Madelyn Weaver ‘19: A Good Listener

Christina Yasutomi

Madelyn Weaver ‘19 describes herself as a listener, and that’s why she enjoys hearing other people share their stories. Over the last two years, she has conducted 17 video interviews with seniors living at Pohai Nani, a senior community in Kaneohe. Weaver’s fascination with stories began three years ago when she recorded an interview of her grandfather for her Documentary Film Class. Two weeks after she filmed the interview, he suddenly passed away. When family members came to visit, they all watched her video.     

“That video meant a lot to my family.”     

A few months after her grandfather passed, Weaver was riding in the car with her mother and they began reminiscing about her video.        

“My mom said the video was so nice, and that other people would like to have videos like the one of grandpa.”        

The idea took off! Weaver contacted Pohai Nani, presented a proposal, and began interviewing residents who wanted their stories documented. One man shared how he sailed around the world and survived through two storms. A couple talked about how they lived with a hermit while hiking the Kalalau Trail on Kauai during their honeymoon. Another couple told amazing stories about being folk dancers and magicians in Hawaii.        

“I’ve met so many great people, and heard so much advice. It’s so amazing to hear these stories. They’ve given me a better perspective on what I can do.”        

Weaver says it takes her one to two months to complete a video, and she does it all for free. Interviews can last three to four hours, and the editing can take several days. The final product is a 15 - 30 minute video for single interviews, or a 45 minute video for couples. When Weaver presents the video, she watches it with the client and notes any changes that need to be made. The videos are not available to the public out of respect for her clients’ privacy.        

“The residents have felt, 100 percent, that what Maddy gave to them was a precious gift that will outlive them for their families! They have the opportunity to reflect on their lives - their joys and their accomplishments. Maddy has become the conduit to their lives and their preserved legacy,” said Patricia Camero, executive director of Pohai Nani.

Madelyn Weaver '19, center, with Pohai Nani residents Dick Miller, left, and Betty Sugarman, right. Photo courtesy of Madelyn Weaver.

Weaver received a $2,500 scholarship for her work from the AXA Achievement Scholarship program. The foundation has also given a $1,000 grant to Hawaii Baptist Academy.        

Weaver says the most important thing she has learned from this experience is that life is unpredictable.        

“You can have a general life plan, of course, but life just happens. All of these people had their plans, but there were so many opportunities that were thrown at them that they took advantage of! As I’m going into my next step in life, I’m open-minded to whatever comes my way. I’m just excited to see what I can do and accomplish, and how many people I can help along the way,” said Weaver.        

This fall, Weaver will attend the University of Portland to study nursing. She was inspired by the love and kindness her family experienced from the nurses who cared for her grandfather. Weaver also enjoyed caring for her grandfather by making meals, doing laundry, and taking care of other things around the house that he couldn’t do.      

“Grandma always tells me how grateful she was that I was there to help. That’s near and dear to me.”        

To high school students, Weaver leaves this advice: “Be kind and loving to the people around you. We’re all different, but we don’t need to judge everyone for every little thing. Just embrace those around you.”