The tradition of telling family stories is taking at 21st century turn in a new program from the P.E.I. Senior Citizens' Federation called "I Have a Story."

It's a three-part workshop where seniors learn how to talk on camera and then record a ten minute video, sharing part of their life story.

"When we talked about their stories I knew that some of them were very close to their hearts and some of them became emotional because they're telling stories that meant an awful lot to them," explained Joscelynne Bordeaux, a professional actress who is one of the trainers, along with videographer Isaac Williams.  

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Joscelynne Bordeaux sets up a shot for the "I Have A Story" filming session. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

"That's what has meant a lot to me is seeing that emotion come out and that desire to tell their story," observed Bordeaux, adding that the videos are a "lovely keepsake."

Sharing with family

Mary Kelly's story revolved around her time as the telephone operator in Morell.

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Mary Kelly shares her story as part of the "I Have A Story" program. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

"I'm interested in telling my story because I want my children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren to have some idea of what I did with my time," said Kelly, who has 22 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

"The other reason is there are a lot people who have no idea what a rural telephone operator did and they might be interested," she added.

'It's a lovely keepsake'
—Joscelynne Bordeaux, "I Have A Story" trainer
Kelly encourages other seniors to share their stories on video.

"I guess the biggest thing is if you have something that you think is important enough, having the self-confidence to share it," she said. 

Voice and face preserved on video

"The beauty of video is that you have their voice and you have their face," said Bordeaux.

"When the person is no longer with us, then the families they have these wonderful stories that these people want to tell, they want their families to remember them by."

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Joscelynne Bordeaux and Linda Harding watch the video they have produced together. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

Linda Harding recorded the history of Matheson family for her episode of "I Have A Story."

"When I'm gone, it will be wonderful for them to know about the Matheson family," said Harding, pointing out that a paper version of the story could get lost.

Getting comfortable on camera

Bordeaux admits there are sometimes a few nerves at the the sight of the camera, but they don't last long.

"That's something we do talk about is, you know, have you ever seen yourself on camera before?  Because that is always a shock the first time — hearing yourself and seeing yourself on camera, but they're thrilled."

In the first session, Bordeaux and the participants get to know each other.

"The second session we fine-tune the story and we also talk about feeling comfortable in front of a camera, eye line, where to look, what to wear, how to use your voice," continued Bordeaux.

"And then the third session they come in individually and they're taped one at a time."

More stories to come

So far, the "I Have A Story" training team has travelled to Cardigan, Emyvale, Souris and Charlottetown.

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Carla Hood told a story about this quilt for the "I Have A Story" program. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

Bordeaux says there have been family histories, tales of life on the farm in the early 1900s and stories inspired by a family heirloom, like Carla Hood's story about a quilt she received as a gift 35 years ago.

The project received funding from the federal government's New Horizons for Seniors program and wraps up at the end of May.

"I think it'll just grow because everyone has a story, everyone has a wonderful story they want to share," said Bordeaux
with a smile.