Hand in Hand Project – how it all started with Ježíškova vnoučata (Jesus´ grandchildren) of Český Rozhlas


Slowly and unobtrusively, winter is approaching and Christmas with it. Some time ago, I was listening to a message from the Christmas Grandchildren initiative of the Český Rozhlas radio station. They are encouraging lonely, old folks to write down a Christmas wish, which helpful and socially minded folks can pick-up and fulfill. This particular day, Czech Radio was looking for people willing to even go further and build a relationship with needy seniors, beyond just mere present giving.

So we did it.

Chance 4 Children’s  Springboard to Life program prepares children from children homes to enter everyday adult life. I myself am visiting several of them in the Žatec children’s home and also work with some as a mentor. It’s now two years since I first heard about the Christmas Grandchildren, the initiative of Český rozhlas radio station – and I liked the concept very much.

At that time, together with other mentors, we were dealing with the issue of “taking and giving”. Young people in children homes are set up so that everyone “has to” help them and they have a problem overcoming their victim mind-set and learning to think of others. Well, that’s what we thought.

In Žatec, right opposite the children’s home is the home of seniors. The directors of both homes know each other and they help each other, but the cooperation is very random and they do not have the capacity to manage it. So, my colleague mentors and the directors, agreed to take a group of children to a meeting with a group of grandmothers in a senior home.

And since November 2017, we have been doing this regularly, preferably every month. It is not always easy to persuade children to go, but they have been motivated so far and once they do – they get inspired!. During that time we had a variety of thematic activities, we even prepared entire programs for grandmothers and children, as, for instance, a „cosmetics afternoon“! That’s where girls from the children’s home use make-up on grandmothers under the supervision of a professional.  You can’t imagine the ensuing beautiful emotions – some grandmothers never experienced cosmetic care and touching.

We also play games, create floral ties, paint, talk ….. you can always find something interesting – but most importantly – grandmothers are grateful and happy and children feel the rewards of giving their time and energy for someone else. We even have some reports on the project from the past: http://c4c.cz/en/hand-hand-new-multi-generational-pilot-project-c4c/

Based on the success in Žatec we found another “pair”: the old folks- and children’s homes in Unhošt even have a common area, but never really “tuned-in” together. My colleague took on the role of moderator among the directors, and they eventually agreed and gave us the chance to organize a joint afternoon for elderly people and children. This time, we invited other colleagues from Chance 4 Children, the Dr. Clown team. And it was a wonderful experience that created the need to continue with the meetings of children and seniors. And just as in Žatec, we now organize and moderate meetings so that they take place at least once a month.

Click here for another action-packed event: http://c4c.cz/en/young-meets-old-c4cs-hand-hand-initiative-stay/

Unhošť’s meetings, for example, created another beautiful interaction: the local grandmothers like to crochet, but they had everything around them already crocheted – so they were lacking motivation and reason. We offered them to create crocheted animals with children from the children´s home.

These animals – often with personal messages – were taken to hospitals by our clowns and during laughing therapy they were given to sick children. Can you imagine how excited grandmothers are  about the fact that they are still useful?

And we go on. We found another amazing volunteer who started the third meeting and is already organizing regular visits to Úvaly: http://c4c.cz/en/hand-hand-project-dr-clown-opening-uvaly-retirement-home/

Looks like we’re doing rather well with  our multi-generational connections! C4C‘s Clowns also seem to have gotten  infected by us and started to visit not only children but also seniors in hospitals. It also provoked a very positive reaction, see here: http://c4c.cz/children-4-ever-2/

And it all started with the idea of the Ježíškova vnoučata. All involved are enthusiasts who do this above his or her duties or as volunteers and certainly deserve respect and thanks. We will be glad if our efforts inspire others.

Author: Markéta Franke