The inaugural Jasmina Awards celebrates the voices of the elderly, aged above 60 years old, to be heard through the stories and poetry that are written by them. It allows the elderly to express themselves and share their wisdom through the use of their words with the younger generation. In addition to that, the Jasmina Awards will also aid in bridging the gap between the elderly and the youth.
“As people transition into their senior years, it’s like sometimes, for those who are working, they might suddenly lose a sense of identity. But actually there is a rich experience and some may transition better than others”, said Cindy Chew, a volunteer member of the Jasmina Awards organising team.
“Something that is common to the elderly in almost all the societies in the world is that after they retire they reach a certain age where they start to feel neglected either by their families or their communities or societies in general because kind of it’s past their time and now it’s time for someone else to show up and to do things. So we tend to forget how much value the elderly can to their family, to their community and their society in their later stage”, said the lead of the Jasmina Awards, Dr Jasmina Kuka.
Through the Jasmina Awards, it is hoped that the elderly will be able to get the sense of relevance again in the society. Through writing and submitting their stories, they would give meaningful contribution to our society and know that what they are saying is not falling on deaf ears. The Jasmina Awards hopes to remind the elderly in Malaysia that they are still part of our community. It serves as a way to honour and cherish those in their golden years and to keep them as an integral part of our society by immortalising their experiences in words. Age is just a number, but their wisdom is evergreen.
The inspiration behind the Jasmina Awards is based on similar platform called the Dragan Awards that has been established 5 years ago in Serbia. The main contributors of the stories and poems are those who are aged 60 and above.
“This year, in Serbia, the youngest was 61 and the oldest was 94”, said Dr Jasmina Kuka, founder of the Dragan Awards. Authors who send their stories and poems come from all walks of life. There are no limitations to who can be a contributor to the Awards. In fact, it encourages people from all over to share their experiences and let their feelings, emotions, thoughts and life stories to be heard.
“Keep in mind that the participants of the Awards who send stories are cleaning ladies, doctors, secretaries, plumbers, small entrepreneurs, peasants who work on the land, university professors. Even though it’s a huge mixture of people from different professions they are all the same on that platform. When a plumber, professor and housewife have their stories in a publication, maybe for the first time in their lives, that means a lot to them”, said Dr Jasmina.
All participants of the Award stated that the biggest award to them is the sense of belonging and acknowledgement that they deserve. “Their self-confidence, their self-respect, the way how they see their role in the society they live, that’s the biggest gift for them. Acknowledgement”, said Dr Jasmina. Those participants who were not among winners were also acknowledged by having short parts of their handwritten or typed stories/poems presented at the cover page of the yearly publication. It serves both as beautiful decoration for the book publication but more importantly, as a nod to all the efforts, time, dedication and love that the writers have put into writing the stories.
The Dragan Awards is truly a beautiful and magical way to bring some love and liveliness back into the lives of those who have gone through the non-stop train ride that is life. The Jasmina Awards hopes to bring such an experience for those who are living right here in Malaysia. Let those who gone through the many experiences and trials in life to regale us with their wondrous tales.
Aside from Dr Jasmina Kuka (her thoughts above), some of the members of the jury share why they are doing this. Read more on the Jasmina Awards blog, excerpts below:
Dr Syed Husin Ali is looking forward to the themes that these writers will choose to show in the stories, this is one of the driving factor behind why he choose to take part as a judge for the Jasmina Awards. “If there are a good number of short stories entering the competition and they are of a high merit, then I think people will be interested. To a certain extent may have some impact and add additional value to literature in Malaysia”.
Prof. Dr. Asiah Sarji expressed that the experience of becoming a judge provides an excitement in looking into the written works thoroughly and examining each word, prose and sentence. This is what she describes as the exciting part and advantage of being a judge in such a platform. “It gives me the opportunity to peek into the hearts and minds of the writers.”
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