Mayfield SchoolMayfield is a Catholic independent boarding and day school for girls aged 11 to 18. All Year 12 pupils take part in a volunteering programme called Actions not Words.
Mayfield & Five Ashes Community ServicesMAYFACS is a charity that promotes community-based services in the area in order to combat loneliness and promote a good quality of life.
“I thought it was a brilliant project and together we decided to take part in the pilot scheme, adapting the model slightly to make it work for our community.”
SETTING UP THE PROJECT
Autumn 2017The Director of MAYFACS introduced the Life Stories project to Mayfield School for use in their Actions not Words programme. A MAYFACS staff member and the Director of Co-curricular Activities at Mayfield School agreed to co-coordinate the project.
November 2017Co-coordinators trained the eight participating students over five weeks, meeting weekly at the school. The MAYFACS director recruited and trained the older participants at the village community centre.
“Once the initial reserve was overcome, the visits became an eagerly looked-forward to weekly event on both sides. The hum of chatter and the sound of laughter would ring out around London House and the Mayfield School Courtyard.”
February 2018Most visits were held at the school in a large meeting room and MAYFACS organized transport for older participants if needed. Each participant couple had a seating space of their own that provided a “private” space despite everybody being in the same room. Tea, cake and biscuits were provided by the school catering staff. Some older participants had difficulty making it to the school and so their teen partner visited them in their homes accompanied by volunteer chaperones.
WRITING AND PROOFREADING
April 2018Students wrote their first drafts on their personal computers. These were then uploaded to the Life Stories Book Generator and a draft copy was printed out on the school printer on A4 paper. The older participants proof-read the text for factual accuracy and corrections were made by the students. Bridging Ages coordinated the final book printing.
“I have loved reading all the stories and, apart from the love, humour and sadness that has been reflected in those pages, what has struck me is that, however humble and insignificant we think our lives may be, there is no such thing as an ordinary life.”
CELEBRATIONS AND BEYOND LIFE STORIES
June 2018All eight girls and their partners came together for a celebratory lunch at Mayfield School. They reminisced on their times together and looked forward to seeing the finished books.
September 2018Mayfield arranged a special whole-school assembly where the books were presented to the older participants by their partners. It was a time to showcase the commitment the students had demonstrated in completing the project and also to show the bond of friendship that had been achieved through the Life Stories project.
October 2018Life Stories participants met up again at the village community play. Extracts and photos of the eight life stories were exhibited for the audience to visit after the play. There were five sell-out performances!
STUDENT PARTICIPANTS’ REFLECTIONS ON THE LIFE STORIES PROJECT
“I think we both learnt a lot about each other and ourselves as we delved into old memories, looked through photo albums together, and exchanged stories about the lives we lead.” - Amy
SallyHaving the chance to do the Life Stories project has been such an amazing opportunity and privilege. My partner, Sheila, is just the most extraordinary woman with the most amazing life which I never would have had the chance to hear or become aware of had I not done this project.
As a keen history lover, learning about dramatic historical events such as WW2 or the rise of the Cold War or Second Wave Feminism in the ‘60s and ‘70s was an absolute dream as I learned how they all affected her life from a personal point of view as opposed to the general view you get from textbooks.
What I found rather poignant during my meetings with her was that events such as the Second World War which had a vast impact on her as a child was just another event in her life whereas for me hearing about it first hand was one of the best moments I had with her. Not only that but to explore the more personal details of her life too was another equally interesting experience. I have learnt a great deal about farming which I had always thought to be very laborious, (how wrong I was). I have been inspired to travel more due to Sheila's stories of being abroad and the hilarious anecdotes she shared with me. I cannot thank Sheila enough for allowing me to document her life. It has been a privilege for me and I cannot recommend it enough to future students.
AmyWhen I was first introduced to the Life Stories project, I was excited but also nervous. The idea of writing someone's life story was a daunting task, especially as it was going to be published. I knew I would want to do their story justice.
I met Margaret, a quiet woman, and over the course of a few months she told me about her life. As well as discussing Margaret's stories we often talked about our lives today, especially current affairs in the news. We also would complain to each other about more trivial things, like the closure of the local post office, or the impact of technology on people today.
I found my experience to be extremely personal and fulfilling. I'm usually a very busy person who's always rushing from one thing to another, so I really enjoyed spending an hour a week to sit and chat over ·a cup of tea. Margaret was so open with me about her experiences and I'm honoured that she trusted me in such a way. I think Margaret's bravery really shines through in her personality and her stories, and it has been a pleasure to get to know her. I hope Margaret has also had an enjoyable experience, as our time together was filled with many laughs.
This project has definitely inspired me to push for more interaction with people in the local village and in Mayfield School. I think it would be a brilliant project to extend to more teenagers and elderly people across the country to help combat loneliness. I would encourage anyone to take part in this project as I think it's a wonderful experience which helps develop relationships with people in the local community.
OLDER PARTICIPANTS’ REFLECTIONS ON THE LIFE STORIES PROJECT
"I don't think she realised until we spoke what my generation has been through." – Margaret
FredEleanor who wrote my life was brilliant, a very nice girl. We spent much of the time laughing. She enjoys dance and music as do I so that was immediately a common bond.
I’ve had an unbelievable life. I have a colourful way of saying things. I hate to think how much of what I said had to be censored!
MargaretI am usually a listener rather than a talker but I found Amy very easy to talk to.
It was very interesting for me to see how she felt about the world today compared with when I was her age. In some ways her life seems more restricted but equally she has far more interests than I was able to pursue. I don't think she realised until we spoke what my generation has been through. It was not just the War but, for example, because my father had an accident and couldn't work and there was no Welfare State. I had to leave school at 13 ½ and work.
SheilaI think that I've been lucky to have such a long and interesting life and Sally was interested in it all. She is a lovely girl and we got on very well.
There were so many things she had not known about before so I think that she thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
Edited and reprinted with permission from the Mayfield Newsletter and Mayfield School.