Bridging the gaps between generations can be challenging – but so rewarding.
The staff of Mercy House Pretoria, a shelter for survivors of domestic violence, is involved in community development in a tribal area 30 km north-east of Pretoria. The community in this area, Erasmus, is challenged by poverty, substance abuse, teenage pregnancies and the lack of basic services. The members of the community, however, are determined to build their lives and create a better living space for all.
Each year, two social work students from the University of Pretoria are placed at Mercy House to do practical work in the community. In 2017, the two students completed an analysis of the community in Erasmus and found a need they felt they could address. There is a large number of lonely older persons who live alone because their families have moved to the cities, but the young members of the community take care of these people by doing home visits where they clean and cook for those who have no one to look after them.
Launch of the Day Care Programme
The students also found the older people did not have anything to do during the day; therefore they introduced a project that could, in part, address this challenge.
Together with some of the younger community members and a committee of the older participants, they set up a “day care” programme for the people. One of the local churches gave them a place to meet during the day.
At first they were happy just to gather and chat while they did crafts like knitting and embroidery. Then one of the members – at 75 years old – offered to organise weekly physical exercise classes. For the whole of her working life, she ran to and from her place of work every day – and still goes jogging every morning.
Weekly exercise class
The highlight of the year for this group, was a fashion parade. The trouble that the people took in preparation for the day was really inspiring. The excitement, the happiness, the pride were infectious.
The students were unable to choose a winning outfit, so the prizes went to the oldest members of the participants, and all enjoyed the part that followed. All were winners.
It was with gratitude and joy that the organisers found out that some of these “fashion paraders” had told their families about the event and some of the relatives took time off from work to attend the event. Of course, all was captured on camera.
Fashion parade winners
The students had succeeded in bridging one of the generation gaps.
Colleen Wilkinson rsm
South African Province