The Java Talking Stick Makers

Have you ever wondered who makes the beautiful talking sticks that come with the Java programs?

Well wonder no more! They are made by two creative men called Trevor and Wayne, who live on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada.

Trevor was raised in Vancouver, where he had a successful career as a Terminal Carload Supervisor, then later as Customer Supervisor BC for CP Rail. In 1998 he and his wife decided to relocate to Vancouver Island shortly after retirement, where they enjoyed the natural beauty and tranquility of the island.

Wayne came from Northern Ontario, where he worked for Cook Engineering in Thunder Bay for 25 years before retirement. He and his wife also moved to Vancouver Island in 1999, looking for a change of scenery and lifestyle. They settled in a neighbourhood close to Trevor and his wife, and soon became good friends. They shared many interests and activities, such as walking, hiking and biking, for more than two decades.

Wayne had a passion for making walking and hiking sticks, which he started as a hobby after moving to the island. He used his skills to craft unique and beautiful sticks from local wood. In 2013, he was contacted by Java Group Programs, an organization that developed the Java peer support programs that uses discussion, music and sharing to enhance the well-being of older adults and people living with disabilities. They asked him if he would be interested in making talking sticks for them, which are used as a symbol of respect and empowerment during group sessions.

Wayne agreed to make the first 100 talking sticks, but soon realized that he needed help to meet the growing demand from the Java Group Programs, which requested hundreds more sticks. He invited Trevor to join him in this project, and Trevor gladly accepted. They worked together as a team, making each talking stick with care and attention.

The wood they chose to make the sticks was Red Alder, which is abundant and sustainable on the island. They found an area where the alder trees had been previously cut and chipped by highway maintenance crews, as they were growing too close to the road. However, the trees quickly grew back, providing a steady source of saplings for Wayne and Trevor to harvest. They made sure to take only a few saplings each time, leaving no noticeable impact on the environment.

Making and finishing each talking stick involved many steps and processes. First, they cut the alder saplings in the spring, when the sap was flowing. Then they peeled and stacked them in a log cabin style to dry. In the fall of the same year, they cut each sapling into three 18 inch pieces. They drilled and reamed a hole in one end of each piece, where the Java staff would later attach beads.

They rounded the two ends of each stick and smoothed out any bumps or stubs where branches had grown. Finally, they sanded each stick with different grits of sandpaper, giving them a smooth and polished finish. The sanding was the most challenging part of the process because of the dust that it produced, requiring them to wear dust masks at all times.

The process of finishing the talking sticks is as follows. Each stick receives a coat of coloured stain and dries for a week. Then, the sticks are smoothed with steel wool to eliminate any imperfections. The same procedure is repeated with another coat of coloured stain. Finally, a coat of clear varathane is applied to protect the sticks. The talking sticks are now complete.

Wayne and Trevor have enjoyed making the talking sticks for the Java Music Club. They have found meaning and friendship in this activity. They are also happy to see the photos of seniors holding their sticks on the Java Group Programs website. They feel proud to contribute to this wonderful organization.

Thank you Wayne and Trevor from all of us for your fantastic contribution to the Java programs and helping to end loneliness and spread happiness!

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