Life Story Books
St Arnaud Neighbourhood House has been working with Coates Hostel for many months during 2020, undertaking a Life Story Book Project for several of their residents. The project aims to honour the life and valuable contributions of our elderly residents, by providing a professionally-printed hardcover book containing a biography of the resident’s life and many of their photographs from throughout the years.
The Neighbourhood House received funding from the State Government for this project, which was initially designed around face-to-face interviews between the residents and young people; however when COVID-19 restrictions were enacted, the project required significant reconfiguration, and Coates Hostel management and staff and the Neighbourhood House staff all became very innovative and excited to find solutions around the new challenges to deliver the project.
During the shutdown, the project continued with the help of family members collecting information, and with the help of the staff at Coates Hostel collecting and scanning photos. Where possible, interviews were conducted by e-mail and telephone.
Neighbourhood House Manager Heather Stevenson thanked the staff and management of Coates Hostel, and said “their assistance with this project has been incredibly valuable and helpful.”
Jane Snell, General Manager of Coates Hostel, said that “the residents and families have been overwhelmed by the quality of the product from St Arnaud Neighbourhood House. The feedback we received included ‘amazing’, ‘fantastic’, ‘excellent’, and one resident said they ‘didn’t expect anything like this, it has brought back memories’.”
Jane said “It is now going to be a weekly occurrence where the lifestyle staff will read out a resident’s life story book as part of our reading group, for all to enjoy and share. Coates Staff would like to thank Heather and Rachel and the team at Neighbourhood House for their support in completing this project in what has been a very trying year for us all.”
One resident in particular, Esma Barratt, of Coates Hostel, provided great assistance during the lockdown, and after working with Rachel to get her book compiled and completed, she made it her mission to help other residents with their Life Story Books, frequently e-mailing information and photos to the Neighbourhood House.
“It was great for the local seniors to have the opportunity to have their stories in print, otherwise it would not have happened if they had to cover the costs” Esma said, adding that she was pleased “to get a family record into print and for us to have local people who are able to put it all together.”
Esma continued, “A big thank-you to all involved, it was a great service to the seniors in the community who otherwise would not have had the opportunity to participate.”
The books will help keep the past history alive and evoke memories of times gone by, and introduce the reality of historical life to the younger generation, hopefully providing them with a greater appreciation for the hardships, sacrifices and basic life endured. They will also function as a memento or keepsake for the resident and their family.
Whilst undertaking this project one of the participants, Barry Proctor, sadly passed away. However, with the help of his family members, his book was still able to be completed. The staff of Neighbourhood House considered it a great privilege to have been able to get to know Barry through his life story and the great stories he shared. His book will be treasured by his family, passed down so future generations can learn about their family history and Barry’s way of life.
Residents also received an attractive display box for the book, for safe-keeping and presentation. The Northern Grampians Shire assisted the project with a grant to help with the cost of boxes and some of the printing costs.