What a beautiful dream ..to have, in the same room, seniors, youth and people from other countries talking, laughing and sharing their life experiences in an atmosphere of mutual respect, each listening with an open heart. A dream which became reality thanks to the productive efforts of PACE2000 International Foundation.
At 1:30 on Friday May 23, 1999 the seniors from the Centre daccueil Champlain eagerly awaited the arrival of the immigrants they had met during their weekly videoconference sessions.
The intergenerational dynamics were incredible. Tony, who arrived in Canada last November from Zaire, considered the contact with the seniors to be a privilege. In my country, when an elder speaks, we are quiet and we listen closely because they have great wisdom and they can guide us by their experience. For myself, I have access to the precious riches of elder Canadians and I can learn important things which only they can teach me.
The immigrants, who felt privileged by the sessions, recognized the elders as a treasure trove of guidance on how to conduct themselves appropriately in their new country. In addition, as Tony (an immigrant who has participated in the videoconference sessions since November 1998) said Even we immigrants learn something from each other about countries other than Canada.
From the seniors perspective, they are curious about life in the new arrivals native countries and they want to know if the stories they see on television are true.
By means of their weekly videoconference sessions, the seniors are connected to the community and they are given a virtual window to other lands and countries which they had never imagined possible. In addition, vague memories of these countries are made more concrete as the immigrants share the secrets of their homelands.
Upon their arrival on May 23 at the Centre daccueil Champlain, the immigrants were warmly welcomed by the seniors. It was then the job of the intergenerational coordinators to initiate a discussion of, believe it or not, different religions .a subject considered taboo especially among the seniors. The group was made up of Protestants, Catholics, Muslims and even followers of Voodoo. For a few seconds there was complete silence .Line(an intergenerational coordinator) broke the silence when she presented an article found in a newspaper announcing the Pilgrimage 2000, a march across Quebec to reunite people of different religions. Afterwards, the participants were invited to share the different aspects of their religious beliefs and practices as well as their history.
The Canadian seniors talked about the power wielded by the parish priests in the 2oth century and how strict were their laws. Raphael, originally from Haiti, explained the basics of Voodoo while Tony told the group about his Protestant faith. Kathy, who came from a Muslim background, was surprised when one of the seniors announced that she had had 17 children. By the same man? Kathy exclaimed. This question made the senior laugh as she had been married to the same man all her life. In Kathys native country polygamy is accepted and men may have as many as 4 wives.
During this intergenerational, intercultural exchange, M. Bordeleau, a senior over 80 years old, recited two excellent poems so humourous they created gales of laughter in the room. Nixon, from Haiti, also recited two interesting poems. The group expressed its appreciation for the two speakers. All in all, the unique encounter proved to be enriching and entertaining.
In short, everyone was pleased with the intergenerational contact made through the weekly videoconference sessions sponsored by PACE2000 and the intergenerational coordinators Liane, Line, Rebecca, Leon and Jennifer.
I was very happy to see how Canadians have taken the time to construct a residence for seniors. An innovative solution for seniors who want to retire from active life. When we are finished sacrificing for our country or our family we will always need a safe refuge where we do not feel abandoned, left or forgotten. I see that Canadians do not only invest in their youth but also in their seniors who do not ask more than that we dont forget that they are alive. Raphael Wilner (Haiti)
The seniors from the Centre daccueil Champlain had only good comments:
It was good. I really liked the immigrants. The immigrants were very nice and friendly.
©1999 PACE 2000 International Fondation