I offer a service to listen to, discuss and if you wish record your memories of episodes from your life. I listen out for those small anecdotes – things that are seem ordinary and yet they are the very things that give our lives meaning and connect us as humans.
There is a great African philosophy “I am what I am because of what we all are” in essence we make meaning of our lives through our connections with others and sharing our story is a way of making that connection both with ourselves and with others.
I recently worked with someone who recorded episodes in his life through the motorbikes he had owned – biking was his passion and seemed the perfect way to frame his memories and thoughts. We made a book of photographs and anecdotes – it was fun and moving and his family and friends loved that it was his words and passion that shone through.
These reflections can be recorded in many ways and the idea is that it is unique to the individual and their experience. It can be recorded in audio form, as a small book, a collage etc containing just words or you can choose to add photos, drawings, sayings, quotes, advice. It can also just be a conversation. It can be for you yourself or as something for family and friends too.
It is very much driven by how you would like it to be and developed with the aid of life reflection techniques that help prompt memories and so stories.
It is something created by you, for you and your family.
Working in the Community
In 2014 I curated a process of collecting a series of memories from the residents of Aspley Guise for a fundraising event at St Botolph's Church with the Woburn Sands Band. I interviewed a number of residents and then wrote a narrative to accompany the band music.
Memory and story are powerful things. When first articulated real life stories can seem a bit disjointed and can lack descriptive detail that allows them to be imagined by the listener as real. This is where questions that deepen the memory with all its sensory and emotional detail, help connections to be made that build empathy with the audience. The aim was that this process would be to allow some of these elderly residents, many of whom live alone, to have their story heard and valued. The most common thing I heard was ‘I don’t have a story, nothing anyone would be interested in’ in fact it was those residents that had the most fascinating anecdotes. Everyone has a story to tell – its what makes us human its how we connect and communicate – it says ‘I am here because you are here’. We wanted to use these to create a narrative and music evening where the audience could learn something new about the village they live in, and as well as the possibility that the listening and reflection may trigger an old memory of something that was personal to them. That’s the magic.
I felt very privileged to be let into the homes and memories of some of the oldest residents in Aspley Guise. We would sit and I would record our conversation for on average 2 hours. There was some searching for the right order of things for people’s names, there was laugher and some tears and always a surprise – what I call a beautiful nugget.
One story nugget that sits with me is that of Alice Holmes, the spinster post mistress – setting up the post office in Aspley Guise, post first world war, a time when women began to have more active roles in society. She was the hub in the village square, which was alive with chatter gossip, blacksmiths, grocers, bakers etc. She was also an entrepreneur and decided to sell postcards and so commissioned a photographer. The remit was to take photos for post cards of the village – west hill, the gold course, the square however the other proviso was that Alice had to feature in each one. A lone figure in an ankle length dress walking down Woburn Lane, a single lady sitting on the golf course – all Alice Holmes. No longer with us, but as she stares out from the black and while post card image I can almost hear her voice and the see the pride in her eyes.
What stories will be lived and recorded over the next 100 years we don’t yet know, but these moments that allow us to stop and reflect are special in our world that seems to move forward at such a pace. After that evening there have been requests for a permanent reminder of some of the stories – so the stories were professionally recorded and a DVD was created which is now available from me if you would like a copy.
Coaching individuals using story
Collecting stories from beneficiaries
I have worked with beneficiaries of projects supported by the Egmont Trust (www.egmonttrust.org) to get a sense of the personal impact being made on the ground by the specific interventions.
The following is taken from the Egmont Grassroots newsletter for donors published on 30th January 2015 based on autobiographical interviews conducted on site by Sue in December 2014
INVESTING HOPE IN CENTRAL MALAWI
In the small village of Stima, Dowa district, straw roofs patched with plastic sacks dominate the one-storey high skyline. A make-shift shack is the only shelter that Lucia and her three young children have against the heavy rains of Malawi’s wet season. Her husband, who is often too ill to work, lies on a bed unable to get up, as water seeps through the straw into the rooms below. Over 1 in 20 people in Dowa district are HIV+.
Most of Lucia's neighbours live on less than £1 a day. Simply getting enough to eat is a struggle, let alone accessing treatment or education. Understandably, attaining credit is impossible for many of the residents, particularly women.
To help women like Lucia better support their families, the Egmont Trust has recently funded a project by the Micro Loan Foundation (MLF) to enable women across Dowa District to access credit. MLF provides low interest loans and also offers women business training and mentoring. Borrowers are encouraged to form support groups that cross-guarantee each other’s loans, which has resulted in a 99% repayment rate.
Lucia helped form the Stima credit group and used her first loan of £12 to purchase tomatoes to sell at the local market. With the money from the sale of her tomatoes, Lucia purchased half a bale of tobacco at auction, which she sold for 8 times the amount of her loan. This allowed Lucia to buy metal sheeting and nails for her roof. It will be the first time that anyone in her family has had a home with a waterproof roof. Lucia is about to apply for another MLF loan so that she can start breeding goats, and plans to save for her children’s education.
The work of MLF shows the dramatic impact that a small amount of money, and crucially the faith in people to help themselves, can make in the fortunes of a family like Lucia’s.