Niagara Stories Project to explore storytelling and isolation
Partnership will promote sharing of stories and provide data for McMaster research
By Luke Edwards NiagaraThisWeek.com
Sunday, February 27, 2022
Everyone has a story, what’s yours?
A new project being run through a partnership of McMaster University, the Seniors’ Computer Lab Project, and Cyber-Seniors’ Connected Communities Niagara will give residents of Niagara a chance to share their stories, while at the same time providing valuable data for research being conducted on isolation and the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our spheres have become so limited, even if we do try to be active, even if we do go out, you know, over the last two years, everybody’s circle has become much smaller,” said Nancy Siciliana, organizer for the Niagara Stories project.
The research component of the project is looking at the impact storytelling has on the feelings of isolation that have only been exacerbated by the pandemic. It will also study how people express this experience through language.
While that work is important, Siciliana said the local community building they’re hoping to accomplish is also important. In it, participants will be able to meet once a week and share stories.
Siciliana said those stories can go in any number of directions, from how someone ended up in Niagara, to what the region was like years ago or specific memories from a person’s youth or childhood.
Siciliana believes everyone has something they could share.
“I really do think that we’re a lot more interesting than anything on television,” she said.
Those stories will be used by McMaster researchers in their study.
There will be other spin-off benefits as well, she said. Though open to anyone, the project is focusing on the stories of older adults. With the project, Siciliana said they can also teach tech skills to people in the region, skills that have become even more important during the pandemic.
At the same time, they’re also incorporating the help of students to become tech mentors. Younger, more technologically savvy people can help share the stories by teaching them how to use platforms like Zoom, or even help the storytellers share their stories through different media like podcasts or videos.
Each Thursday between 6 and 7:30 p.m. participants will be able to meet and discuss their stories.
“They’ll be able to present their stories and get feedback from every other participant, which will generate conversation, particularly if they’re writing about personal experiences of any kind,” Siciliana said, adding she hopes it stokes the flames of creativity and inspires more stories to be shared.
The meetings began last week and continue through the end of September.
“You don’t have to come each and every meeting. If you’re inspired and you want to take part, jump in. You can start at any time. You can leave it any time. You can submit as many stories as you wish. And really, it’s about your life story,” she said.
For more information on the program or for seniors or students who’d like to get involved, contact Siciliana at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 905-329-3124. You can also visit cyberseniors.org/seniors-services. Even people without their own devices are encouraged to reach out, as Siciliana said they may be able to provide one.
Luke Edwards is a reporter for Niagara this Week, covering north Niagara, and editor for Niagara Farmers’ Monthly. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook.