Schools unite to reach out into the community

There’s been some fantastic collaboration between schools recently, as students come together to support the community during this time of lockdown.

One student from Kristin School, Evy Hwangbo, approached Westlake students to be part of her initiative called “Genafriend”. The aim was to connect young people with older people from retirement villages. She received 90 applications from student volunteers, and amongst the 24 chosen, nine were from Westlake Girls High School. Those students are Danielle Evasco, Marian Zhao, Sarah Strawbridge, Cate O’Sullivan-Watts, Izzie Newton-Cross, Lily Qi, Anya Powell, Lily Winchester and Sethumi Ediriweera.

“My grandpa is at a rest home in South Korea and my grandma lives alone in Christchurch,” says Evy. “Over the lockdown period, I heard from them about the widespread loneliness and social disconnection that exists for senior citizens. Especially during times like this, it is difficult for the elderly to stay connected, which encourages negative mental and emotional states to be cultivated. I founded the non-profit/initiative, Genafriend, to combat this issue, aiming to connect our incredible NZ elderly and high-school students via video/phone calls.

Though we have just launched, we have been growing fast, with four rest homes on board. This week, we launched our first calls. A total of 24 students have been calling with their Elderly Friends at Settlers Village and have been loving it!”

Here are some quotes from our Genafriend student volunteers after their first call:

“She’s awesome, I loved talking to her! Went away with a huge smile on my face, she was just so lovely, and I can’t wait to get to know her more!”

“She knits too! We have to share patterns and projects!”

“Honestly, I was quite nervous at first but we clicked instantly. He told me about the incredible life he lived, and we laughed about how the world has changed. He is one intelligent man – I’m excited to call him every week and make a new friend!”

“She laughed at my stories of funny mistakes and encounters, and afterward we had a running inside joke to laugh at each other’s smallest mistakes!”

“She’s an active person, loving mother, and loving grandmother… her stories were inspiring and she was honest with me.”

“I believe that there is a huge opportunity here,” says Evy. “Students gain wisdom, learn new communication skills, and find joy in getting to know an awe-inspiring person. Senior citizens find a new source of brightness in their lives. Here at Genafriend, we are thrilled to be reaching New Zealanders across generations to create meaningful, mutually-beneficial friendships.”

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