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‘Hear This!’: SAIL to share intergenerational storytelling with national audience on Sept. 19

By Staff | Aug 30, 2019

Shepherdstown Area Independent Living members Catherine Irwin, right, and Dan VanBelleghem will present SAIL’s intergenerational storytelling program to the 11th Annual National Village Conference in Chicago, Ill. on Sept. 19. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN — Last November, Shepherdstown Area Independent Living and Shepherd University joined together, to hold the first Shepherd Speaks intergenerational oral history storytelling event in the Scarborough Library.

While SAIL has been involved in other intergenerational events with Shepherd University students before this event, the founding of Shepherd Speaks marked an intentional movement toward encouraging intergenerational communication. Patterned after the international nonprofit storytelling organization, StoryCorp, each conversation is recorded and published on StoryCorps’ app.

“I think it is a problem, that seniors and younger generations aren’t communicating,” said SAIL board member Dan VanBelleghem. “Seniors aren’t necessarily communicating or expanding their communication as they’re getting more isolated. Intergenerational storytelling programs, like Shepherd Speaks, can help seniors improve their social life and health.”

According to SAIL board member Catherine Irwin, SAIL will be presenting a presentation on the program, “Hear This! Sharing Stories Across Generations,” for the annual Village to Village Network conference in Chicago, Ill. on Sept. 19. This will be the first time SAIL has given a presentation for the national organization, of which SAIL is a member.

“This year at the conference, they’ve invited us to speak about the intergenerational storytelling program,” Irwin said. “It’s pretty neat to have been invited to present — it’s a real honor.”

Irwin, who is presenting at the conference with VanBelleghem, worked with Shepherd University professors Elizabeth Perego, Julia Sandy, Keith Alexander and Adam Booth to found the program, along with fellow SAIL member Marianne Alexander.

“I’m not one of the original team,” VanBelleghem said, mentioning he was chosen to help out with the presentation, when no one but Irwin from the original team could make it. “I think it was in the winter when we found out we were going to be able to do this.”

Along with giving a presentation about the program, SAIL will also give out pamphlets to attendees who are interested in developing a similar program in their own communities.

“We’re going to give them the chance to try it out for themselves,” VanBelleghem said.

According to Irwin, she and Alexander applied to give the presentation, after finding out the 11th Annual National Village Conference’s theme was “Connecting Generations.”

“When we heard the national conference was going to be focusing on intergenerational connection at the conference, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to apply to speak,” Irwin said. “We hope it will encourage other villages to find ways to connect with young people.”