News & Events

Dannielle’s stories will live on

May 18, 2019

National Volunteer Week 2019

Dannielle Baulch’s life revolves around stories these days. She studies creative writing, uses stories in her work with people in aged care and is now volunteering at Rushall Park doing ‘oral life histories’ with any interested residents.

Dannielle, 25, put out the call to residents at OCAV’s Fitzroy North village and several were keen to participate in the life story project. The interest was so great that Volunteer Coordinator Kim D’Angelis has recruited another person, Margot Yeomans, to help get through the stories.

The first participant at Rushall Park is a resident who has already written a life story and called on Dannielle for editing support. Each week the pair go through elements of the story and fine tune it. Dannielle, who is studying Professional Writing and Editing at RMIT is enjoying the process, though she anticipates future stories will be interview based.

“The project plan involves more oral history development. This means meeting with a resident each week, providing a prompt that will lead the resident to tell part of their life story. I will transcribe the hour-long interview and then do it again the following week. This means the stories are very much driven by the participant and not by a set of questions I develop. It means the stories reflect the life experiences the participant considers most significant,” Dannielle said.

The idea is to present the resident with their life history after about 10 to 12 weeks of weekly interviews. Many are keen to do the life stories as a gift for their children.

Dannielle’s father’s death in 2016 at 83 left her with many unanswered questions about the first 60 years of his life that she missed.

“After my father was gone I thought of all the things I wish I had asked him, or things I wish I knew about him,” she said. “That got me thinking that the life history would be a great thing for someone to have after their parent died. I’m sure some answers to unasked questions will be in these life histories.”

Dannielle works in aged care with people who have Alzheimer’s disease and sees the distress many experience when they forget aspects of their lives or family members.

“One lady I work with gets very distressed, but it can be very calming to sit with her, go through a couple of photos, or listen to familiar music and then it prompts memories and she feels better because she can claim back parts of her life and remember who she is,” Dannielle said.

Dannielle attributes her interest in older people to her elderly father and her part-Chinese heritage.

“Chinese culture has a very strong emphasis on respecting and valuing older people. I enjoy this project at Rushall Park; it’s very gratifying and a great privilege to share a part of someone’s life.”

Josephine Katite may be a long way from Kenya, where she was born and lived until 2005 but the experience of looking after her elderly grandparents is very much with her every day in her work at Liscombe House.

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