It’s on our televisions, in our books, films and art. It’s all around us in various forms, but it seems we have become increasingly removed from the reality of the one certainty in life: death. Traditional communities and many Scottish traditions around loss and remembrance have faded over time and dealing with the inevitable occurrence of death itself seems, for many of us, harder than ever. Death, dying and bereavement can be tough, isolating experiences. How can we better support each other through these hard times?
The Truacanta Project is a new initiative, hosted by Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care and funded by Macmillan Cancer Support, that aims to support local communities across Scotland to improve experiences around death, dying, loss and care. Truacanta is a Scottish Gaelic word with meanings relating to compassion or compassionate. The name reflects the fact that while the project is grounded in Scotland’s unique communities and culture, it builds on learning from the international Compassionate Communities movement. There is no single set of instructions for how to create a compassionate community.
Each community is unique and as such there are different ways communities can improve experiences around death, dying, loss and care. They could work together to increase awareness and knowledge of services and support available, they could encourage and create supportive environments, or they could find ways to support each other to talk about death, dying, and loss. All of this can help improve people’s experiences of these difficult times, and in turn improve their physical and mental wellbeing.
The Truacanta Project is underpinned by a community development approach. Community development is a process where people come together to take action on what’s important to them. As Project Manager, my role is to support the Truacanta communities to explore how they can best use their community’s assets – the strengths, knowledge, experience, skills and resources that already exist in their community – to help each other through difficult times. Everyone has the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health; this includes when they are dying, caring and grieving. A community development approach means The Truacanta Project will support communities to reach the most vulnerable and marginalised people and tackle health inequalities from a grassroots level. It also allows communities and people to have ownership of their own journeys and stories.
The Truacanta Project was launched in May 2019, and we were inundated with expressions of interest from communities keen to be involved; this shows the appetite for change in how we deal with and help each other with death, dying, loss and care, and the desire for communities to take ownership of how they do that. Eleven were shortlisted and I am now working with these communities, helping them to build their vision for change and to look at how they can harness their community’s assets to work towards that vision. This will then form their full application to be a part of The Truacanta Project for two years. Then, up to four communities will be invited to be a part of The Truacanta Project, and to receive dedicated community development support and advice for two years, with a view to becoming sustainable community initiatives thereafter; so that helping each other with death, dying, loss and care is just an everyday part of community life. It’s a huge privilege to be working with so many amazing communities; and to be a small part of this Scottish attitude shift towards making death a better part of life.
Blog Author: Caroline Gibb, Truacanta Project Manager