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Digital storytelling at the British Red Cross

11 July 2012

A group of over 50s have been telling their life stories as part of a unique British Red Cross project.

The digital storytelling project was run for seven weeks and encouraged the 10 participants to write and record a short story. Still pictures were then edited over their voices to create the finished product.

The scheme was part of Gofal, a project supporting vulnerable people over 50 in north Wales. The project was funded under the Big Lottery Fund’s now closed £20 million AdvantAGE programme, which aims to improve the quality of life for people aged over 50 in Wales.

In 2011, the Project received a £1 million grant from the Big Lottery Fund allowing the charity to extend the Gofal service across all counties in North Wales, reaching 600 vulnerable people in Anglesey, Gwynedd, Conwy, Denbighshire, Flintshire and Wrexham over five years.

One person to take part in the project was 81-year-old Jacqueline Dana Armstrong. The retired legal secretary from Prestatyn, Denbighshire, made five short stories about experiences in her lifetime. They included the moment she collected her Shih Tzu Lola from a litter of puppies and a tribute to the Jubilee about the day she fulfilled a lifetime dream by visiting Buckingham Palace.

“One of the best things about the course was having people to talk to,” said Jacqueline. 

“Most of us talk to our pets but the conversation is one sided. When you are frail and aged you become nervous when going out alone, it is a treat to relax and be taken care of by the Red Cross. At the end of each session, 10 smiling faces looked happier, livelier and proud because of their accomplishment.”

Gofal – meaning “care” in Welsh - is a befriending and enabling service. Volunteers visit vulnerable older people in their homes for up to 12 weeks, helping them to combat loneliness and isolation and encourage social interaction by linking them up with services and social groups in their local communities.

Following a successful project in Denbighshire, the Red Cross rolled the service out across the remaining five counties in North Wales at the beginning of the year.

Sue Whalley, Red Cross senior team leader, said: “The idea behind the digital storytelling was to get people out of the house, meeting other people, and doing something different and fulfilling. Many on the course came from not knowing anything about computers to producing a really professional DVD. The hope is they now feel more confident to use computers in the future.”

Big Lottery Fund Wales committee member and chair of the AdvantAGE Programme Committee, Fran Targett, said: “Wales has a higher proportion of older people over 50 than any other country in the UK. Many older people view ageing as an opportunity and an exciting new life chapter. For others, however, older age brings challenges which, without support, can be daunting and lead to social isolation and loneliness.”

“Social isolation can be a risk for older people facing life transitions such as retirement, bereavement and long-term illness. Our extensive research with key organisations which provide services for older people identified this as a key area where we could make a positive difference and that’s why we made up to £20 million available to tackle social isolation and loneliness to improve older people’s wellbeing and quality of life.”

To find out more about Gofal visit www.redcross.org.uk/Gofal 

ENDS

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