Elders’ Legacy Project is Capturing Seniors’ Stories to Inspire Future Generations
 — A Q&A With Marcia Pereira

By Jocelyn Birkes

The Elders’ Legacy Project is one of several initiatives Belonging Brant is supporting to help create a more vibrant community by engaging citizens to help them feel more connected to Brantford.

Marcia Pereira has launched one of these initiatives.

Called The Elders’ Legacy Project, Marcia was inspired by her friend and mentor Blanche Parkhill, a retired public health nurse and artist, to create this initiative to help bring a stronger sense of belonging within the community.

The two first bonded more than 10 years ago over their shared love of music and art. Blanche inspired Marcia to choose a career in social work and to continue her artistic pursuits.

Blanche was such a source of inspiration that Marcia wanted to capture her life story so it would help inspire future generations of Brantfordians.


What is the Elders’ Legacy Project and how did it get started?

Elders’ Legacy is an initiative that was created to collect stories, experiences and wisdom from our elders. I think it’s really important at some point in our lives to reflect on ourselves and our choices, our experiences, our interactions with our community, how we’ve given back, how we’ve been given to, and also for our families, for the rest of our community, to have those stories of our elders to reflect on their lives as individuals. I believe it’s a very important part of wellness in our community.

It really is a heartfelt experience when I get to learn about somebody else’s life story.

There’s so much benefit to learning about how people live and what they’ve experienced and how they’ve contributed, or how others have contributed to them. It really is a heartfelt experience when I get to learn about somebody else’s life story.

In my late 20s I met Blanche Parkhill, who was the inspiration for the project. I just thought she was the coolest person I’d ever met. It didn’t matter that we had 40-something years age difference. I didn’t even know what her age was, and it didn’t matter to me, and it didn’t matter to her how old I was. We just connected.

She inspired me to transition more into social work and community development and to continue with the arts. And, you know, I’m living the life I am today because of her love and encouragement. She believed in me without any sort of reservation, and I felt like, ‘wow, people like that exist’?

It’s really important that we take care of our elders. And there are various ways of taking care of our elders. We’re doing the best we can in our retirement homes, but we also need to have that emotional connection of sitting down and listening to someone and learning from them. We have a lot to learn from our elders.

The project is really just to build connection in our community, and to learn from our elders and to share.

What would you want or need from the community to make the other legacy projects successful?

We want anyone who’s able to share their time to get involved and share the project across as many platforms as possible by collecting stories or sharing their gifts in any way.

For example, if they’re good at making videos, they can share their time and their talent to really add to the project, to promote the project, but also to let any elders in their lives know about the project.

The best thing that can happen is going to be inside the individual. That’s beyond what I can measure.

You and Blanche have created music and art together. Did you do that because you knew before that both of you enjoy those things, or was that from learning?

Yes, absolutely. Music was always a big part of our friendship. We would often just gather to create music. I also knew it was important to collect that music and to really honour her by sharing it.

From where you stand, what’s the best thing that can happen as a result of the Elders’ Legacy Project?

The best thing that can happen is going to be inside the individual. That’s beyond what I can measure.

I know for me, the best thing that can happen is a sense of peace, because the idea of collecting the stories from our elders is something I’ve been fascinated with since I was a kid.

Blanche has been in my life for over 10 years, and I’ve had the thought for so many years, that it would bring me a sense of peace to collect the stories of our elders and to share this project in a way that would really honour them.

That makes me so happy, knowing that we would be able to do that not just for our elders, but our whole community.

Is there anything that you feel you haven’t shared yet that you’d like to share?

I’m always excited to talk about Blanche. She’s really at the heart of the project. I know she would want to be involved, but she’d make it about others. And that’s what the project is about: it’s about creating a sense of community and love and gathering and connection.


Lead image cutline: Pictured is Blanche Parkhill, left, and Marcia R. Pereira. Photo credit: Imanuel Kayhan.


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