Eileen Morrison (left) recently completed writing the life story of Evelyn Battison (right) through L’Arche Comox Valley’s Sharing Side by Side program. The organization is currently looking for volunteers to help tell the stories of seven seniors in the next round of the program. Photo by Jolene Rudisuela

L’Arche Comox Valley looking for volunteers to document seniors’ life stories

The Sharing Side by Side program is starting back up in April

Evelyn Battison has lived a long and full life – a life she wanted to share with her children, grandchildren and now great grandchildren.

Thanks to the Sharing Side by Side program with L’Arche Comox Valley, she now has a book about her life she can pass down to her family.

The program is starting back up this April and L’Arche is looking for volunteers to help record the stories of seniors. Seven seniors are signed up for this year’s round.

While it is up to each individual partnership, volunteers can choose to create a book, video, audio or photo story about their partner.

Battison was paired with Eileen Morrison who recorded her stories over months of meetings to produce a book.

Though they only met for the first time in August, Morrison knows Battison’s stories nearly back to front.

Sitting in Battison’s suite with the finished book prooudly displayed on her side table, Battison recounted an abridged version of how she ended up on the Island from Saskatchewan. Morrison sat across the room and filled in sections of the story here and there, adding in parts that she enjoyed learning about her partner.

“It’s interesting to think back because you kind of forget,” said Battison. “I should have done it a long time ago because my children are not aware of my earlier life.”

Battison and Morrison are both retired nurses, something they were able to connect on.

“Evelyn’s very matter of fact,” said Morrison, attributing this to her years as a nurse.

This was Morrison’s second time participating in the project; she completed a photo story on her previous partner. Though she admits she’s not a writer, she said she enjoys documenting seniors’ stories.

“I like to make contacts, meet people, learn where they come from, where their lives led,” she said.

Tiss Cross, volunteer coordinator with L’Arche Comox Valley, says the project is not only a way to tell seniors’ stories, but a way to combat loneliness – something that so many seniors struggle with.

“It’s the friendships that are formed between the partnerships. These people are sharing very vulnerable stories at times and they’re trusting someone who they maybe have never met before,” she said. “That’s a very beautiful experience and you can just see how after a few meetings these people are now fast friends.”

She added sharing stories of their past is very empowering for seniors and often gives them a sense of pride to see their life laid out in a book.

Though the project is very open ended, Cross says they encourage a three to four month timeline depending on the amount of time each partner can commit to.

For more information or to volunteer for the project, contact Tiss Cross at volunteer@larchecomoxvalley.org or 250-871-6288.

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