Everyone has a life story unique to them, and there are many things we can learn from people's stories. This is especially so with the elderly members of our community, who have done and seen so much over the years. A number of students from a Rotorua high school are getting the chance to learn and share some of these interesting, unique stories. Reporter Shauni James finds out more about how their first meeting went.
Western Heights High School students say it is interesting and a privilege to be a part of a project all about learning and sharing the stories of some of Rotorua's elderly community members.
Age Concern Rotorua has organised the project, called Life Stories, and manager Rory O'Rourke said the students had their first sessions with the community members on Thursday.
The members taking part in the project are Rotorua Multicultural Council president Margriet Theron, Rotorua Energy Charitable Trust trustee Jo-Anne La Grouw, Age Concern Rotorua chairwoman Glenys Searancke, Age Concern's ex-chairwoman Dorothy Dyson, Grey Power president Miriam Ruberl and The Coffin Club founder Katie Williams.
"The ladies were selected because of the huge amount they do for the Rotorua community in many capacities."
O'Rourke said the students had got some of the main pieces of information, and would now write it up, formulate more questions or explore one aspect, and meet again over the next couple of Thursdays.
The feedback on the session was all positive, and most of the participants had emailed Age Concern saying how much they enjoyed it, he said.
He said this included the students, who were surprised at how busy the community members were and the variety of things they did.
"The end result after we work with more people and men will be a published book, which it is hoped will be a comprehensive record of their lives. They are role models for the younger generation."
"Research shows that the interaction between young people and elderly is highly beneficial to both parties, and there are a number of examples of babies and under 5s interacting in rest homes.
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"Although I am sure they are capable of writing about themselves, getting around to it is often not easy. The Western Heights High School students were hand picked to do the task."
Rotorua Multicultural Council president Margriet Theron said she had participated in a similar Age Concern project which was nationwide and also about recording the stories of older people.
She said when she was invited to take part in this local project she had been keen because every time you shared your story was different.
Their first session on Thursday was good and the student she had been paired with was well prepared, she said.
Theron was asked about where she came from, which of her jobs she had enjoyed the most, about her family, and what had changed in Rotorua over the 40 years she had lived here.
She said some of the questions went back such a long time, and it was interesting to stop and think about back then.
"I look forward very much to seeing what she has picked up and what will be her twist on the things I told her when writing."
She said this project was great because we could all learn from one another.
Theron said there were so many people in her age group who she knew were spending time on volunteering activities now that they were older.
"It's great to be able to talk to them and learn about the things they did when they were still working, so that has included another angle for me."
Western Heights High School student Joe Evans, 14, is partnered with Jo-Anne La Grouw, and said the first session was good and went along nicely.
He said they asked questions such as, 'What was an important event in your life and how did it change you?'.
"Being able to know others' stories is a privilege. It is interesting to know how things were back then."
Southan-Skyez Hurinui, 13, said it was interesting to know there were so many different stories out there.
She said hearing the stories put things into a different perspective.
Riley Mills-Hope, 13, said the project was a great experience for all of them.
"I think we can all agree it is beneficial for our learning. We all enjoyed going."
Both Southan-Skyez and Riley were partnered with Miriam Ruberl.
Riley said it was great this project helped them to connect, understand and compare what they had and what we had now.
"She was born during an air raid in Germany. We are so lucky to have grown up in this nice environment."
They said they were looking forward to seeing the end result and it was special knowing they would have been through the work to get there.