Interview Time!!

This week will likely be the most eventful week of my semester in Digital Storytelling, as I will be conducting my interviews with the Bethesda Project and learning about what they stand for and how they work to make a difference in the lives of many poor men within the Philadelphia community. The interview will be very interesting and educational for myself and for those in the class who are fortunate to watch it. My hope is that it will be informative as well. I will be interviewing Sarah Erdo, who serves in the role of Volunteer and Community Engagement Manager for the organization as well as employee Hilary Coulter, who serves in the role of Social Services Supervisor. Both of these employees have been with the organization for many years, and I have chosen to interview them because of their experience and understanding of the programs Bethesda Project has to offer as well as their personal experience within the organization.

Oral History Interview tips will be very important for conducting these interviews. This project is important because I am not simply reading about homeless issues in the City of Philadelphia, but will be speaking with sources at the Bethesda Project and learning first hand how this problem impacts the city as well as many individuals. As we have read in What Makes Oral History Different by Alessandro Portelli, interviewing groups of individuals who specialize in a topic and have a deep passion for something is the best way to learn about something and become well-educated yourself. “Many oral history projects have collected interviews with members of social groups who use writing, and have been concerned with topics usually covered by the standard written archival material” (Portelli). In my case, the social group involves the homeless men in the Bethesda Project shelter as well as the employees who I will interview who can speak to similarities between the men and what kind of people and circumstances they serve.

In all aspects of the course so far, detail is by far the most important in telling an accurate story. This is true with an interview and with field notes, as we have studied. In the Oral History Association reading with Alex Haley, the importance of detail is emphasized. When people speak from experience, according to Haley, they can remember very deep detail, much more than just someone who has heard a story or who has been close to a situation. This is my goal, to get people who have been in homeless situations to speak out, as well as people who have dealt with them who can speak to the challenges that they have faced.

My hope is that my interview will be very interesting and informative, as I mentioned above. The Topics I hope to cover include homelessness, how the men came to be a resident and a part of the Bethesda Project community, how this community supports the men and helps them to return to normal lives, and how they got here in the first place. I will also ask the staff how they make a difference in the lives of these very special men. Stay tuned to see how it goes!

Proposal for this Semester

I am very much looking forward to my semester long project. I have had the opportunity to grow up in an area that is filled with many different social justice organizations that help to make the city, and ultimately the world, a better place. One organization that I have heard about throughout my life is Bethesda Project, an organization that provides housing and shelter to homeless men in the City of Philadelphia. While it is clear that many religious organizations make an effort to help the poor through monetary donations and volunteer work, I would like to have the opportunity to see first hand how an organization carries out the process of helping to improve the lifestyle of people in such unfortunate situations. I would also like to highlight this process through a video, audio, and photo project that puts a positive light on the work of this organization.

This topic also fits in well with our course requirements, as I know little about it and it is completely new to me. I will need to do a significant amount of research to have a successful presentation as well as make connections to my own personal life as it relates to religion to have a successful outcome. I will be able to meet with the board of directors and take part in the video, audio, and photo portions of the storytelling process, all of which are course requirements.

This organization is designed to help men who are in very bad situations, and would stand out to those on a larger scale through the media because of the kindness of those who are involved as well as the interest in the topic of homelessness, as it is such a big talking point throughout Philadelphia. Overall, this will be an excellent experience for me, and it will also make me more aware of how people who are homeless manage to find help and make the best of their situation as well as see how people exhibit social justice traits to improve the lives of others throughout their community.