good life, good death, good grief

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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