It all began 10 years ago as a plan to reach out to youth at Karori West Normal School and see if they’d like to make friends with some of the Huntleigh Home residents.
“We call it Link-Age. The idea being that girls and boys aged 11- 13 would visit the home and get to know a resident and come back to see them regularly during the school year,” says recreation team leader Annelize Steyn.
The children are encouraged to interview the elder about their lives. This knowledge links into the social studies aspect of the school’s curriculum.
“The students learn about the residents’ past lives and careers as well as their cultures, which broadens their understanding of history and brings an awareness and empathy that can’t be found in schoolbooks,” she says.
One resident, Tongde, had the rare opportunity to converse in his native Mandarin with one of the boys whom he has got to know.
“Tongde was excited, and the boy was really thrilled that he could speak his language and that his classmates were impressed. His teachers say he has come out of his shell and is much more confident amongst his peers who didn’t know he was bi-lingual.”
The visiting children also get to do some fun activities with their new friends: a photobooth for portraits together, knitting which has resulted in pupils receiving gifts of scarves from their new friends and flying paper jet planes against each other.
Link-Age has become so popular other schools in the area are asking to get involved, says Annelize.