In February of 2018, 16 residents of Park View Health Center in Oshkosh were paired with 16 students from the Rotary Interact Clubs of West and North High Schools, Communities at North High School, Rotaract of Oshkosh and students from Valley Christian, Oshkosh West, and Oshkosh North high schools for a four day memoir workshop.
Ibtisan Baraket, Palestinian-American author of two highly acclaimed autobiographical novels, Tasting the Sky and Balcony on the Moon, facilitated the workshop at Park View. The residents learned how to share their life stories, including experiences, lessons, and hardships, with the students who recorded and captured what they heard. Through creative prompts, dramatic role-play, humor, poetry, music, imagery and reading aloud, participants were inspired and eager to open up and share.
“The structure of the Write Your Life workshop focuses on using writing to examine the treasures of the self, voice, memory, hopes, hurt, and all that composes the emotional terrain, which is the ink of all great writings. A writer who does not merge feelings and thoughts and craft cannot effectively reach the reader, or reach the core of their own experiences,” says Baraket.
The unique aspect of the workshop is the bond created between the senior and the student. The seniors are able to share their memories, experiences, and life events, while the students listen and learn what it’s like to experience life once it’s lived. The culmination of the workshop is the creation of a keepsake book for each resident and student to keep as a memory of the unforgettable experience. The finished books were presented to residents at a Book Party this past May.
The workshop was made possible through support from the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation, the Oshkosh Area School District, Oshkosh SW Rotary Club, Rotaract, Pastor John Hobbins, Park View Health Center and a state of Wisconsin grant. This project will also be presented at the State of Wisconsin Department of Health Services Focus Conference in Madison this November.