A community partnership between Seasons Waterford West, Windaroo Valley State High School and the Rotary Club of Beenleigh is making a positive difference in the lives of both its young and young-at-heart participants.
The Silver Angels program involves a group of Seasons Aged Care residents and Year 7/8/9 students getting together each week to connect over joint activities. Activities during the program have included reading, pot planting, trivia and a talent show.
Heather Kucks, who is both a Teacher Aide at the school and President of the Rotary Club Beenleigh says that it’s a program she’s wanted to get off the ground for some time.
“The opportunity became available and in conjunction with my supervisors and the lovely teacher we have running it – Ashley – we’ve put this together. It’s a pilot program and we’re really excited and happy about how it’s panned out,” says Heather.
“This is one of the Masterclasses we offer on a Tuesday afternoon and students had to apply to be a part of it. Some of these students don’t have contact with grandparents on a regular basis so that was one of the ways they could be chosen.”
The program has had a range of positive impacts on both the students and the Silver Angels.
“We had a couple of students that may have been a bit challenging and it’s calmed them down. They have become more respectful and it’s changed some attitudes towards older people – that’s one of the really big things,” says Heather.
“It’s lovely to watch the faces of both the students and the Silver Angels when they arrive each week. I know that for some of the Silver Angels that this is the highlight of their week and it is with the students too.”
Teacher Ashley Naude agrees, adding that she’s seen how both the students and Silver Angels have been positively affected by the connections they’ve made.
“I’ve seen kids who refused to talk, who refused to have a relationship with even me, who’ve just blossomed. They run and they hug their Silver Angels, they tell them how their weekend went, they share photos. It’s so lovely to see that our younger generations can develop a relationship with our Silver Angels – something they can carry through their entire lives,” says Ashley.
“I’ve seen Silver Angels that were quite closed off, and maybe given up, and now they’re chatting, joking, asking kids ‘what are you doing in the holidays? Can we email?’ and it’s giving life back.
“As a teacher, I think this has been one of the most rewarding experiences.”
One Silver Angel who has gained a lot of the program is James, who credits the program for helping to give him a purpose and lift his spirits.
“It’s been a terrific experience for me. I have had a lot of problems recently with depression and it was becoming almost impossible for me to operate,” says James.
“I’ve found that coming here (to the school) totally changed by perspective on things. It made me a lot happier and my depression has improved – I was quite surprised by that.
“It’s hard to recognise depression in oneself, I recognised it and this program has been the best treatment I could’ve had. It’s been a very good experience.”
The students all report different benefits they’ve gained and things they’ve learnt from the Silver Angels.
Abigail says that her Silver Angel has helped her become more confident and able to talk to people – something she struggled with before the program.
“My Silver Angel has been really nice to me and has opened me up to more things. It’s helped me learn I can talk a lot!” says Abigail.
The knowledge and experience that the Silver Angels have been able to impart have also made an impression on their young companions.
“What I liked most is the interesting stories they tell and how much fun it is to talk to them,” says Kiara-Lilly.
“My Silver Angel has taught me to have courage in everything I do and taught me how to progress in what I want to do in life. The stories he tells me and what he’s gone through has helped me set goals – it’s really inspirational.”
Another student added that “It has been humbling. It’s taught me to keep trying and never give up.”