MAKING A DIFFERENCE: Justin Matthews, from left, Esther Burrows, Sasha Bernard (founder) and Cryston Lewis. —Photo: Curtis Chase

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Healing from the Heart

...Youths get chance to help elderly

By Kimoy Leon Sing

An elderly man in a wheelchair struggles to make his way on to the pavement. An elderly couple try to hold on to their packages as heavy gusts of wind and rain batter their frail bodies as they make their way across the street.

It is situations like the ones mentioned above, which touched the heart of one brave girl to stand up and do something about it.

Sasha Bernard is the founder of Bridges to the Heart, a non-profit organisation which came into existence July of this year. It was established to aid in the restoration of relationships that have been broken within our society.

At 20 years old, Bernard enlisted the help of her three friends, Esther Burrows, Justin Matthews and Cryston Lewis, who form the board of the newly-incorporated NGO. The members on the team are between 20 -22 years old and all share one passion, to bring about positive change.

Bernard said, “We realised as a team that there were many relationship gaps that were overlooked in our society. One of the main ones is the generation gap between the elderly and the youth.”

 She said, “Generally on a day-to-day basis, you would see an elderly person who can’t cross the street and no one would stop to help them out. Another example you might see someone who is disabled and may need assistance and no one would stop to help. It was on that premise the organisation was formed.”

She noted that as a society we should not neglect any group. Bridges to the Heart has devised a plan that will assist in mending and healing of relationships, including inter-generational relationships, through social, spiritual, educational and psychological efforts.

Bernard noted that the name of the organsation, Bridges to the Heart, was conceived by her as a way to touch other people’s hearts and in turn will hopefully touch other lives and knit everyone together.

The organisation currently has no base for operations, however, Bernard said if someone needs help, there they would be.

Bridges to the Heart is having a Christmas dinner on December 15 at Auzonville Mall, Grand Hall, Tunapuna. The event starts at 5 p.m.

For their first project, they have the “Adopt-a-Grandparent” programme where residents of the Raffa House for Boys and Girls will be matched with residents of a chosen senior citizens home.

Bernard said, “It is basically like a Big Brother programme. We are going to pair them up based on similarities in personality or hobbies and give them time to get to know each other. The elderly could get to learn from the youth and the youth can also learn from the elderly. They can also have that grandparent figure they may not have otherwise being at the home.”

“They are approximately 12-14 boys and girls at Raffa House and about 20 in the senior citizens home. For our first project we started off simple, one children’s home and one senior citizens home. We would first start off with visits and felt that it would be more convenient to have the children come to the elderly home. There would be stories, jokes and just have casual socialisation. We would also have outings and other events where they can interact in a place outside of their environment,” she added.

Bernard is currently studying Biology at the University of the Southern Caribbean and is planning to pursue her master’s in public health with an emphasis on global health.

When does she get time for fun?

“I do. One of the cool things about Bridges to the Heart, I get to work with my friends. Being able to do this is not a burden; it is so exciting I can’t even describe it. It does not feel like work and just having my friends and family around me giving me that support, I am very grateful,” she said.

Bernard noted she does not feel like she is missing out on anything and enjoys helping others.

“Overall when it comes to the “Adopt-a-Grandparent” programme, we just want to see the children in the home and the elderly benefit from the exchange. Often times there are stigmas attached of being in a home - and we want to show that they can have the same things we who are not in homes can have,” she said.

 “We want to be that change. This project is just a stepping stone for other things. In the future we would like other foundations to partner with us and have a greater impact on the country and the region and perhaps one day even worldwide. All we want is to make a change; and it starts with us,” said Esther Burrows, administrative assistant, Bridges to the Heart.

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