Josie and Irma are in their usual spot for a Tuesday morning, chatting warmly after chair yoga. They have both come to HNS for over a year, but didn’t really know each other until our new Libritos con Abuelitos program. After a few weeks of volunteering together, they became fast friends and someone first meeting them might guess they share a long history. In a way they do, as they bond over shared life experiences and joy in passing along their wisdom to younger generations.
Libritos Con Abuelitos is HNS’s intergenerational reading program designed to combat loneliness in elders and provide positive role models for young children. Libritos is pretty cutting-edge for this community says Annalise, HNS’s AmeriCorps VISTA who helped launch the program. Children in the Westside do not often experience one-on-one reading time. In Libritos, they get to spend time every week with the same “abuelito,” or grandparent figure. Our partners at Yoga Day also brought in “storybook yoga” where children and seniors learned poses based on book characters. This interactive approach generated loads of smiles and was a creative way to weave storytelling, physical activity and relationship building together.
Irma first came to San Antonio from Piedras Negras, Mexico in the 1960s and is a cancer survivor. She takes two buses to HNS where she loves playing loteria with other seniors. As one of our “abuelitos,” she reads to five year old Santiago, whom she affectionately calls Santi. She appreciates their close bond and the eagerness he brings to reading time.
Josie is enthusiastic about her reading partner, Emma, and moved by how excited she was each week for storytime. Josie says it felt good to be a part of something that sparked joy. A mother of nine, grandma and great grandma to dozens, Josie’s nurturing spirit radiates.
Like many seniors in our community, Josie and Irma were not able to finish school, so giving back to the next generation is a way to empower both themselves and their community. As Coretta Scott King once said, “the greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its neighbors.” Thank you, Irma and Josie, for making our HNS community that much greater.