Build Community Through Sharing Stories.
Just blocks from the bustling tourist shops in the port area of Falmouth Jamaica, stands a white stucco Salvation Army Church. Inside this building, we met with local community leaders. We shared stories and information, offering ways to stay connected throughout the dementia journey. We hoped to build community through sharing stories.
Even before we spoke, Shirley Duncan, a volunteer with Alzheimer’s Jamaica, and one of the event organizers, said, “I have a surprise for you.” She spoke eloquently of the need to talk about dementia, to share experiences, and to be there for the caregivers and people living with dementia. Then she told us that today’s participants were making a commitment to form an on-going group that would educate, advocate, and care for those affected by dementia in their community. “We are calling our group Debron, in honor of you two, because you are the catalysts,” she told us.
Ron had been working with Shirley and Dundeen Ferguson of Alzheimer’s Jamaica for several weeks, setting up the presentation. Shirley and Dahlia Klein orchestrated the details, spreading the word among the community leaders, garnering the venue, and making sure all went smoothly. We were thrilled to be catalysts and delighted to be discussing ideas with such a dedicated group of women, many of whom were former teachers.
We shared ideas from Dr. Madan Kataria in Mumbai about the power of laughter yoga, and we told a story about creating an inland beach from, Dr. Claire Craig in Sheffield, England. We talked about the power of Dan Cohen’s Music & Memory program and discussed ways to connect through art, citing a story from Teri Miller in Houston, Texas. And we chatted about ways to stay connected through cooking together, sharing our own favorite childhood dishes, which included spiced shrimp, banana porridge, dumplings, roasted corn with shredded coconut, and so much more.
“We will spread these ideas throughout our community,” one of the women told us. “That is what teachers do, we share information.”
We left feeling so inspired and so connected. This is what we all need, caring people, compassionate and eager to learn, ready to offer help and hope.
During our presentation, we talked about Dr. Madan Kataria’s Ha Ha chorus. At the end, the women said, “We want to sing you a song.” They serenaded us with the Ha Ha chorus. Watch this video and please, sing along.
For more about Laughter Yoga, visit Madan Kataria’s website, http://laughteryoga.org
Deborah Shouse is the author of Connecting in the Land of Dementia: Creative Activities to Explore Together and Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.
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