Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Poppa Jim's Farewell

Many gathered at the Iona Church in Blockhouse Bay to celebrate a life well lived. Poppa Jim died after a very short illness and has left an amazing legacy behind him. There were many parts to Poppa Jim's life but his contribution to the lives of the teachers, children and families/whānau will never be forgotten! His contribution so great, he left behind a portfolio of learning episodes documented in Learning Stories that will continue to be read and re-read by children and families as they remember the warmth of a man who became a member of their family. Poppa Jim's participation was truly Te Whāriki in action on so many levels. I have had the privilege of sharing this story of intergenerational participation to teachers not only in New Zealand but globally. It is a story that brings great joy!!

Karen Ramsey (Head Teacher at Roskill South) gave a eulogy, and this was followed by enthusiastic clapping! Here is what she said...

The teachers with Poppa Jim (he was considered a member of the teaching team, from the left Nadine, Karen, Poppa Jim, Kim and Verity.
It is a pleasure and privilege to share with you a little insight into Jim’s life at kindergarten. My name is Karen and our team Kim, Nadine, Verity, Heather, Erin and Christine, along with our children and families past and present have been extremely blessed to have Poppa Jim, as he was affectionally known, as part of our kindergarten community since July 2012.  We fondly remember Poppa Jim’s first day and while the teaching team were a little anxious about how this idea would play out, the children immediately responded, taking Poppa Jim under their wing, sharing their world with him.  Looking back this was not surprising as in true Jim style he came well prepared, a clipboard in hand, with photos to share, and his story created a connection with the children.  

For many of our children, their grandparents lived out of Auckland or overseas and they did not get to see their grandparents that often. Poppa Jim was like a surrogate grandfather to many and we often saw special bonds form as the children and families spent time with him, enjoying a relationship with an older person. This is intergenerational  friendship at its best! Grace shared “I like Poppa Jim because he is like a grandfather to me. My grandfather died and I won’t be able to see him again.” Poppa Jim loved to spend time with the children and loved to watch them play, to hear their happy noise and to be involved in their learning. He often told us coming to kindergarten was some of the happiest times of his life.  

On his second day Poppa Jim introduced his bear Honey to the children and Honey become Poppa Jim’s story telling companion. Every Tuesday Honey and Jim had a story to tell. The children loved listening to these stories and we often noticed them including elements of stories in their play, whether it be through their bookmaking or dramatic play we could see links to the recent storyline Poppa Jim and Honey had shared.

Poppa Jim had a deep commitment to his role in our kindergarten community and he embraced every opportunity to be involved. Whether it be his Tuesday morning visits, spending time with us at Bush Kindergarten, our outdoor programme on a Friday where he particularly liked having BBQ sausages for morning tea, joining us on our trips to Ambury Park farm, dressing up for our annual disco, attending our Christmas parties, or our fundraising events, Poppa Jim was keen to participate. We will remember his playfulness, sense of fun, his honesty, and his love of enjoying a good party!  When Kim got married we had a kindergarten wedding and how lucky were we to have our very own minister on sight to officiate. Poppa Jim loved every minute and wrote some very funny wedding vows, his cheeky nature shining through.  

Poppa Jim embraced our fund raising events. At our annual garage sale he had a regular gig selling hugs for $1. With a sign he had designed, he advertised the opportunity to hug a 90, or as the years went by 91 year old and so on.  Last year he raised $100 dollars and was very pleased with his efforts.  Our Christmas raffle was another activity that Poppa Jim loved to support, selling tickets at happy hour to his friends at HHRV. Tickets were $2 and Poppa Jim developed his own marketing plan, $2 a ticket or 2 for $5.  He was always delighted when some of the baskets were won by the residents, as that bode well for sales the following year.

From Poppa Jim being known at Kindergarten, he was recognised and acknowledged in the wider community. One Christmas holidays Sophia and her family were at the Roskill South shops when they saw Poppa Jim. They offered him a ride home, which began with a visit to the bakery for morning tea, it was sausage rolls all round before the family then delivered Poppa Jim safely back to the village. Stories like this certainly warmed our hearts, Poppa Jim was an integral part of our kindergarten family, not seen just as a visitor but as a respected member of our community. There was a natural progression to him taking on the role of the elder of our centre and we appreciated his wise thoughts and guidance. Poppa Jim often took part in visits from the powers that be, and outside agencies, and supported us when we hosted visitors from the Auckland region, throughout New Zealand, and overseas.  He was a strong advocate for the rights of children, families and the teaching team and loved to share the story about his time at kindergarten.  Often quoting “You do know this is the best kindergarten in NZ.” And when we told Poppa Jim you cannot say this, he was not deterred, and we know he continued, just making sure we were not in ear shot!

Through our relationship with Poppa Jim we have develop a connection with the management and residents at HHRV and we have enjoyed many wonderful visits.  Poppa Jim’s friends Shirley, Lois and Cherya now spend time at kindergarten reading stories and forming their own relationships with the children.
And more recently, Verity and a small group of children have enjoyed regular visits to spend time with residents from the serviced apartments.  Poppa Jim provided the link for us to establish relationships in our local community and he was extremely passionate to see this relationship grow, he had an absolute belief that the young and old could learn so much from each other and bring so much joy and happiness to each other.

Poppa Jim’s presence in the kindergarten created many rich learning opportunities for all and his involvement added another dimension to the kindergarten programme, one that was unique to Roskill South.  This year Poppa Jim did not make it back to kindergarten but he has been the hearts and minds of our children.  Recently Rachelle and Amelie were creating pictures for him and Nadine overheard this conversation,

A - "Do you miss Poppa Jim"
S - "Yeah I really miss him. And he's going to die soon because he's old and that's just what happens."
A - "He's going to die soon???"
S - "Yeah, but don't worry, he can come back alive again."
A - "How? I think when you die you can't come back alive again."
S - "My brother said Jesus can make you alive again."
A - "Who's jesus?"
S - "You know, the person who made the whole world."
A - "I'm going to ask my mum to tell me if he's a wizard."
S - "He's not a wizard! He's just a man who made the world and he kind of has magic powers."

Such a wonderful perception of life and spoken with such conviction as only children can.

Poppa Jim, when we began this journey we had no idea what would happen, but through embracing this uncertainty, together we have created something very magical.  Intergenerational relationships have the potential to make a difference in the lives of many and The Poppa Jim Story is a fabulous example of this in action.  This story has inspired many far and wide, and we know this has inspired teachers to develop intergenerational relationships in their communities.  It has been a privilege to have you as a member of our kindergarten family and now it is time to say farewell, you will live on in the hearts of our community forever and our time together will continue to guide us and influence our thinking in the future. Now you will hear the children’s happy noise from a little further afield, but we know you will be always looking over us.  Rest in Peace Poppa Jim.

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