The Seniors and Teens Empathy Program has the potential to change lives and make society different.
Head of Senior School, International Grammar School
Video thanks to students from UTS Community Shopfront.
SUPPORTED BY: Awesome Foundation Sydney, Layne Beachley Foundation, SEFA/ Macquarie Foundation Kickstarter 2018 FINALIST: AMP Tomorrow Fund 2018, Westfield Local Hero 2019 2020 BEST COMMUNITY MENTAL HEALTH & WELLBEING ADVOCACY – NSW – 5TH ANNUAL HEALTHCARE & PHARMACEUTICAL AWARDS, GLOBAL HEALTH & PHARMA (GHP)
“Somehow we have to get older people back close to growing children if we are to restore a sense of community, knowledge of the past, and a sense of the future.” ~ Margaret Mead, Cultural Anthropologist
We are currently facing mental health epidemics at opposite ends of life; an epidemic of increasing loneliness and depression in our elderly in aged care homes and an increasing epidemic of mental health issues in our youth. Fostering intergenerational empathy and connection has been shown to improve mental health and well-being of both groups.
Heart and Soul Story designs & facilitates mental health promotion programs & initiatives that aim to connect youth with the Elderly through the SHARING OF STORIES. The programs aim to foster empathy, regain a sense of community, increase resilience and well-being and help encourage inspired & soulful lives across generations. STEP ( Senior and Teens Empathy Program) is currently running as a VIRTUAL PROGRAM with The Bowen College partnered with Bupa Aged Care and International Grammar School partnered with Opal Aged Care. Read about the program in Opal’s 2021 OPAL HEALTHCARE SOCIAL IMPACT REPORT (P17-18)
Samantha Heron is one of the rising stars of the social entrepreneur movement. Her socialenterprise Heart & Soul Story has already broken new ground with the highly original STEP (Seniors and Teens Empathy Program), weaving together new strands of the social fabric by putting older and younger members of the community in touch with each other. Unlike many people with good intentions, Sam is tackling the challenge of social fragmentation on the ground, with practical strategies for rebuilding local neighbourhoods and communities.
Hugh Mackay AO, Social Researcher, Psychologist, Best Selling Author, Founder IPSOS Mackay Report, delivered the
“Residents are all really enjoying the program. A few count down to visits. You are doing an amazing job. Thank you for bringing joy to our residents.”
Opal Aged Care Annandale Manager
“I was in the audience for the Social Enterprise Masterclass webinar yesterday. Your story on facilitating empathy and resilience through sharing stories was inspirational. Its a great idea that will make a big impact!”
Vincent Rizzo, Director, New Products & Services Innovation Program
To read about the Virtual program with Opal and International Grammar please click here or listen to the perspective of one of the students below
To read about the program that Heart & Soul Story ran for three years with Youth off the Streets click here
Listen to the Radio interview with 2 SER The Wire about Heart and Soul Story winning the pitch for the 2018 Birthday Mega Grant from the Awesome Foundation Sydney for the Senior and Teens Empathy Program to be run with students from Youth off the Streets Bowen College, Maroubra.
Heart and Soul Story delivers school seminars a and programs about the importance of Intergenerational Connection and Bringing our Community Back Together, and the reciprocal benefits for both our Elders and teens. These have been delivered both face to face and via Zoom.
STEP …. part of our sustainable future
Heart and Soul Story’s Senior & Teens Empathy Program and educational seminars on the benefits of intergenerational connection are working towards impacting UN Sustainable Development Goal 3
The wisdom, experience, energy and ideals of the old and the young are vital to realising the UN 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “Ageing populations must work with younger populations to foster successful and reciprocal intergenerational relations and partnerships, which will lie at the core of every well-integrated society.”
STEP…. in action
“ 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”.
When 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 tributes the Teens had prepared for their new Elder friends at Bupa Queens Park 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 back in 2017, was just the first STEP (excuse the
pun ) – relationships were 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.
“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
“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 ” ( http://www.ritesofpassagevisionquest.org/need-community-rites-passage/)
If you are interested to learn more about a Virtual or face to face program for your school or aged care, please please follow along on instagram @heartandsoulstory_sam or https://www.facebook.com/heartandsoulstory/
Watch Teen participants Immy and Amy talk about their experience during STEP
As the School Manager of Youth off the Streets The Bowen College, I feel very thankful that our Young People were able to have such an incredible opportunity of participating in a ‘real life’ resilience-building program like the Seniors and Teens Empathy Program, or as we all now know it as, STEP. We are determined to have STEP continue as a program for our students here at The Bowen College as we have seen the enormous benefits for our students involved in the May/June 2018 program. Above all, what we loved to see as educators, was the genuine overall student enjoyment, of both the structured empathy building activities and then breaking into pairs or small groups for the conversations chatting to the residents about their lives. The program ticked many of the goals we are working towards with our students for Service Learning and in particular their emotional and social development.
Mel Davis, School Manager, YOTS The Bowen College
Samantha was one of 70 finalists in the 2018 AMP Tomorrow Fund, succeeding to the last stage of the assessment process. The fact that Samantha made it this far in a very competitive field of 1,900 applicants speaks volumes of her commitment and talent.
The AMP Foundation wishes her the very best of luck with Heart & Soul Story.”
Emma Turnbull | Senior Manager | AMP Foundation
“Over the last two years I have been witness to Sam developing Heart and Soul Story, I have seen that she acts with courage over comfort, and has the determination that I believe will see her stop at nothing to collaborate with other organsations until she progresses her pilot into a successful program of significant impact for our community. We look forward to collaborating again in 2019 and beyond.”
Ruth Toffler Riesel | Founder | Kids Giving Back