by Alicia Wong
“Respect your elders!”, “Auntie already knows, just follow her! She knows what she’s doing!”
These are familiar statements; all things that we’ve heard before, but so often have shrugged off in our youth. We learn to respect those that are already close to us, but what about those on the periphery? What about those the strangers you walk by on the street?
“I don’t know them.“
All true, but you will not unless given the opportunity, and we understand that it’s difficult sometimes.
John Lewis, an associate professor at the University of Waterloo’s School of Planning is changing that social scene. Lewis has recently launched his Bridges project – a series of free workshops with the aim to facilitate intergenerational connection through recreational activities and active community relationships. The Bridge’s learning program aims to create intergenerational cultural connections in the community, by inviting those from a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds to share their experiences, traditions and knowledge. Their team also strives to create a welcoming and inclusive environment for recent immigrants to the Kitchener-Waterloo region, whereby they can experience a complex mix of different cultures in a welcoming environment.
Lewis’ first workshop, a cooking class, attracted a 35 person crowd, where youth and older adults learned about cross cultural culinary crafts and cuisine. In teams, these adults also had the opportunity to make rotis and curries together. There was more to the event than the food, for it facilitated conversation for cross generational learning, sharing of past experiences and created an energetic environment in good company. Lewis is exploring other cultural crafts to extend the program to, while continuously providing opportunities for intergenerational interaction in the Waterloo community.
The Bridge pilot project has attracted attention from local brands like the FreshCo grocer, on Westmount Street, and Waterloo’s neighbouring campus community at Wilfrid Laurier University. Lewis also received a federal grant in May of 2018, valuing over $19,000 from New Horizons for Seniors program, which will hopefully fuel future workshops and facilities with the Bridge’s team.
The next workshop is open to students and adults alike, Métis Arts Class will be held Monday, November 5th from 6:30-8:30pm at St. Paul’s University College in Waterloo.