Though each of our experiences beginning Intergenerational Programs has had its own unique personality, the basic elements remain the same: people and time. The organizer/facilitator needs time to devote to developing a program of substance and interest to both young people and the not so young, as well as to developing a core group of volunteers to support the initiative and to promote its sustainability.
To start an Intergenerational Program in a school setting, it's necessary to first put into place the school administration's nod of approval for the project. A program progresses much better if the school administration promotes it. Second, it's best to find a retirement facility to partner with that is close to a given school site. Transportation can sometimes be a concern, so keeping close to the school makes it an easier drive for parents and additional volunteers. Next, explaining your program to the retirement center director and the activities center director is key; it's much like presenting a resume at a job interview.
Once you start the program, it often proves itself. However, if it lacks credibility you must re-examine the situation and make for change-always remembering that a true Intergenerational Program is a beautiful work in progress. It's important to be consistent. For example, you can't visit during a period of one month and then miss the entire following month. Routine visits allow for consistency and a strong sense of camaraderie. In conjunction with your routine visits to your retirement center, it is imperative to always be prepared. Whether you, your students/children, parents, and volunteers are enjoying a craft related afternoon session, reading and writing activities, or perhaps a formal choral presentation to the residents of the center, always try your best to be organized and to be very positive.
If the residents of the retirement center and students are working together in one-on-one relationships, perhaps the matches aren't clicking. Some volunteers believe that all students will immediately embrace the mentor/mentee dynamic, but that's not always the case. A match may work on paper, however you'll never know if it will truly take flight until the two participants meet and get to know each other. Sometimes the process of getting acquainted takes longer than others, and just as in personal relationships, the match either works or it doesn't. If a pair doesn't seem to be a fit, don't hesitate to make the changes necessary to find a good match.
Inevitably, there will be the usual questions and challenges. Glenna experienced plenty during her career. But it's the leaps of faith that we take in life that can make the most significant differences. So, take a leap, extend your hand in friendship and make the matches that make a difference. We are willing to guarantee there are plenty of young people and the not so young in your midst who would be grateful for the opportunity to get to know each other.
We take pride in what we do and just like there is no individual alike, there is no one certain way to approach any single Intergenerational Program, each one will require custom and personal touch! If You Are Interested to Know More on How to Start an Intergenerational Program in your area, or how to get involved With us, or how we can help give your program that personal touch, please feel free to contact us anytime!
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