Lorna’s 93 years of achievements and memories preserved with help of high school students

Lorna’s 93 years of achievements and memories preserved with help of high school students

High school students have helped Lorna Howes document 93 years of achievements and memories into something her family can treasure for generations.

Flicking through her specially crafted memoir, Ms Howes is elated at how weeks of conversations with two Year 11 students have translated into print.  

“I’m just overwhelmed by how beautiful it is and particularly the two beautiful girls at the school who compiled it for me,” Ms Howes said. 

An elderly woman sits on a lounge chair smiling as she looks through a book of memoirs.

Lorna Howes at St Agnes House was delighted to receive her book.(ABC Mid North Coast: Emma Siossian)

“When I saw the photographs of my parents, I felt a bit weepy as they’d be well over 100 today.”

The memoir is one of dozens created as part of the intergenerational Through Our Eyes project – a partnership with St Agnes Catholic Parish aged care homes and high schools in the Port Macquarie area on the New South Wales mid north coast.

Aged care residents are paired with small groups of year 11 students, who bring literacy and technology skills to compile books of the residents’ memoirs.

An elderly woman sits looking through a book of memoirs and old photos.

Lorna Howes says she felt a bit emotional as she looked through old photos of her family, after students Lucy Evans (left) and Isabella Fonyodi presented her book.(ABC Mid North Coast: Emma Siossian)

Port Macquarie’s MacKillop College students Lucy Evans and Isabella Fonyodi helped tell Ms Howes’s life story.

“It was really lovely … I liked being able to learn how life was for Lorna in the past and then reflect on my own life now,” Isabella said.

‘Through our eyes’

An elderly man sits in a wheelchair smiling as he looks at a memoir book, next to a high school student.

Gerard Butchmann’s memoir highlights his work in fire and rescue, including a Queen’s Medal for his service during the Granville Train disaster.(Supplied: St Agnes Catholic Parish)

Port Macquarie’s MacKillop College’s Marg Gobius, who helped lead the project, said the students and residents had formed a special connection. 

The students dedicated an afternoon a week to the project over a couple of months.

The older generation was able to share and have their stories recorded, while the students learned from them, and broadened their confidence and conversation skills.

“For the students to be able to see that these beautiful people are real people and have amazing lives to share,” Ms Gobius said.

“The students are able to take from it this passion to create something that’s really demonstrating who these people are.”

An older woman looks over a book of her memoirs, showing old photos and writing.

Lillian Simpson enjoys looking over old photos from her life, integrated into her printed book.(ABC Mid North Coast: Emma Siossian)

St Agnes’ Care and Lifestyle’s Justine Warner said the project had helped reconnect the residents with the wider community.

“There was absolute joy on the faces of the students and the residents,” she said.

“I hear back from the residents about how it takes them back in their memories and how they remember things that they haven’t thought about for a long time.

“It brings back the emotions that come with that, the joys that come with that.

An elderly man in a wheelchair sits smiling, looking at a book.

Colin Currey shows his joy as he looks at his memoir which tells of his time working on the Snowy Mountain Scheme and being named Apex Wauchope’s Citizen of the Year.
 (Supplied: St Agnes’ Catholic Parish)

“Just seeing their life story and who they are as people being validated has been a real joy.” 

‘It’s not the age, it’s the person’

An older woman sits in a wheelchair holding up a book, with three high school girls standing behind her, smiling.

Three students worked with Maureen Tooler to record her memories.(Supplied: St Agnes Catholic Parish)

Emmaus Residential Village resident Maureen Tooler, 90, enjoyed sharing her life story with Port Macquarie St Joseph’s Regional College students, Eliza Bajt, Lilien Nguyen and Ravenice Gaviola.

“It was lovely to reflect, and I was finding out a lot myself too, about how they think about things at their age and how I thought about them at my age, and there’s not a lot of difference,” she said.

“It’s not the age or decade or anything, it’s the person, and they are such talented young girls, with lovely minds.

“And I loved the part they put in about Max my husband and just what a nice guy he was.”

Student, Eliza Bajt said Ms Tooler had a lot of wisdom to share.

“It was a whole experience learning how to write a book with a team. It was really difficult at times, but so worth it … she looked so happy looking at it,” Eliza said.

“Every second sentence she would be saying some life inspirational story.”

Three high school girls sit at a desk in a library with a journal and computer in front of them.

The students met with the residents once a week over a series of months, recording their stories, before using a computer program to design the books.(ABC Mid North Coast: Emma Siossian)

Student, Ravenice, said it was a fulfilling experience.

“I liked how I was really able to connect with an older generation because I don’t really talk to anyone older other than my grandparents,” she said.

‘Follow our dreams’

Former Mid North Coast jockey, Chris Mitchell, who resides at St Agnes’ House, also enjoyed reliving some of his life’s highlights.

An elderly man sits on a chair holding a book of his memoirs, with two high school boys sitting on either side of him, smiling.

Former jockey, Chris Mitchell, with Will Abell (left) and George Worner, the Year 10 MacKillop College students who compiled his memoir.
 (Supplied: St Agnes Catholic Parish)

“[This experience] was great mate. The things they wrote about that happened, they didn’t miss out on much,” he said.

Mackiilop College student George Worner said talking to Mr Mitchell had been “really inspiring”.

“We’ve learnt a lot from Chris, and he has taught us to follow our dreams and just keep going no matter what,” he said.

The Through Our Eyes project is set to continue annually, building on its success.

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