L’ARDOISE: Richmond County youth and seniors have come together to publish about 12 storybooks in a pilot program called Villa Vignettes.

The stories will be written and illustrated by 23 Grades 5 and 10 students from Richmond Education Centre/Academy in Louisdale. The students and 12 seniors from the Richmond Villa in St. Peter’s met three times in February and March 2019. During the visits, seniors were grouped with students with whom, through conversations, they shared stories about growing up in Richmond County. The students used these conversations to determine a storybook idea, which they are currently developing into booklets.

The third visit between students and Richmond Villa residents took place March 11. The students are now working in class to write, illustrate and format their booklets as an in-class assignment with teachers Justin Fougere and Donna Martin.

The Villa Vignettes project is an intergenerational initiative within the MIND-BODY-SPIRIT (MBS) project, funded by the Province of Nova Scotia and the Municipality of the County of Richmond.

Dawn Ostrem is the project coordinator for the MBS project, administered through the Dr. Kingston Memorial Community Health Centre in L’Ardoise.

“As one of the last initiatives of the MBS project, we are really happy with Villa Vignettes. This kind of community initiative gives seniors an opportunity to connect socially with youth,” said Ostrem. “One of the MBS goals is to look at ways that seniors can build stronger social connections and the other is to work collaboratively with community organizations to make sure we can continue this momentum once MBS funding runs out. We hope the momentum achieved will result in future intergenerational projects and community organization collaborations.”

Contributed photos — Students from Richmond Education Centre/Academy in Louisdale and residents of the Richmond Villa met three times, and during the visits, seniors were grouped with students and shared stories about growing up in Richmond County. The students used these conversations to to publish storybooks in a pilot program called Villa Vignettes.

Karen Budden is the recreation coordinator of Richmond Villa.

“This was a wonderful opportunity for our seniors to have some extra visitors and share stories of when they were younger,” said Budden. “It is such a great way for them to feel important and heard by the youth.”

Villa Vignettes meets the social needs of seniors through the MBS project but also has a clear impact on the students.

“[It] was also great watching students’ faces when they heard what it was like back when the residents were growing up,” Budden says.

REC/A vice-principal Deanna Martell agrees.

“I have no doubt our students will remember this project for years to come,” said Martell. “Not only is this an opportunity for our students to improve their literacy skills through speaking, listening, and writing, but it is an example of multi-generational learning at its finest. Our Grade 10s are further developing their leadership skills by mentoring our Grade 5s, and together, they are making connections within their community while making a difference in the lives of others by preserving their stories.”

The idea for the project was piloted early last year through MBS. Clare Mombourquette, a Grade 6 student from L’Ardoise, took part in three visits with Richmond Villa resident Theresa Mombourquette. From those visits, Clare wrote and illustrated a storybook called Basket of Fish.

“I was nervous to show her my story at first, but she really liked it,” Clare said. “Theresa had lots to say so I really enjoyed all the stories about her past. It was easy to tell what was important to her: her cow, being with her family, helping other people. She liked my pictures a lot. She nodded her head as she read through my book with a big smile on her face. It was really fun to make an actual book.”

The stories from the Villa Vignettes will be published this month and available for viewing at the REC/A school library and Richmond Villa, as well as on the Web site: www.kingstonarts.org.