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Circle of Love

In the first person, caregivers as producers

(Edited by Mary Eileen O'Connor)

Circle of Love

When WHYY and the Caring Community Coalition distributed digital cameras to caregivers to document daily life with a family member struggling with chronic illness, Willo Carey took one home herself. The executive director of WHYY Wider Horizons, an initiative that focuses on the needs of people in the second half of life, Carey is a caregiver for her 92-year-old mother. "When we thought about putting digital cameras in the hands of caregivers," she said, "I wanted to find out first what some of the challenges would be."

WHYY, with assistance from the coalition, has produced three half-hour programs narrated by caregivers from a variety of cultural and socioeconomic perspectives. The caregivers were given digital cameras and taught how to use them. Through these first-person documentaries, coupled with Web-based programming and community forums, the partners hope to help build skills, reduce stress and provide useful resources to family caregivers throughout Greater Philadelphia, including Delaware and southern New Jersey.

Carey received no formal training before taking home a camera, but the exercise was a powerful one for her. She seized the opportunity to record what was going on with her mother, who moved in with her about two years ago. "I've captured her thoughts about her situation and this time of life, including death, which she looks forward to as part of the adventure," said Carey. She was particularly grateful to be able to capture moments of happiness and connection that are easy to overlook when people are suffering from chronic conditions.

WHYY and Caring Community's efforts to reduce isolation for caregivers and improve caregiving for individuals with chronic conditions reflect [WHYY's] new, flexible approach that takes advantage of on and off-air platforms. Using both traditional and experimental reporting methods, the programming reflects the viewing community -- a community of producers.

-- Excerpted with permission from Vibrations, a biannual newsletter published by Sound Partners for Community Health.
For more information, visit www.soundpartners.org.

WHYY and its community partners create Circle of Love

The Circle of Love series is a joint project of WHYY Wider Horizons, a strategic service that makes a difference in the lives of older persons and children of aging parents, and WHYY's Caring Community Coalition, which is comprised of volunteer representatives from more than 100 local community-based organizations that serve individuals and families dealing with chronic illness, caregiving and end-of-life issues. Caring Community partners with WHYY on content development, resources and community initiatives to enhance and extend community outreach.

Circle of Love was made possible by Sound Partners for Community Health, a program of the Benton Foundation, funded by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which is dedicated to improving health and health care for all Americans.

Sound Partners seeks to increase public awareness of specific health issues and facilitate citizens' involvement in making decisions affecting health care by fostering partnerships between public broadcasters, community organizations and additional media entities.

By utilizing a variety of programming and community engagement techniques, the alliances supported by Sound Partners help equip individuals to participate in community problem-solving around local health issues.

Additional funding was provided by The Patricia Kind Family Foundation and Farber Institute for Neurosciences of Thomas Jefferson University.