Cross-cultural friend lasts beyond program
Two organizations match old with young, white with Latino, and everyone wins
For some, all it takes to bridge cultural and generational barriers is a conversation.
Thats why Forest Groves nonprofit Adelante Mujeres has teamed up with Cornell Estates Retirement & Assisted Living Residence in Hillsboro to link locals of different ethnicities and age groups.
The partnership has given both organizations a chance to learn, give back and acquire skills for a more fulfilling life.
The program matches specific Cornell residents with an Adelante Mujeres student. The Cornell volunteers make supplies for Adelantes childrens programs. The Adelante volunteers get to practice their English as the pairs talk together.
Many times, the pairs go their separate ways when the semester ends. But for a few, strong relationships have formed.
When Florence Hess and Violeta Hernandez met, they immediately clicked.
I knew there was something really special about her, said Hernandez. There was something inside me that told me I need to go over there and see her again. My heart tells me I need to be with her.
They share stories of their families and children, growing up and coming to Oregon.
Now she speaks better English than I do, said Hess, laughing. I was surprised we ended up having some of the same things in common. I didnt think there was anyone like me.
Hernandez is busy. She works as a babysitter. Shes trying to graduate from Adelantes adult education program. She cares for her seven children, ages 10 to 21, by herself, now that she and her husband separated after what she describes as years of domestic violence. After the last incident, Hernandez said, when she felt her life was in danger, she vowed to raise the children on her own.
Even though her official partnership with Hess is over, she still visits to play bingo and catch up.
She was so tickled to see me last time she came. I love that lady, said Hess, stroking a necklace she made in a craft class which she hopes Hernandez will attend with her.
Florence deserves to have more time, said Hernandez, who eventually wants to go into social-service work.
Hess lives alone at Cornell Estates now, after her husband passed away in May. Her daughter lives in a group home in Hillsboro and her son is in Mississippi.
Sometimes Florence feels sad so I make her laugh, Hernandez said. A lot of people who live there are all by themselves. They have a lot to say and give, and to keep it inside is to close life.
Immigrating from Michoacan, Hernandez left her elders behind when she came to America.
I dont have family here except for my kids, and Florence treats me like a daughter, Hernandez said.
Hess is so fond of the partnership she encourages other Cornell residents to join.
Its something to do and its my Christian duty to help and love all people, said Hess, who grew up with a father who belonged to the Ku Klux Klan and taught her to be scared of people with different-color skin.
But I grew up and found out the Lord loves em all, Hess said.
I love Florence. If my place was not so small, I would bring her to live with me until God wants to take her, Hernandez said.
Hess and Hernandez exemplify the partnerships goal.
The intergenerational partnership bridges the gap of aging, said Melissa King, community programs director for Cornell Estates. There are stereotypes on both sides. Its an introduction to a generation theyve lived alongside but maybe dont know much about.
More than one pair has said Were so similar, King said. I hear that a lot.
In addition to the conversational program, the Cornell choir is planning on teaming up with Adelante participants and learning a few Spanish songs. If they can coordinate a practice time, Adelante singers could join the Cornell choir in its performance Saturday, Nov. 30, at Hillsboros Holly Days celebration.
We want it to be perfectly normal for residents of a retirement community to be part of the larger community, said Cindy Cosenzo, who helps groups form intergenerational partnerships through her business, AgeCelebration. Socialization is a huge part of health. Staying engaged in meaningful ways is like food and water to a human beings survival.
The partnership has been continually evolving, said Carrie Schmid of Adelante Mujeres, since the start four years ago with an initiative funded by Oregon Community Foundation that paired older adults with pre-school children to develop reading readiness skills.
Next spring, Cornell residents and Adelante students will share workouts, as both organizations emphasize physical fitness and healthy lifestyles, Schmid said.
Theyll host a joint Mothers Day celebration, and collaborate on a snapshot project in which theyll share stories with each other, offering a glimpse into each others lives.
Many organizations with similar goals work separately, Cosenzo said. But were always looking to bring together those who wouldnt necessarily spend time together.Add a comment