Community Scoop

Connecting Our Rangatahi With Our Kaumatua: The Young Aucklander Creating Intergenerational Friendships Around Aotearoa

Press Release – The Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award

Kia whakatmuri te haere whakamua: I walk backwards into the future with my eyes fixed on my past. Every day in Aotearoa, the Duke of Edinburghs Hillary Award participants are dedicating their time to inspiring community/volunteer work …

Kia whakatōmuri te haere whakamua: ‘I walk backwards into the future with my eyes fixed on my past’.

Every day in Aotearoa, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award participants are dedicating their time to inspiring community/volunteer work as part of their Voluntary Service Award section. In 2020/2021, participants generated over 55, 000 volunteer hours in our communities. One exemplary example of this mahi is Evy Hwangbo; CEO and founder of Genafriend – a non-profit organisation that connects high-school students with seniors across Aotearoa.

Through weekly phone and video calls and in-person visits, Genafriend is curing loneliness in our elderly community and creating meaningful intergenerational friendships. In Evy’s words, “The youth that get to interact with elderly people gain just as much because they’re so wise and you walk away with a whole new perspective on life. So, I just thought, why isn’t this happening more?”

Click here to watch/listen to our recent interview with Evy

Evy was inspired to start this project while working towards her Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award, where she was connecting with elderly in her local rest home to meet the requirements of her Award voluntary service section. The importance of these connections became clear as the world began to enter lockdowns and rest homes enforced strict visitor restrictions – causing many of our kaumatua to lose their connection with the outside world. In early 2020, Evy’s grandfather (who lives in a rest home in Korea) expressed how deeply he was being impacted by these changes. This inspired Evy to expand Genafriend and ensure it could operate regardless of alert level – through phone calls, Zooms and online scrabble!

Genafriend is now run by Evy and has expanded to a team of six high school students (all volunteers, including a web developer, creative director, and social media manager) and a steadily growing group of student representatives who are connecting young people with seniors in their local communities around the country.

Evy seeks to empower other young people to initiate these valuable connections. Along with her team, she is actively working to grow Genafriend with the hope that more rangatahi and kaumatua can forge mutual friendships across Aotearoa.

A golden Genafriend moment:
Evy began visiting a local rest home where she met two senior women, who had been friends for over ten years. One of whom only spoke Korean, the other only English. Other than basic greetings, the women had never been able to communicate despite spending many years of time together. Evy, who speaks both English and Korean, has given up a lot of her time to sit with the two women and translate their conversations – revealing they both had similar aged children and grandchildren and giving them the opportunity to connect on a whole new level.
How to get involved:

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