LAFAYETTE — Starting next week, Hospice of Acadiana volunteers will begin recording stories of their patients and caregivers as part of a national oral history project supported by StoryCorps.
StoryCorps Legacy is a program of the national, nonprofit StoryCorps organization that collaborates with hospices, treatment centers and other agencies working with the seriously ill to tell the stories of patients and their caregivers, said Perri Chinalai, senior coordinator of StoryCorps Legacy.
As part of its partnership with Hospice of Acadiana, the stories of 30 patients and family members of current and former patients will be recorded, said Rae Gremillion, Hospice of Acadiana’s director of community development.
“We’re the first in the state of Louisiana with this program and we’re hoping we can expand it,” Gremillion said.
StoryCorps is a national nonprofit organization created in 2003 that has provided about 80,000 Americans the opportunity to record, share and preserve stories from their lives, according to its website. The organization has recording booths set up across the country, as well as mobile units.
The organization has several outreach initiatives for specific populations, such as the Legacy program which began in 2010 for those with life-threatening conditions and their families. Because of the need to interview Legacy participants where they receive care, which is often at home, training is provided to Legacy volunteers on the recording process and interview experience, Chinalai said.
Those who participate in a StoryCorps interview receive a copy of the recording and have the option to have the recording logged in the StoryCorps Archives in the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. Stories collected also may be shared during weekly StoryCorps spots on National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition.”
Training for Hospice of Acadiana volunteers who will record and interview patients begins next week. The interviews begin next Friday and continue through Dec. 21.
While termed “interviews,” there are no rules or a set question-and-answer format, Chinalai said. Interviewers are provided with suggestions to get at conversation going in case the participant may be nervous, she said. Conversations, rather than formal interviews, are encouraged, she added.
“That 40 minutes is absolutely for them and we don’t try to control it,” Chinalai said. “They don’t have to talk about their condition. They don’t have to talk about anything that they don’t want to talk about.”
The storytelling experience can be cathartic for both the hospice patient and their family members, said Mary Lahey, director of bereavement services for Hospice of Acadiana.
The recording provided as part of the project is a “blessing” that enables family members to revisit those stories told in their loved one’s own voice and words, Lahey said.
“Storytelling is extremely important for bonding and especially for the bereaved,” Lahey said. “It’s wonderful for them to have this time with their loved one to talk about their loved one and their life.”
Chinalai said many participants appreciate the time and recording as a gift they can give their loved ones.
“Its’ a really beautiful program,” she said. “The organizations that we work with, such as Hospice of Acadiana have incredible staff and incredible volunteers that want to provide the type of holistic care to the people they’re serving. This falls in that. It’s really an opportunity for participants in the community to talk about their lives .Our belief is really that everybody has a story to tell and every story is important.”