Follow your heart it might take you places

By Bev Wilkinson Celebrate Living History 

You know when your too excited to sleep? Well that’s how I felt when I attended the Walkley Grants for Innovation in Journalism workshop in Melbourne.

Hanging with my crew Emma and Melissa at General Assembly Melbourne
Hanging with my crew Emma and Melissa at General Assembly Melbourne

First up, I really have to thank one of my volunteers Jeana for getting Celebrate Living History to this stage; she has a way with words that are not only intelligent but also powerful. She knows how to make a grant application stand out from the rest. They say you’re only as good as your team, and I’ve been lucky to garner the support of the community and student interns from Griffith University and Swinburne University.

I was grateful to have the opportunity to make the workshop a learning experience for the Swinburne University journalism students that are part of the Celebrate Living History program. I really enjoyed the enthusiasm that Melissa, Emma and Rhiann brought to the workshop and they made the experience much more richer.

In a way being one of the participants at the workshop validated my passion for connecting elders with young people, it was wonderful to be surrounded by others with amazing ideas.

At the start of day one we were asked to explain what Celebrate Living History is about, I was a tad nervous but I spoke from the heart that’s where the best stuff comes from.

Hard at work at the workshop photo courtesy of Alex Wake
Doing creative stuff photo courtesy of Alex Wake

In a nutshell I’ve been working on Celebrate Living History for three years and I love the opportunity to really connect with a senior and discover the wealth of stories they have to share. I also love working with the students, that’s the stuff that gets me excited. They have the opportunity to create content for their journalism portfolio and really get to branch out of their comfort zone and use their interview skills to get to know a senior’s story.

It was really good that I got to share what I was passionate about but also the students got to chat about what they have gained from the internship program. Melissa has been with Celebrate Living History since 2012 and it was amazing to see what she has gained by not only working with me, but also interacting with the seniors to tell their story. I love that she was passionate about reducing the social isolation of seniors, this reminds me of the time that I was working at nursing home as a personal care attendant, I would feel really depressed that I did not have the time to really sit down and have a proper chat with the residents. It was all about the physical but not what was happening mentally, I would see the residents who were surrounded by family and it would make such a difference, they were happy and most of all loved. But then I would see the residents that never got any visitors it was like a light went off in their head, all they would do was sit and watch TV. I wanted to do something but as a personal care assistant I didn’t have time, it was like a conflict of interest I would get in trouble for spending too long chatting. In my heart I knew I could never pursue a career as a personal care attendant long term, but it was a great learning experience to see the other side of the coin. There was one day, where in the morning I was tending to a 103-year-old and in the afternoon I was hanging with 20- year -old students, it was refreshing to be the person in between. I have the opportunity to connect two very diverse generations and for that I am grateful.

Page from Little Book of Happy
Page from Little Book of Happy

During the second day we worked more on our ideas and we got to know the other grant applicants better, it was really a privilege to be surrounded by so much talent. I enjoyed hanging with Alexandra Wake from RMIT University during the creative exercise she made a mini vision board, which showed where I would like to be in five years. She had Celebrate Living History being a major program supported by Melbourne Museum and James Kirby Managing editor of the Eureka Report being a mentor; I think this is something that I would love to aspire to. In return I made Alexandra a little book of happy which was about disconnecting from technology and spending time doing things that make her happy. I sound a bit hippy but we spend so much time surrounded by technology that we don’t have time to look around and enjoy the environment around us. I think that’s a shame and we should all take time to take a breath and just be ourselves without distraction.

Talking about James Kirby, I ended up being late for the start of the workshop. But Rhiann saved the day, I was impressed that she managed to talk eloquently about Celebrate Living History and I think this shows that even if I was not there that I have people around me that share in the vision and passion that I feel. That’s where I want Celebrate Living History to be, to live on even when I’m gone. I know from interviewing seniors how important it is to leave a legacy and I see Celebrate Living History as my contribution to the world.

All in all it was an amazing opportunity and I am glad that Celebrate Living History got to this stage, we find out if we receive funding to build a more educational and interactive website in June but I think even if we don’t receive the grant, I am richer for this experience.


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