good life, good death, good grief

Truacanta

The Truacanta Project project will support local communities across Scotland who are interested in taking community action to improve people’s experiences of death, dying, loss and care. On this blog, you'll hear from time to time from people associated with the project who wish to share their experiences.

North Berwick Compassionate Community Launch with Series of Events

In early 2020, the North Berwick Compassionate Community Project Group, a sub-group of North Berwick Coastal Health and Well-being Association, was delighted to be successful in being selected as one of five Truacanta projects across Scotland. The project group had been very encouraged with the community support for our project proposal submission and to have won this status for the North Berwick community, so… we were very disappointed to put our work on hold, in March 2020, due to lockdown. However, despite this set-back, we have rallied and have been busy behind the scenes, preparing to launch the project with a number of events and initiatives set up for 2021, listed below:

Support Thread For Our Compassionate Community Project

We have been in discussions with St Columbas’ Hospice about a partnership with the North Berwick Community. The hospice is setting up a Compassionate Neighbours Project and we are pleased to say that we have a potential agreement to be a pilot community. In March 2021 the plan is that volunteers in North Berwick will be offered approximately six hours training, to become a ‘compassionate neighbour.’ This will be a fantastic development for North Berwick and the Compassionate Community group recognises that support and guidance from the hospice will be invaluable.

photo of an art installation in North Berwick which is an image of houses with decorations in the windows, including a rainbow

Members of Compassionate Community Project plan to undertake the EASE training (End of Life Skills for Everyone) that has been developed by Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care and we will then be able to offer local training next year.

‘Big Conversation’ Thread of our Compassionate Community

We had to put on hold our plans for author events at the 2020 Fringe by the Sea but we are pleased that our plans will be integrated into the 2021 Fringe by the Sea programme. As a lead up to a creative and new Fringe by the Sea, to be held in the Lodge Grounds, in August 2021, we are going to host online ‘Armchair Chats’. The online chats will be on a series of relevant topics, linked to the Compassionate Community initiative, from February to June 2021. The events will be available to be booked via Eventbrite and will be shown on Zoom.

Tuesday February 23rd at 7pm

Music and poetry alongside presentations from:

St Columbas Hospice on the Compassionate Neighbours Project

An update on the Truacanta Project

(book on on Eventbrite HERE)

Tuesday March 30th at 7pm

A presentation from Dorothy Kellas, a local solicitor, on the legal aspects of dying and death.

Tuesday April 27th at 7pm (face to face if possible then)

Soul Midwives Scotland - Jude Meryl on their ‘Tender Loving Care’ Programme for workers and volunteers who support people who are dying.

Tuesday May 25th at 7pm (face to face if possible then)

Kathryn Mannix, a palliative care doctor, with a passion for public health and the author of the excellent book, ‘With the End in Mind,’ (date provisional)

Tuesday June 29th at 7pm (face to face if possible then)

CRUSE bereavement Scotland on managing grief.


We have also supported pARTicipate, a community arts venture, in their devising of an arts installation that reflects the themes and concerns of Compassionate Communities, in the three telephone kiosks at the heart of the town.

More updates to come as we progress our plans, in the meantime if you live in the North Berwick area and would like to get involved please get in touch:

Lorna Sinclair: lorna@northberwickhealthandwellbeing.co.uk

Deborah Ritchie: deborah.ritchie@me.com

Fiona Watt: fiona.watt15@gmail.com

Truacanta Perthshire Grows Wings

Emma Oram from Truacanta Perthshire updates us on their compassionate community activity

When we held our ‘To Absent Friends’ event in November last year, it was lovely to sit together, meet new people and enjoy a collective cuppa. There was a warmth in the room, through shared stories and comforting conversations.

We could never have imagined how this would change. Over the past few months since Covid-19 appeared, we have seen and experienced so much loss, through self-isolation and cutting off physical contact with family, friends and colleagues to keep us all safe. We’ve also seen daily messages on the media of death and dying like never before. We became acutely aware of care, and how to care for each other at a time where we might become unwitting vectors of a killer virus. Our care workforce has faced the intense grief of watching people they care for die alone, and the devastation of families who were kept apart and unable to care for their loved ones or remember them with gathered friends and the closeness of a hug.

Perhaps we are still to discover all this loss and grief is going to mean for us. There is so much we don’t know. We have seen how communities have helped others, for example through collecting shopping and prescriptions for neighbours. Compassion in communities has flourished, but due to Covid-19 we are keeping within tighter circles, so we may not see or hear all of what is happening out there.

Although social distancing has prevented the Truacanta project in Perthshire from meeting as we have been drawn into

different work streams, we think that now more than ever is the time to hear stories from the community of what life has been like, gathering lived experiences around Covid-19, and what it means to people, especially those who have experienced isolation, loss of relationships, who may be grieving for the way things were.

We looked at the concept of ‘Bumping Spaces’ in communities where people naturally meet (for those ‘corner shop conversations’) to create a place where people can safely go to record their stories, photographs or messages of what life has been like living through Covid-19 in front of a pair of ‘selfie wings’. The wings are being designed by some PKAVS

young carers (the designs on the right are by young carer Sammi), and will be installed by the end of this month in the North Inch Park in the centre of Perth, which is an open space to allow for social distancing. The ‘selfie wings’ will also form part of the Recovery Week being hosted by the Perth & Kinross drug and alcohol team – we felt the wings represented renewal and recovery really nicely.

We will ask for people to share their hopes for the future, and we know that perhaps this might be painful. Stories resonate with all of us, and amplify our own feelings of loss and grief, but we need to listen before we can learn.

Get involved: email- EOram@pkc.gov.uk twitter- @truacanta

Truacanta in the Time of Coronavirus

Truacanta Project Manager Caroline Gibb writes about the impact the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown have had on the project.

This week’s virtual team meeting marked the 108th day since we’d all left the office to start working from home, a week before lockdown officially began in Scotland. That’s 108 days since things for our organisation (and beyond) began to change exponentially, and we all tried to adapt the best we could to what many were already calling the ‘new normal’….whatever that was.

We were entering the emergency phase of a crisis. For my colleagues, things were about to get BUSY. SPPC brings together clinicians and care professionals, and the need for this grew, quickly. Rapid response resources were required quickly. Our use of Zoom shot through the roof.

On the Good Life, Good Death, Good Grief side of things, it was equally busy. GLGDGG aims to make Scotland a place where people help each other through the difficult times that can come with death, dying, loss and care. Suddenly, this was

credit: RonAlmog

more relevant than ever. While we already had many resources already available for people, our new focus was to create Covid-19 specific resources, even though information was only just emerging, and changing all the time.

For my part, my workplace was now a small corner of a fold-out dining table in our wee one-bedroom flat, my new colleagues were my partner and my dog. This bit was fairly straightforward; I felt lucky to still be employed and I quickly got into a routine of walking the dog, changing into my work clothes, and walking a few metres to open my laptop and pore over my to-do list while sipping a coffee.

The to-do list was the issue. My role is Project Manager of the Truacanta Project, a community development project that aimed to support five communities across Scotland to improve local experiences of death, dying, loss and care: support that would be provided by me. I’d been working on developing the project from scratch since starting in post last April. Our five communities had been selected, I’d had four out of five meetings to establish next steps, and we were due to launch the national project on the 1st April 2020. Of course, this never happened.

It quickly became clear that we weren’t going to be able to proceed with the project as planned. Most of the planned activity was based around in-person gatherings which could no longer happen. Many of the people leading on the community activity had seen their priorities change dramatically and could no longer commit in the same way for the time being. And, many of the local communities were already being heavily impacted by the pandemic, affecting their ability to be involved, and potentially changing their needs. The project was put on hold for three months, until the end of June.

And then here we were, at the end of June. That three months had passed quickly. Some things we worked on in this time:

Compassionate Communities Week
Covid-19 resources
Recording community responses
End of Life Aid Skills (EASE) learning moved online
Keeping our social media and monthly newsletter going

We passed through the regression phase of a crisis, as we all found ourselves grappling with the enormity of the times we are living through, and adapting to much longer-term changes and effects than we’d planned for. We realised the realities of life – and of death, dying, loss and care – during a pandemic.

The third phase of a crisis is recovery. We begin to reorientate, feel able to revise and to plan ahead. And so it was time to revisit, and rethink, Truacanta. A number of options were laid out to the Truacanta communities. Some of them have chosen to pause until 2021, at which point, I'll be back in touch with them and we'll move forward from there.

Some of them have chosen to continue, revising plans as we go, and they have a number of exciting strands they’re going to start developing – watch this space for more information.

And in the meantime I will be exploring other ways that the Truacanta Project can support and grow compassionate communities in Scotland. This will include seeing what I can do to support members of the Scottish Compassionate Communities Network – a national network for people and organisations who want to get involved in practical work to build compassion in their own community, with a particular focus on improving people's experiences of deteriorating health, death, dying and bereavement.

The aim of the network is to provide opportunities for people to come together and share learning, experience, ideas and motivation. When lockdown hit, we were in the midst of organising a big get-together in May to do just that. That couldn’t happen, but there are lots of other ways we can provide such opportunities and other resources, and we’ve put together a brief survey to assess which of those would be most useful for you – and if there’s anything we haven’t thought of. We’d be very grateful if you could take a couple of minutes to fill this out: Survey

As a community development worker, I know that with community work it is impossible to make concrete plans and stick to them. It’s never a linear process, and an important part of it is adapting to circumstances and changing needs. I’m familiar with the art of coddiwompling. And we are currently coddiwompling more than ever: we are still aiming to improve local experiences of death, dying, loss and care; we are just going to take some more scenic routes along the way.

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