‘I saw the light’: How a group of Bathurst, N.B. students brought sunlight into seniors’ lives

Many people struggle during the winter months because of the cold, stormy, dark weather.

But just imagine if on top of all that, you were stuck inside and couldn’t see out.

That was the reality for residents of the Southern Comfort Villa in Bathurst, N.B.

After numerous snow storms, the front of the retirement home was blocked by gargantuan snow banks.

This meant that the activity and meal rooms were dark and dreary, desperately missing natural light.

The owner and operator of the facility says seniors are “kind of confined” to the residence because of chance of slipping. (Submitted by Audrey Ronalds)

Lillian Drapeau, owner and operator of the facility, said the darkness had begun to take a toll on residents at an already difficult winter season.

“They get a little more depressed, they get a little more impatient,” she said of the January and February months.

“They start to really lose interest in many things.”

The idea

The nursing home has a close relationship with Bathurst High School.

Two seniors take a co-op course at the facility.

Audrey Ronalds, Anglophone North’s community engagement coordinator, went to visit with two students and noticed the dreary atmosphere.

“I noticed how dark it was in there,” said Ronalds.

“That’s the first thing that caught my eye. It was so dreary.”

January and February are pretty tough for seniors.– Lillian Drapeau

Ronalds decided to tackle the problem, but she would need help.

She spoke with Jamie MacLaggan, an outdoor pursuits teacher at Bathurst High.

He said the class sometimes has difficulty finding winter activities, so the group decided to help out the retirement home by clearing snow from the windows.

“It’s a lot of really strong kids so they were all about it,” said MacLaggan.

Teen titans

It took about two hours, and work from both outdoor pursuits classes, to completely clear Southern Comfort’s windows.

“It made a big difference,” said MacLaggan.

With the windows cleared, and light flooding in, Drapeau could see a huge improvement in her residents.

Bathurst High School students enrolled in the Outdoor Pursuits course got a chance for some hands-on learning. (Submitted by Audrey Ronalds)

“They could actually see in the dining room,” said Drapeau.

“‘Oh my God we can see the road, we can see the people coming, we can see the traffic coming in and out of the yard.’ … It just lifted their spirits.”

Ronalds agrees that the transformation was clear … along with the windows.

“It was night and day basically it was ‘I saw the light’ … that’s what we called it,” said Ronalds.


After CBC NB posted a photo of the students’ hard work it received over 2,000 likes and many supportive comments.

But MacLaggan said the students had no idea that their work would go viral.

It “just lifted their spirits” for clients to finally see outside their residence, said the owner. (Submitted by Audrey Ronalds)

“The kids would think it’s just something to do during class. They wouldn’t really see the end result of it,” said MacLaggan.

Ronalds said that in the end, the activity is what the outdoor pursuits course is all about.

“It was exactly those types of outcomes. Leadership, getting involved in your community, team building, spirit … this encompases everything into one.”

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