

With mirth and laughter, let old wrinkles come.
William Shakespeare