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Reaching across the generations at Victoria Manor in Amherst

AMHERST, N.S. – Bonds that last a lifetime are being formed at Victoria Manor in Amherst.

“It’s fun seeing the children and doing different things with them,” said Pauline Griffiths, a 90-year-old resident of Victoria Manor. “We love having them here.”

Every second Tuesday, 22 students from West Highlands Elementary school, most in Grade 1 but some from Grades 3 to 6 as well, spend two hours with the seniors who live at Victoria Manor.

Bringing together kids just starting out on life’s journey with seniors in the twilight of their years is a pilot project created by West Highlands Grade 1 teacher Jana Wallace and Learning Centre resource teacher Shawna Hopkins.

The project was inspired by the Me to We movement.

Founded in 2008 by Canadian brothers Craig and Marc Kielburger, Me to We inspires young people to volunteer in developing countries around the world.

“I thought why don’t we adopt the philosophy of practicing empathy and helping to grow community service leaders within our own community and, rather than going out to Africa or to somewhere else, we’d centralized it locally,” said Wallace.

Victoria Manor also has a mandate to become involved in the community and kids visiting the manor helps fulfill that mandate.

On March 12, the kids visited Victoria Manor for the third time.

“With this being our third visit we’re getting into a routine now and it’s getting better each time” said Hopkins. “The kids know the residents and the residents know the kids, so they know what to expect.”

Grade 1 student Peyton Arsenault says it’s fun meeting the seniors.

“And it makes me feel like I’m helping people,” added the six-year-old.

Wallace says the first meeting was daunting for the kids because the age gap is so big.

“Now we’ve noticed they’re more familiar with the residents and they have their favourites they go talk to,” she said. “The kids interact really naturally and are really kind to the residents, and they talk about it quite a lot when we get back to school.”

And the seniors seem to enjoy the visits as well.

“They have a lot of smiles, so it seems to be a win-win for both the kids and residents.”

The students will continue to visit the seniors until the end of May at the least.

“We thought we’d start with two visits but there was such a positive outcome that we’re going to keep coming back,” said Wallace.

She hopes other schools adopt the program as well.

“It’s something that doesn’t cost a lot of money, and it sends such a positive message to children, it creates kindness, and they learn about different generations.”

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