A creative intergenerational project called Darba waħda... has been going on in Malta since 2015 thanks to the initiative of Anna Formosa, who is an applied drama practitioner. Darba waħda... forms part of the Valletta 2018’s Cultural Programme. By 2018, over 200 people from around 50 different localities in Malta and Gozo would have benefitted from Darba waħda... through 18 projects with plans to extend the project to other avenues such as old people’s homes.
The project aims to bring together elderly people who are independent and still active in their community together with children aged between nine and 12 years old over a creative platform doing fun activities like drama, storytelling, games and exercises, music, arts and crafts. The name of the project ‘Darba waħda…’ means ‘once upon a time…’ and represents the beginning of a story which unfolds as the workshops get underway.
Such workshops, apart from addressing issues such as loneliness and the generation gap, serve as a learning tool for both generations.
“It is very positive to hear participants, especially, elderly people say that an arts and crafts session has inspired them to rekindle a hobby they loved doing, which for some reason they had stopped or how an arts and crafts projects we did, inspired them to create more things once at home or join classes,” explained Ms Formosa.
The elderly participants enjoy these workshops because they have fun and share their stories and experiences with their peers - young and old, whilst forgetting about their worries. A large number of participants also mentioned they enjoy the learning process of such workshops.
One elderly participant mentioned how she learnt to work better in a group. Another one, who is in her seventies, said, “I will keep on attending these workshops because I enjoy myself, they are interesting and I learnt new things, which I wouldn’t have been able to by myself.”
As for the children, they enjoy the workshops because they are designed to be fun and allow them to be creative. However, they also enjoy and benefit from the legacy passed on from their elderly peers which is fundamental in Darba waħda... Children get to learn informally about popular history and traditional tales as well as obtain certain basic and soft skills. They become more confident and they learn how to communicate better and function in a team.
“Some of the young ones come in all shy looking at the floor at first and then week after week, the safety of the working environment and the attention and encouragement of the older people gives them confidence,” explained the project leader.
Such project also promotes empathy and care, especially in children. Ms Formosa feels it’s very positive that children consider the elderly participants as their friends and include them in the games, without any notice of how old or less agile they are.
“I love the beautiful dynamic that is generated by children and elderly people. It is a joy to see young and old alike show respect towards each other and share the same enthusiasm for a game or exercise. It is very satisfying to see how positively the project impacts participants,” adds Ms Formosa.