Care for the Carers update HIP readers on their latest activities

The charity Care for the Carers launched an exciting new package of support for carers in East Sussex at their recent Carers Forum on 20th February. This set of resources forms the second stage of their Carers’ Words, Carers’ Lives project led by writer in residence Evlynn Sharp. Funding for the project came from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Eastbourne Borough Council and ExPat, a local private charity.

The past two years have seen the first stage of the project taking shape: more than 100 carers across East Sussex participated in writing courses and workshops to share stories and experiences of their caring role. The second stage builds on this work, bringing many of these stories to life in a collection of short films about carers.

Jennifer Twist, Care for the Carers CEO, says of the films: “By voicing the frustrations, guilt, joys, sadness and vulnerabilities that caring brings to their lives, these carers have opened a door onto an experience that is so often private and unspoken, and yet three in five of us will face during our lifetimes.”

Perhaps more importantly, another part of stage two was the production of a creative writing workbook, a practical guide to writing and reflection for carers. This widens the scope of the project to the many thousands of unpaid carers throughout the country by giving them the tools to tell their own stories. The workbook contains samples of carers’ writings and exercises for people of any ability to join in with, and is free for anyone to access.

Writing and reflecting on their lives as carers is seen as a powerful way of helping them cope with the heroic work they are doing, so often unseen and unheard. It can be poignant to hear carers reflect on their experiences. 

In one film, a carer talks about her feelings of not being as good as the other people, not doing it right. She goes on to say: “You see the pictures on the wall of the carers with their arms around their cared for, and you think, actually sometimes I don’t feel that.” She talks about feeling trapped and sometimes feeling “a little bit of resentment bubbling up. A little bit of Why me?” But then of course she feels selfish and feels guilty for those feelings and ends with humour tinged with sadness: “I try not to, I try not to.”

Carers’ Forums, such as the one in February, are held about twice a year and bring together all the different organisations that work to support carers. Every week there are drop-ins for carers both during the day and in the evening, and the charity provides regular help for carers in information and advice groups as well as carers’ wellbeing groups that are run on a regular basis throughout the county.

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