Field Notes Assignment Post

My recent few trips to Bethesda Project for my semester long projects were ones that I will never forget. Given the stories of the men who spend their time there, it makes me appreciate and reminds me to be thankful for all that I have in my life. This facility changes the lives of many men in many positive ways, and the atmosphere is similar to a large home where men can take part in various activities to stay busy and interact with one another. The social justice mission plays a role in the lives of all of the men who live there as well as the staff who work there, and this is clear in the stories I was told regarding how many of the men came to find a passion for religion and have taken advantage of all that the organization has to offer to make their lives better.


My field notes capture several in-depth observations, including the chicken sandwiches and beans that were offered, the kitchen that all of the food is consumed in, which is also the game area. Many clothes were just sitting around the facility and the same is true with towels as well. People were playing all sorts of games including monopoly, cards, and the game of life. The walls in the facility are all different colors, primarily yellow, blue, and black. Stairs, couches and chairs, a large bookshelf full of many different kinds of books and magazines take up most of the first floor and there are many office areas right next to the cafeteria area as well. Outside of the facility, there is an area for people to hang out and socialize that is protected by a fence, a road bridge that goes directly over the facility. Many plants surround the facility as well and the outside is covered in yellow paint with a large blue door. The Bethesda Project building is connected to another small business right next door. Inside the facility, there are many different drink options for the residents to enjoy. These include chocolate milk, water, soda, vending machines. All of these are in the game table area.


I also focused on the outside of the facility as well as the surrounding community as well. Outside the facility, there are bushes, bikes, a small sidewalk, a street, and water fountains as well. Back inside the facility, some additional observations that I noticed when I returned include a nice waiting area with security clearances, tile floors, and small offices. Most importantly, there is a variety of music being played throughout the facility for the enjoyment of the residents.


This experience was very successful, and it was excellent practice for looking at a facility as well as a lifestyle in close detail. I can’t say that I would have done anything differently, but I do wish that I could have talked to more staff members and more residents. All of the readings and class lectures of field notes served as examples to me when carrying out these trips, and I am happy that I had such great references. I will use these notes as reflections of my experience as I move forward with the editing and final parts of the project.

Interview Reflection

I had a great experience conducting my interviews last week. Be sure to stay tuned to my Instagram @richbellsju for photos from the event. The interview was just as I had expected it would be, very in depth and informative. This was the biggest risk I have taken all semester, as I had to made sure all of the equipment and sound levels were right on point. I had to change the type of microphone that I was using at the last minute due to technical difficulties, but that was the hardest part. I enjoyed learning all about the Bethesda Project and how they make a difference in the lives of many homeless men.

I learned how to ask effective follow up questions that relate to the subject, and how to elaborate on individual points. All of the questions that I needed answers to have been answered, and I look forward to moving forward with this assignment and remaining in contact with them for any upcoming needs or questions and to present the final product to them.

The interview was successful because I spoke to both the men and the staff and covered all of the points that I needed to in the process. The audio worked well and and everything went very smoothly. I might have tried to interview one other employee, as one of them seemed a bit camera shy and gave very brief answers, but that is it. Overall, a great experience. Can’t wait to finish strong with this project!

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!

Exciting Update!

This week I got in touch with my site, and am in the process of making arrangements for the semester. Stay tuned for updates! Also all of you are welcome to follow me on Twitter @richardbellsju and on Instagram at @richbellsju for updates! Excited to take so many great photos.

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.