Ronald Amanze, one of the Coalition for Personalised Care Programme Board members, is also an ambassador for The Photobook Project CIC.
Created as a vehicle for empowering people living with dementia to document and celebrate their own experiences and perspectives, The Photobook Project is a fine example of Personalised Care focusing on improving wellbeing and quality of life.
Participants of the project report feeling increased self-confidence, connectivity and ownership through producing their own unique personal photobooks.
In this interview, The Photobook Project founder, Ellie Robinson-Carter talks to Ronald about his experience of producing his own Photobook. Ronald reflects on the importance of social prescribing and how enabling access to creative activities can generate meaning and fulfilment in people’s lives.
What has The Photobook Project meant to you, Ronald?
The Photobook Project has been quite a beautiful journey for me on many levels. It enabled me to feel relevant because I was included in a situation, where previously I was always excluded from situations.
It is also a therapeutic programme for me because I did suffer from anxiety and stress and The Photobook Project has occupied so much of my time it’s actually not giving me the space to be as stressed as I was. The stress has been replaced with enthusiasm.
I really enjoyed it, it really made me feel purposeful. It really addressed my need to be exploring a new career path and to interact with people in a professional way, because I needed to feel that I could interact within a professional arena, as opposed to always being confined to a caring arena where I was being wrapped up in cotton wool.
What would you like to say to people that might be interested in getting involved?
I’d say to service providers that they should be more adventurous and be open to doing things differently. They should really reconsider their notions of co-production and how to actually deliver the concept of co-production as it’s often referred to.
Co-production must mean meaningful inclusion. That’s what I got out of this project: meaningful inclusion. I didn’t feel like I was participating in somebody else’s agenda, I felt I had a stake in the agenda.
It’s important that people feel they have a stake in something beyond being like a research item or contributor to a situation, which all too often is the case with people who have health issues.
Has The Photobook Project altered your views on social prescribing?
This project helped me to really appreciate that social prescribing has to be something that one really enjoys beyond just the normal things (you know, the traditional training programs and group meetings).
Social prescribing is being touted as this new way of addressing many of the problems of doing things differently, and I think if we’re going to do things differently let’s be adventurous.
Let’s see if we could embrace the desires and the wishes of the participants and recognize that joy and happiness and feeling fulfilled from doing an activity is also therapeutic and very much what social prescribing should be all about.
Social prescribing means doing things differently where the party enjoys themselves, it plays to the participants’ aspirations and needs.
Has your involvement in The Photobook Project made a difference in your life?
It’s given me confidence. You can go through phases in life where you lose your confidence, and when you have a health concern or a life-changing experience it can affect your confidence and it really did affect my confidence for a long while.
It also encouraged me to appreciate my environment and what was around me. In taking pictures to document my story and to retain my memories, I started to notice the environment and appreciate life and the environment differently.
This project has brought the best out in me and encouraged me to get back on track.
How important are the arts to you?
The Photobook Project enabled me to communicate through creativity and the arts because the imagery and photographs, for me, is art. It inspired me to not only appreciate things visually but, inevitably, that always leads me to translating things creatively into poems and songs.
My Talk Dementia radio show, for me, is social prescribing. It became the vehicle for me to share my engagement with art beyond just a moment’s pleasure and reach out to wider audiences and areas. Putting the show together is a creative process in itself.
Invariably everything I do ends up coming back to art. All my relationships have been consolidated and grown out of the seeds of art. It produces such beautiful relationships and it defines the beauty of diversity and inclusion.
Art is such a therapeutic thing, a relevant thing to everyone, art fuels me.
Thank you Ronald, it’s been great to hear your reflections.