good life, good death, good grief


Introducing The Truacanta Project

Project Manager Caroline Gibb introduces the project...

A few years ago, my mum met a long time neighbour and friend in the street. The friend later told us that when she expressed sympathy at my mum’s terminal prognosis, the response was: “Oh well, c’est la vie...or should I say, c’est la mort!”

It has stayed with me, that brief exchange. It was weighted with humour and compassion, two things that can help us all better deal with death, dying and bereavement. It’s a funny old thing, death – the one inevitability in life, but often so shrouded in awkwardness and denial we don’t really know what to do with it.

Much of The Truacanta Project is about tackling these cultural and social issues around death head on, by supporting local communities to enhance their ability to deal with death, dying, loss and care. It has been designed to take a community development approach; finding ways to catalyse community action to increase open and supportive attitudes and behaviours relating to deteriorating health, dying and bereavement in local communities. When I first read about it, it jumped out as a forward thinking, positive and much needed project; I’m delighted to now be taking on the role of Project Manager, and am really excited to see where it can go from here.

I have worked in the third sector for over fifteen years now. I learned about a community development approach before I realised it had a name. I went from working in community cafes to working in food poverty and health inequalities, to volunteer support and community project development. Most recently, I worked as Development Worker for the Equality and Rights Network (EaRN), a project that was set up to enable individuals, groups, organisations and communities to work in partnership with public services, with the overall aims of advancing equality, promoting human rights, and tackling poverty and inequality. I was responsible for setting up the project from a standing start, and although I was working closely with statutory partners, from the beginning I was very clear that the project should have a grassroots focus – if we were aiming to facilitate dialogue around inequality, we needed to find ways to make sure the voices of those experiencing inequality were being heard. Part of this was going out and about into the community, asking questions, and listening. We would ask people, what does equality mean to you? And often, more broadly, what matters to you?

And this is the foundation of The Truacanta Project - what matters to people. When people are dealing with death, dying and bereavement, what is important to them? Are there barriers in the way of that? If so, how can we work together to remove them? And, overall, how can we better equip our communities to be ready to support each other through difficult times?

The answers to these questions lie with the people offering and needing this support, and within their communities. That’s why taking a community development approach from the outset is so important, to make sure the communities and people have ownership of their journeys through life, death and grief.

The Truacanta Project will shortly be inviting communities to express an interest in being part of the project. I’m really looking forward to getting to know the short-listed communities, and working with them as they identify their own local priorities and come up with potential activities to improve experiences of death, dying, loss and care in their community. I’m already feeling really inspired by the innovative work in this area, and can’t wait to get stuck in.

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Before I die I want to ...