I will work closely with the community based Grahamstown Hospice which provides support to persons in the last phases of incurable diseases. I will teach some of the members of the organisation the basics of audio production while I will come to understand what their role within the community is. Through my work at Hospice I hope to create a sustainable partnership which will benefit the organisation for years to come.
Charity Starts at Home
When I first heard that I would be creating a community partnership with the local Hospice, I imagined sad stories filled with aging voices. Trish, who runs the nursing centre, explained that this was very far from true. Hospice does not only assist the old and terminally ill but also the people who live with them, including children. They help people to deal with death, either their own or that of family members and loved ones. I also assumed that the social workers I met would be grumpy women with no time for a young student such as myself. Instead I met a group of women who are passionate about what they do, whether they run support groups or assist with medical rounds. In terms of infrastructure, I thought the building would be dilapidated and the supplies in the examination rooms would be scattered around, and again, I was wrong. I feel that these assumptions are influenced by the stigma attached to charities and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in South Africa. I feel ashamed that I was so unquestioning when it came to my assumptions. I have realised that if I am going to work as an audio producer with Hospice I will need to be much more open-minded. And I won’t always have someone like Trish around to show me the error of my ways either! This, I think is going to be one of the most challenging aspects of my partnership with Hospice.
The community I will serve is one which has suffered through many hardships such as Apartheid, poverty and crime. And even in the New South Africa, they continue to be faced by the realities of illness and death. As I understand it, Hospice is there to help this community to deal with these issues, through, providing medical assistance, emotional support, and even basic material resources. These are the three areas of support that Grahamstown Hospice deals with. I see myself assisting with a fourth area, that of raising awareness about Hospice. In this way I will be assisting both Hospice and the community as a whole. I will offer my skills as a radio journalist, utilising what I have learnt at Rhodes University in conjunction with what I learnt about Hospice.
My intention is firstly that I will be creating a series of Public Service Announcements. The aim of these PSAs will be to make people aware of Hospice’s work, and in this way also to challenge the stigma attached to this organisation. If people understood more about the organisation, perhaps they would get more involved thus benefitting the community in general. I also intend to produce an audio slide show which will assist Hospice during presentations with other organisations and perhaps, funders.
As I see it, this project will teach me invaluable lessons regarding the management of a production process. I will take full responsibility for managing the project, and will need to manage my time accordingly. I will also learn communication skills in both the academic context (discussions with my lecturers, readings and seminars) as well as in context of discussing the production process with everyone involved. My research skills will be improved because of the focus, within the radio course, on research specifically for radio. My skills as an interviewer will need to be of a high standard because not all of my interviewees will be English speaking and I will need to find ways of dealing with this. Focus groups may assist with comfort levels for my subjects so that they may speak without inhibition and share the most truthful story possible. I will learn to be more creative in my approaches to radio production as I will no longer be working with news stories based on politics and finances.
However, if this project is to be successful, it needs to remain of long-term benefit to Hospice, even after I am no longer involved. I therefore see a key success indicator as that of leaving behind a resource that Hospice can continue to benefit from. It will therefore be important to consult continuously with people at Hospice about my production decisions, to make sure that I come up with material that they can use. I will, for example, have to remain in correspondence with David Barker, the head of Grahamstown Hospice as well as the company that they employ to do their marketing. I also think that I should pursue the possibility of facilitating the establishment of a partnership between Hospice and Radio Grahamstown, which can carry on in my absence. It will therefore be important to discuss such possibilities with Phumlani Wayi, the station manager at Radio Grahamstown.
I will feel extremely proud of the project if we manage to air the PSAs both on a local level as well as on a national level.
Week 28/02/2011 – 04/03/2011
This week was supposed to be spent meeting people from Hospice and deciding on days I would spend going out on rounds and attending support groups. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, this was not the case. Meetings fell through, members fell ill and all in all, I feel like my community partnership has fallen apart. I will not be deterred however. I will simply take matters into my own hands and force myself upon the organisation. Please, don’t misunderstand what I’m saying: I don’t think that the Grahamstown Hospice doesn’t want my help or that they don’t want to extend their resources out to me. I just feel as though the organisation has been running for so many years without influence from a, perhaps, overenthusiastic student. It will take time for us to understand each other’s needs and practices and before long our partnership will become mutually beneficial and perhaps need less ‘effort’.
This is my plan:
Monday 07/03/2011, 07h00: Myself, my recorder and my camera outside the Grahamstown Hospice. I will be there when the staff begin to arrive and begin my interviews and recording process immediately. From here, I will inexcusably take a seat in the Hospice van and begin on a journey into the unknown.
Tuesday 08/03/2011, 07h00: Repeat above.
Wednesday 09/03/2011, 07h00: Repeat above.
Thursday 10/03/2011, 07h00: Repeat above.
Friday 11/03/2011, 07h00: Repeat above.
Here’s hoping I’m not a nuisance.
(Speaking of the unknown: I’m petrified of what I’m going to encounter during the course of this partnership. I’m not a particularly hard-headed/ thick skinned/ heart of rock person and the thought of dealing with the terminally ill and people experiencing death may be the end of me. Once I better understand the process and start meeting the patients and nurses I’ll be fine though. This is me being a positive thinker. Although, Michael Rabiger, the documentarist, has been visiting Grahamstown and our radio class was allowed the opportunity to present our own documentary proposals to him. Mine will focus on a specific nurse and the way in which she deals with death as part of her day-to-day life. The extent of Mr Rabiger’s advice was limited to "You may need counselling. Remember, if you aren’t scared, you aren’t challenging yourself enough." Wise words by a very wise man.)
Week 07/03/2011 -11/03/2011
As discussed last week, Monday morning saw me camping outside the local Hospice in the blistering sun. When staff began arriving at work, I pounced and made sure they understood why I was there and what part they would play in my awareness campaign. One of the nurses kicked me out of their tea room – maybe I was a little forward but it’s what I do when I’m nervous or stressed. Both of which are emotions I associate with the community partnership I am a part of. After comparing schedules, Trish and I managed to set up three meetings for the week. Slight relief.
The first of these meetings took place on that very morning where I met Claudette Goba and Verah Lackay who are care workers at Hospice. The women put me at ease and made me realise that this type of project has been done before and that I’m not alone. In fact, their willingness to talk about their jobs, their families, their past experiences, everything, made me realise that I did have support. I used this opportunity to enquire about what they thought would work in a PSA (after explaining what exactly a PSA is) and their ideas helped me gain a better understanding of what it is Hospice care workers themselves, stand for. They discussed stories regarding special relationships they had formed with patients as well as other nurses. They told me how much they appreciated my help as Hospice is in dire need of community support. These two women often took control and turned the interview around asking me about boyfriends, dreams etc. Definite friendships formed. I had tea with them after – take that mean nurse from earlier.
Claudette Goba (left) and Verah Lackay (right) smile after a successful interview and many cups of tea
I met with Robin Kent the following morning. This is the woman that started the Grahamstown Hospice 27 years ago. Robin provides support for the staff at Hospice by meeting with each of them individually once a month and discussing anything that may be bothering them. She says sometimes they talk about work by for example, discussing their patients, but at other times they may talk about their own home lives. On the whole though, she says the majority of the Hospice staff keep their home life and career separate.
During this interview I decided not to use a recorder as Robin's voice was almost inaudible over the hustle and bustle of the organisation in the background. Judging from this interview I would say that Robin will be a valuable source to keep in contact with regards to the overall direction I take with my production projects. Her knowledge of Hospice is so extensive; she could answer every question I had, from information about funding to explanations regarding the functioning of support groups, to background information about changes in Hospice's managements. She has so many stories to share and after an hour and a half under a tree in the garden, and too many cigarette butts to count (another reason I couldn't use a recorder: we needed to be outside to smoke), I felt inspired and informed. This is the feeling I hope to instil through my PSAs.
The second interview for the week was with Edith Dlukulu, a nurse who has been at Hospice for ten years. She is the main subject in a documentary I will be producing called "A Life and Death Situation". She has been a Grahamstown local for most of her life and has worked as a nurse at Settler’s Hospital for 23 years before a heart problem resulted in an early retirement. She started an Aids centre in the township hereafter where she realised the dire need for education and action against the disease. The Aids centre soon closed down though and she began working at Hospice.
She is a soft-spoken woman but she has a lot to say. None of which I was allowed to record though. She requested that I run all my questions past Trish, her supervisor, beforehand. This seems slightly unreasonable and after consulting with my lecturer, I have another meeting with Trish to ask her to put her nurses at ease. I will inform Trish and the nurses and care workers that I am not doing an expose` but rather that I am there to put their experiences and opinions out in public for the benefit of Hospice, an organisation they all clearly respect.
So, after a busy week I am calm. I am on track. And I have yet to venture out into the previously discussed "unknown". These feelings may be short lived but I am going to enjoy them while they’re still around. If you’ll excuse me, I have some revelling to partake in.
Week 14/03/2011 – 18/03/2011
The unknown has arrived.
Tuesday, 15/03/2011. 08h30. Me, Edith Dlukulu and a funny looking contraption that looks like a portable toilet. Michael Rabiger, I hope you consider this challenging myself.
We arrived at Settler’s Hospital where we entered the Palliative Care Unit (PCU). This is a wing of the hospital reserved for people who have life-threatening illnesses which will probably result in death, even with care. I met some of the nurses who work here as well as a young woman who has full blown AIDs and TB. I introduced myself to her but unfortunately she would not even give me her name, let alone an interview. She asked Edith to make me wait outside during her check-up. I found out later that she has yet to tell her family, including her 1 year old son, where she is. They are under the impression that she’s working at a factory in Port Elizabeth. The stories I’d heard about stigma suddenly seemed more real.
After this, Edith and I embarked on a journey into the township. She was very surprised at how well I knew the geographical locations within Joza – thank you JDD-CMP 2010. We arrived at a home in Extension 1 where a 28-year-old man was living with HIV. I have been asked to keep his name anonymous so we’ll call him Lebo*. Edith told me on the drive there that he had a "terrible attitude" and gave his family (who are supporting him) "nothing but uphill". He often defaulted on his ARV treatments and sometimes fought with Edith herself. She also said that she had warned him that I would be coming with her. I was so nervous walking into the house but his mother greeted us with a warm smile and hugs for both of us. A small boy walked in who didn’t look older than 14. I thought he was Lebo’s* younger brother. I was wrong. This was Lebo*. Lebo* who’s 28-years-old. Lebo* looked skeletal and I freaked out. A lot.
After he spoke with Edith, I’d calmed down enough to ask if I could interview him. We spoke for about 30 minutes. His eloquent speech patterns and ‘classy’ accent made me forget that he could die. His willpower and hopeful attitude made me realise that he wouldn’t. He was a fighter, someone who was simply too stubborn to let anything get him down. And he loves Edith. He called her his second mother – a comment that brought tears to the nurse’s eyes. When we left their home, Lebo* and I exchanged numbers. He asked if I would mind coming to visit him because he felt that we could be friends and he appreciated that I didn’t treat him as though he was sick. He said I helped him forget.
(I’m writing this after a second, personal trip to his house where we had tea and cake, even though he says he hates warm drinks. I think he did it because he’s too polite not to.)
Edith and I visit many of the other people she cares for, some living with HIV/AIDs, others with cancer. One patient in particular, a 67-year-old woman with lung cancer, moved both Edith and myself to tears. During Dawn's* interview she stopped, took a deep breath and began to cry quietly. I asked whether I should turn my recorder off but she said she wanted what she was about to say on record. She grabbed Edith’s hand and apologised profusely and then informed us that she was ready to die. She said that she no longer wanted to live and was exhausted from the constant fight against the disease. She eventually fell asleep again and after moving the toilet contraption into her room very quietly, Edith and I decided it was time to go home.
We got into the car, looked at each other and burst into tears. I managed to remember to switch my recorder on in my state and now have a beautiful speech Edith gave me through her tears about dealing with people’s death in the way they’d be most happy with. Edith said she understood why her patient was ready to pass on but that she would give anything to be able to change her mind because miracles happen every day.
A "Care Bear" hangs from Edith Dlukulu's rearview mirror, reminding her of the reason she does this job.
Once we arrived back at Hospice, Trish asked Edith how her rounds were and she replied, "They were fine, Trish. Just fine." My heart skipped a beat because I realised that Edith considered this a normal day at the office. She said good bye to me at the door and as I was leaving I heard her hearty laugh coming from the kitchen.
I am still a wreck.
Weeks 21/03/2011 – 01/04/2011
And so it winds down.
The term is almost over and I’m feeling the pressure.
Perhaps "winds down" isn’t the right term. It’s more like "culminates in an earth-shattering explosion". Yes, that’s it.
The week starting on 21/03/2011 saw a few more meetings at Hospice where I conducted more interviews as well as re-conducted some where the audio quality was not up to scratch. Edith and I met again regarding my documentary as well as a discussion regarding whether or not I needed counselling. She’s convinced I’m falling apart. She said something about the dark rings under my eyes and my unwashed hair tucked into a hat. I dare not tell her that "druggie" is the new fashion on a fourth year Radio student. I also met with Jeanne, my lecturer, to discuss how my last week in the field would unfold and where I saw my community partnership going after becoming more familiar with the infrastructure and organisation as a whole. My outlooks had changed dramatically but redesigned the plan and I left the Journalism department feeling confident.
Then the final week of term then arrived. I had a quick meeting with David Barker to discuss the new plans for my community partnership. I had decided to scrap the creation of an audio slideshow simply because I did not have the time or talent to take my own photographs and the Photojourn students I knew had their own agendas. David was not happy. I’m starting to get the feeling that nobody really has faith in the power of audio journalism. Every time someone asks what I’m doing and I tell them it’s for a Journalism project, they ask me where my camera is. It’s tiring fighting against the stigma’s people attach to your chosen profession. Wait, that sounds familiar. Oh right, it’s one of the themes for my PSA campaign. Maybe I have more in common with Hospice than I think.
I also tried to have a meeting with Phumlani Wayi, the station manager at Radio Grahamstown. After being called, "Girly" on the phone that morning, I gritted my teeth and arrived 10 minutes early for our appointment. You know, the one he didn’t even bother to turn up for. I left a note after 40 minutes in the foyer, I still haven’t heard back from him. More on this later though.
31/03/2011. 14h00. The seminar room in the Radio section of the Journalism and Media Studies department. My nerves are shot. I have to give a presentation regarding my plans for next term. There are a lot of people there. There are my classmates, all four of them. There’s my lecturer. There’s someone from the Social Research department. There are people from Upstart, some from Umthathi and David from Hospice. Representing Rhodes Music Radio (RMR) is Gugulethu. Representing Radio Grahamstown there’s... oh, that’s right. No one! Another meeting Phumlani conveniently forgot about. Nonetheless, I’m standing in front of all of them alone with my PowerPoint presentation spread across the wall behind me. My hands are sweating. Why couldn’t I have had a partner? Why did my presentation have to be last on the agenda, after the two conventional community partnerships? After a five-minute dry-mouth and thick tongue session, it’s over. Comment time. Only good things, really? Not even Mandy had a difficult question regarding sustainability to ask? Huh, high-five!
My presentation is available here – looking at it now, it’s pretty professional. Even if I do say so myself. While the plan has deviated slightly from what I first proposed, I don’t feel disappointed. I am confident that this is a better idea which will benefit Hospice in many more ways. A whole month dedicated to the organisation? I vote yes! The campaign will coincide with National Hospice Week and through coaching three employees from Hospice with regards to live radio interviews, I finally feel like I’ll be leaving something concrete behind. Although I originally thought I’d be able to compile an audio slideshow, the time I’ve spent with nurses and patients has made me realise that because the material I am gaining is so rich, I can only choose one medium through which to represent their stories.
I have learnt so much over the last seven weeks, I cannot even begin to explain the sense of accomplishment I feel. This may be dangerous though because I still have a really long way to go. A terribly long way. I have not lost focus however, there are too many people relying on me now. I have formed a real bond with the Hospice staff as well as some of the patients I’ve met and I feel as though I may actually be able to leave something behind for these people. I’ve always been scared of running out on a town that’s given me so much over four years but now I realise that I have the opportunity to create a social change. The extent of that change is completely up to me though. It’s my responsibility. And I’m going to own it.
Term 2 will see me spending every waking hour transcribing, re-interviewing, re-phrasing, editing, staging and doing everything in my power to get a meeting with Phumlani. I am even considering ambushing his home. Don’t think I won’t. I’m crazy like that. My plan consists of two aspects: the PSAs and the interviews. The majority of the fieldwork for the PSA campaign has been completed and within a week I will have paper edits to present to whoever may be interested – Jane Morgan, Jeanne, David, the nurses, patients and maybe by some small miracle someone from Radio Grahamstown. Once feedback has been given and appropriate changes made I will continue onto the process of editing the interviews into short pieces which will hopefully be of a high enough quality for radio. No, they will be of a high enough quality. Confidence is key. Regarding the interviews: coaching should be great. I’m patient enough and the people who have agreed to partake in this are amazing. They’re all enthusiastic and I’m sure after a few hours sleep and a cold shower I will be too. I have the use of the studio in the journalism department so at least by the end of the training sessions; they’ll feel comfortable enough to sit behind any microphone.
This partnership is a vehicle for social change, right? So, essentially the journalism I create along with Grahamstown Hospice needs to encourage and facilitate a change. I understand change to be positive – no one wants things to get worse. Well at least no one I know and want to associate myself with. Thomas Tufte explains the role of social scientists (essentially I am one of them due to my work with social research) is to "rethink the role of media and communication in support of a development process where the media can become citizen media" (Tufte, 2005: 3). As a media practitioner I am expected, in the eyes of Tufte anyway, to serve citizen concerns and empower people, the government ideology, democracy in our country, and public involvement in the improvement of social conditions. I’m not doing too badly if you consider that I am involving an organisation in a way which empowers them to change their own situation utilising on-going skills which I will offer them as well as a relationship with a local radio station.
Week 11/04/2011 – 15/04/2011
This week has been a week spent sorting through admin. Not much in the form of fun. So therefore, this week will see me being boring. I apologise in advance.
I met with Jeanne to further discuss what I had planned for this term. I spent the majority of my vacation working through the interviews I had done and compiling mini-transcripts. Again, fun. I also had a meeting during this time with Katy Katapodis, the head of Eye Witness News on 702, which went very badly as she felt that I was asking her to include amateur work on her professional station. Thanks for the vote of confidence. I skulked out of her office with my head hanging. The Lindt cappuccino I had at Vidae Café across the road helped a bit. But just a bit.
I have now completed a series of scripts for my PSA campaign which I will present to Jeanne during the course of next week. I can only hope that they’re good enough. I also have a meeting with Jayne Morgan, the PSA-guru of Rhodes University. I have been waiting all year for this meeting. I cannot explain my excitement as she will be able to guide me through the remaining part of my campaign – something she is very familiar with. I need a mentor – maybe that way I won’t feel so alone and unsupported without a team mate? Hopefully she appreciates my enthusiasm and doesn’t think I’m a creep. Wish me luck!
I am meeting with David Barker to hand over the final plan for “Let the Candles Burn”: a month of awareness for Hospice. I will use this time to discuss the plan as well as any contacts he has at other radio stations. I will also meet with the three interviewees to discuss times for the coaching sessions. I can feel my social life coming to a gut-wrenching halt. It’s only seven weeks though. I can do it. Right?
Hmmmmm…. What else is there to fill you in on?
Oh, David has sent out emails to their Cape Town based PR company with interviews done with nurses at the local Hospice. I expect to have my own email regarding a final plan and links to work I’ve completed within the next week or so. Just saying.
And finally. Radio Grahamstown. The bane of my existence. No answer from ANYONE. They are still not aware that I have planned a month-long campaign on their station. If I’m ever able to inform them of this fact, I hope and pray that they don’t say no. Do you know what that will mean? It will mean my life is over. My campaign is a failure. My time wasted. My hope of raising awareness for Hospice a complete disaster.
I will now spend the rest of today thinking about the possibility of failure. If you’ll excuse me, I think I need a drink.
Week 25/04/2011 – 29/04/2011
Guess what? Oh my greatness! I spoke to Phumlani from Radio Grahamstown. As in, I finally had the meeting I’ve been waiting all year for! You know the one: the make or break meeting that ultimately decided my fate for this project. Aaaaaahhhh yes…
Well, it made me smile for the first time in a while. I’m in. I’m on my way. And I’m going to own this campaign. It will run from 3-31 May with three Public Service Announcements (PSAs) being played a day and 1 interview with a member of the Hospice staff once a week. This interview will take place each Friday of the month at 10am. Excitement!
I also had the meeting with Jayne Morgan – the PSA guru I told you about last week. She’s great; super chilled and ridiculously good at what she does. She read my scripts while I waited with bated breath. Dun dun dun… The moment of truth has arrived. And… she loved them! She said I had done very well and she loved the variety of topics I covered with them. The only thing she wasn’t mad about was my tagline. Apparently “let the candles burn” is too vague, especially if you don’t know what the Hospice tagline is. Fair enough. So Jayne, any suggestions? Because I’m all out. Hmmm… Hospice isn’t just about death. It’s about life too. I like it! Short, punchy and memorable.
Ok, so now I’ve got to produce the PSAs. This shouldn’t be too difficult considering I’ve got all the material I need and an epic tagline. I do however feel like I’m missing something.
Music! That’s right. All I could think of with my previous tagline was Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind”. Yuck! Besides the fact that it’s really clichéd, my PSAs have nothing to do with Princess Diana’s death – may her soul rest in peace.
But… I…Can’t…Get…It…Out…Of…My…Head! (*Like a candle in the wind*)
|Nothing like a bit of Elton to get you going|
Maybe I need some inspiration. Friar Tuck’s dance floor? No. That’s the worst idea I’ve ever come up with. Google. That’ll do it.
Note to self: don’t ever type “instrumental music for public service announcements about Hospice” into the Google search bar. Results include birthing noises as well as funeral hymns. Those hardly seem appropriate.
A break from my headphones. That will help. I’ll visit Hospice. I haven’t been there in a while and need to reconnect and organise the training sessions with the interviewees. Oh no, wait. I can’t do that. It’s a public holiday. I’ll go tomorrow. Another public holiday. The next day – you guessed it. It’s another stupid holiday! I’m all for a break from lectures and the hustle and bustle but this is ridiculous. And frustrating. And… oh, what’s that? I can put my feet up. I can breathe. I can enjoy the sunshine pouring into my bedroom.
Maybe all these public holidays aren’t such a bad idea after all…
My days of stress and anxiety and tension headaches are drawing to a close.
This is the week my PSAs go on air and the interviews with Hospice staff begin. This is the start of a campaign I have worked extremely hard on, one that has left me with many sleepless nights and a newly acquired taste for microwave meals.
Welcome to Hospice Month in association with the Grahamstown Hospice and Radio Grahamstown. Oh… and me!
Tuesday however, disaster struck. Edith phoned me and asked me to come in and see her. She didn’t sound particularly upset or worried so I decided she probably just wanted to discuss our plans for the week or logistics regarding training for the interview she’ll be doing next week. I walked into her little office and made myself at home while she finished up on the phone. When she was done, she took a deep breath and broke the news to me.
My world fell apart.
*Lebo’s father had gone to her house over the weekend and pretty much told her to pass the “bugger off” message onto me. He said he did not want his son’s voice plastered all over the radio for people to judge him. He told her that I was just looking for marks and that I should try understand what exactly I was doing to the lives of sick people by exposing them to the harsh reality that is media in this country. Edith said she had tried to reason with him just as his wife and *Lebo himself had but there was no getting through to this man.
Ok. What now? I obviously need to meet him and discuss the ins and outs of my PSAs as well as my documentary. *Lebo’s voice was a big part of my campaign and he plays an even bigger role in my documentary. I made arrangements with Edith but could only see the man on Thursday. I had to put the PSAs with his voice in it on hold. As long as I could soften this strict father up with my charm and only lose a few days worth of PSAs, it would be ok. Right?
I met with him on Thursday morning and immediately realised what I was dealing with. My stubborn self had decided beforehand that as long as *Lebo was ok with his voice being used on radio without identification, I would use it. The man is 28-years-old; I’m pretty sure he can make his own decisions. No matter what some old, naïve man thought. Had he ever been sick? Had anyone ever given him the chance to speak about something which was holding him back? And if they had, would he not have jumped at the opportunity? Those were the questions I was going to pose to this man. The kind that would get him thinking about his son and the opportunity I was presenting him with.
And then he walked in. Or rather, rolled in. This stubborn, naïve man was wheelchair bound. I suddenly understood what the problem was. He hadn’t been given the same opportunities as his son and was now protecting *Lebo’s dignity as well as fighting his own green monsters. I knew how to deal with this.
|I wasn't expecting that, I'll be honest|
I took my recorder out and asked if he’d mind me recording our discussion. I told him it was for my own personal diary. He agreed and as soon as he had the mic in his hands, his face lit up. He told me how scared he was that people would judge his son, who’s been through enough, and wondered whether I was simply in it for the marks. I wasn’t of course and once I’d explained what was going to happen and where I saw the project going, he understood just how powerful *Lebo’s voice could be.
This man had wanted the same opportunities I was offering his son and when he realised he was important too, he gave in. I told me to be careful though and respect the people I was working with. I do of course.
After many hugs and the promise of tea next week, I left with a smile on my face.
Maybe old men aren’t so bad. I guess only time will tell.
09/05/2011 – 13/05/2011
Things are falling into place – finally! The campaign is going well with my PSAs being aired throughout the week and last week’s interview with Ndumiso being a great success. He spoke about Hospice in the general sense and gave the public information with regard to contact details and ways they could get involved. I guess all we can do now is wait to see if they take on the call-to-action and offer their time or donations to an organisation that really needs it.
I know that wasn’t my aim – I simply wanted to educate people with regard to what Hospice does and the ways they help the community every day. Although if the campaign does more, I don’t think anyone would complain.
This week saw more PSAs being played on Radio Grahamstown and I looked forward to Edith’s interview on Friday. Unfortunately though, Edith had some family issues which saw her being booked off from work for the week. This meant that I needed to find someone to take her place. Seralda – perfect! She was supposed to do the Afrikaans show next week but she was my only hope for Friday’s run as Ndumiso had a meeting scheduled for the same time. I called her but unfortunately she had to be in East London early on Friday morning.
David? He speaks well and knows a lot about the organisation’s management and how they conduct themselves. He however asked me to please find someone else as he didn’t have the time to go to the studios. After about 100 phone calls from my bedroom (I have bronchitis and have been put under house arrest by my doctor), I eventually got hold of Trish who was willing to help. When I told her the interview would be live, she suddenly became very nervous. She wasn’t one of my trainees and had never spoken on radio before. I made a plan though and gave her a quick over-the-phone tutorial on how to behave, what she would need to speak about and a few tips on using a mic.
When I listened to her interview I was very impressed and relieved. She worked wonders and spoke with a level of professionalism that I know Hospice prides itself on. She explained the ins and outs of the training nurses and social workers receive from the organisation on a monthly basis as well as explained issues surrounding disclosure and confidentiality. Even though I’ve been working with Hospice for five months, she still taught me some things I didn’t know. She educated me and the rest of the audience – just what she needed to do.
Seeing how quickly people at Hospice picked up the loose ends for another employee who was in trouble really made me realise just how strong the support is there. Trish was terrified but she realised that she had to do it both for Edith and the good of the campaign. She took a deep breath and made it happen. Just imagine if every company, friendship group and class had the same attitude. Imagine if everyone got involved even if it wasn’t part of their job description. Our society would definitely have a higher productivity rate while I reckon everyone would feel just that little bit more special knowing that there’s someone out there who’s got their back during the tough times.
Working alongside these wonderful people has encouraged me to adopt this sort of attitude towards my role in life – whether it be my own or someone else’s. I’ve had to work so hard to get to where I am today and even though I often mentioned that I was working alone, I wasn’t. I may not have had a partner from my class with whom I could split a five page assignment or ask to go on half the rounds but that certainly didn’t mean I was alone. Between Edith, Seralda, David, Trish and Ndumiso, to name but a few, I had a team. These people were behind me; they offered me all their resources without question, they taught more than I could ever wish to know about teamwork and support and at times they even counselled me like friends would. Seralda often had conversations with me about someone special in my life who had been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness and although I’d been there for him throughout the tough times, now that he was recovering, I was being pushed aside as though I no longer mattered.
I realised something else. I had to open myself up to other people’s opinions and ideas because sometimes – but only sometimes – they may know more than me. I’m terribly stubborn and an obsessive perfectionist so even if I had a partner during this time I probably would’ve ended up doing everything myself anyway. That way I know it’s done right. Hospice wouldn’t allow it though. David made it very clear to me that while I may have the knowledge to create a radio campaign, I had to use their resources in order for it to be successful. This was a team effort and they were sure as hell going to include me in their team – whether I liked it or not.
My time with the organisation is coming to a close but my relationship with them will never end. They have taught me hostility and a lot about patience. They have taught me to respect everyone and their suggestions. They have made me realise that I am not alone, no matter how few people are standing beside me.
30/05/2011 - 05/06/2011
It has ended. My community partnership with Grahamstown Hospice has lived its life. I am not by any means implying that the project has died though; I am simply pointing out that Hospice Month and my time working with these wonderful people have both reached their climax. Looking back, I’m sure you can tell that forming this partnership was no easy task and may have resulted in one or two habits which jeopardized both my mental and physical health. But I carried on and fulfilled the expectations both Hospice and myself had set out for the project.
The main aim was to educate right from the start. This was an idea that scared me a little because I’d always imagined educators to be burly women who wore glasses on the tips of their noses and buns in their hair. I don’t consider myself to be extraordinarily intelligent nor do I fancy myself as much of an expert on the topic of Hospice. But, being a Liron, I had to do it. We’re stubborn like that. I interviewed and probed and researched and investigated until I felt that I had enough information to create an informative and educational campaign for Hospice and Radio Grahamstown. Now, when I look in the mirror I see Mrs Bowker, my Grade 1 teacher, a wide-waisted woman with hair tightly pulled up on top of her head. I have become an educator (I do however use that term loosely, just to be clear).
I feared the unknown in the beginning. I was afraid of the things I’d see and the heartache I’d suddenly become a part of. I fought it at first but I realised that I needed to embrace the idea of death in order to create a successful campaign. If I didn’t allow it into my life, no one else would allow my campaign to influence their lives. I had to persuade people into thinking about Hospice in a new light, I wasn’t going to be able to change their perceptions until I changed my own. I let the unknown into my life and have left the project feeling confident that I can take on anything. I just have to allow myself to.
No project is complete without a debriefing session. Apparently anyway. I could’ve done without one but my lecturer insisted on it. So I made questionnaires which the staff and patients involved in the campaign had to fill out. I handed out 12 in total and received none back. Great start. I then plonked myself in front of Trish at Hospice and made a meeting time with her and the staff after one of the training courses the following week. No one pitched. By this stage, I was furious. I’d put so much effort into creating something for the organisation and they couldn’t even give me the time of day. I then made an executive decision and stopped trying. I had done what I could but none of them could do anything for me. I was told right at the start by David Barker that if I needed anything, they would always be willing to help. Obviously feedback doesn’t fall under the category ‘anything’.
To the Radio 4 Class of 2012,
If you are ever faced with a task of this magnitude, I have a few hints that I wish someone had told me before I started:
3. People are not helpful all the time. You may find the odd good Samaritan but don’t get your hopes up.
5. Open your mind and your emotions. This is the difference between a good journalist and a great journalist.
7. Make sure you have the Steers number saved in your cellphone. There will be too many late nights to count.
9. Make sure you don’t stand on anyone’s toes. People should respect you for a good story not hate you for one.
Keep on keeping on,