Dal students put their hearts and souls into summer camp for seniors
Heart & Soul is a summer day camp pilot project for seniors organized by Jesse Robson and Kayla Mallery, two Dalhousie students. Robson is set to start the physiotherapy program this fall, while Mallery recently finished her BSc in neuroscience.
The Heart & Soul project sees 19 volunteers delivering a full suite of arts programming, once a week, to upwards of 35 seniors—the majority of whom are experiencing mental, physical and/or financial challenges. Activities include not just dance, but photography, art, poetry and more. The camp takes place on Mondays at Lutheran Church on Windsor Street in Halifax, N.S.
The Heart & Soul pilot project is an expansion of a dance program Robson and Mallery were running in geriatric restorative care at the QEII Health Sciences Centre. With the evening dance program, Robson and Mallery do a lot more than get patients to move. They choreograph the dances so that wheelchair-bound patients can perform them, and they spend a lot of time detailing the history and culture behind the dances. That holistic approach resonates with patients, who come referred by recreation therapists and geriatric physicians.
Both organizers have extensive backgrounds in dance. Robson has done work using dance as an outreach tool for special populations during her undergrad in Montreal, from HIV-positive children to street kids. Mallery has danced since she was three.
"It’s been a really great opportunity to make friends, get out in the community and learn about parts of Halifax that I never knew existed. It’s also a chance to form one-on-one relationships with another generation. It’s been really interesting to learn the stories about what Halifax was like back in the day, and their reflections on current events. So many have had such fascinating lives." -- Jesse Robson, Coordinator, Heart & Soul
"We did a session on Hawaiian dance, getting participants to come up with their own interpretations of the lyrics in dance. Some of these participants had pretty advanced dementia and were somewhat non-verbal, but they began communicating really expressively through dance, coming up with some creative, elegant movements." -- Jesse Robson, Coordinator, Heart & Soul
"It’s great giving back to the community. I grew up here, and it’s given me so many opportunities, so it’s great to give something back. It’s a way to blend my interest in science and my love for dance, connecting people who can teach me so much." -- Kayla Mallery, Coordinator, Heart & Soul
Kayla Mallery smiles as she leads a songwriting session at the Heart & Soul day camp.
Jesse Robson and fellow Dal student and Heart & Soul volunteer Isabel Lavender during a sing-along at the day camp.
Heart & Soul participants enjoying the sing-along session at the day camp.
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