Kilsyth Academy’s Contrasting Cultures – Scotland/Rwanda intergenerational event was a great success, enjoyed by pupils and older adults from local sheltered housing complexes. This was a joint project by the Academy and Housing and Social Work Services. Jennifer Logan, Locality Link Officer, worked hand-in-hand with the Home School Partnership Officer, and the volunteer S3 pupils throughout the term. It grew out of an existing contact with a Rwanda-based organisation. It also coincided with the 2009 Homecoming Year.
The event took place in the Old Library, Burngreen, Kilsyth. This was a comfortable and familiar setting, as it was used as a ‘drop-in’ lunch club and meeting place. The theme was welcomed by the older participants and the tone was set for a fantastic day by S3 pupil Ailidh Henderson. She opened the event by presenting her remarkable experiences of visiting Rwanda as part of her father’s charity work. There were two workshops on the Scottish/African theme, where an African and Scottish storyteller told their traditional stories and Scottish and African-born comedians did routines that got everyone involved in the fun.
Then traditional Scottish and Rwandan food was served for lunch! On the menu, researched and organised by the pupils, were Rwandan beef stew (a dish with onions and plantains cooked in a tomato and lemon juice-based stock), cassava (a white, starchy tropical plant), amanvazi fritters and plantain cake. The Scottish delicacies included salmon, venison, haggis and Dundee cake. The success of the project has encouraged the school to look at further ways of developing links between the Academy and older people. It is now on the school curriculum via an S3 XL Prince’s Trust Group which is currently working towards another event through funding received from a Generations Working Together grant.
The pupils gained an enormous sense of pride through carrying out this project and learned new skills that they are able to pass on to the next batch of IG pupils. They enjoyed the recognition and praise from the older people and from the Academy staff.
Some the older participants commented:
“Different and very enjoyable.”
“Out of this world!”
“The young people should get an award for this!”
It increased the confidence of all pupils, allowing them to work in a community setting that presented different challenges from the classroom. They also enjoyed being ‘visitors’, as they were warmly welcomed by the older people, and felt that they learnt from each other.
The group enjoyed meeting the workshop facilitators and it was a real eye opener for them to be fully involved in the decisions for the format of the day. It made them feel it really belonged to them, giving them a great sense of achievement. The pupils carried out the workshops in a way that encouraged the sheltered home residents to take an active role in discussions. The tone for this was set by Ailidh, who, in her opening presentation, used artefacts and photographs to prompt debate. During the workshops pupils used fun name games to ensure that everyone had something to say about themselves.
The message that Kilsyth Academy IG group sends to anyone planning to do this type of project is to give it 100%, even although this means relinquishing one’s spare time for a period. They felt it was a great way to meet people and engage with others in an informal setting. For older and younger participants it added an international dimension to the sharing of ideas and it put their lives in the context of the wider world.