Diary page: Reflecting on the diary process

As we wrap up this phase of the Lockdown Diary Project, we asked our diarists: What has been your experience of the project? How have you found the process of sharing your lockdown diaries? Diarists shared their joy in participating in a ‘meaningful’, ‘informative’ and relevant project. Several of them appreciated the opportunity to share their struggles and learn what was happening in other areas, through the diary pages and blogs that the research team produced. Some felt that the project provided an outlet for them to express feelings, opinions and thus providing a sense of solidarity. For others, the diary prompts heightened their curiosity about the local and international news, as they were keen to see how other people were handling the lockdown and the pandemic. 

An opportunity to share views and feelings

Several of our diarists gave responses that resonated with Judy, in Newlands, who ‘felt good to be involved and contributing to something meaningful during a very unique time of massive uncertainty and upheaval’. They felt that through their diary entries, they were able to reflect on and share their struggles, fears and frustrations during a difficult time:

‘It gave me an opportunity to reflect on the moment I was in, offload sense of being listened to air my opinion. Address my fears. Wonderful experience’. Fadwah, Hangberg.

 ‘The process of the diary project was very good and it gave me a platform to actually to share my experiences during the heavy time…’ Luyolo, Khayelitsha.   

 ‘For myself and family this diary has been a way of speaking our minds especially mine.  Telling of how we deal with covid and especially lockdown. It’s been very emotional for us all. We hope by telling our story that we can all learn more about this year 2020’. Jazzy D, Woodstock

 ‘It has been an amazing ride, sharing my thoughts and feelings about what’s affecting us personally as well as the public. Sharing my lockdown diaries was a new but interesting thing to do. I would do it again and again’. Ash, Delft

Some felt a sense of being listened to and appreciated the project as having assisted them to let out frustrations and go through the lockdown with a sense of being cared for.

‘It was a great experience, I found it sometimes comforting because lockdown in most times it can be frustrating so it really help to write about those frustration and actually talk about how you feel about different issues’. Esethu, Khayelitsha

‘This experience has been really amazing, knowing that my views and my experience during the lockdown has been taken into consideration by the  project and that there are people that are investing time and money into understanding how the lockdown and corvid-19 has impacted us’. Assie, Khayelitsha

‘Sharing  my lockdown  dairies  was interesting  cause  they’re  real  and also my  feelings  being poured  towards  all challenges  and achievements  we face  as a community…I would  like  to  thank  all…for creating  such a platform  of  sharing  and caring…’ Mpho, Seapoint

Sharing experiences across different communities

Other diarists’ felt that the project has facilitated the sharing of experiences across different communities regarding life under lockdown and responding to the pandemic.

‘I think what you have been doing is so important and will give such meaningful insights into the different lockdown experiences of our different communities, and how the management of potential future pandemics (please no) could be improved’. Judy, Newlands

‘…was very good idea its nice hear from other people there views regarding the lock down sometimes you think that you go thru suffering in the meanwhile other people is worse off then you like I always say we all in this together but our journeys is different it’s amazing’. Gassie, Woodstock

 ‘…the lock down diaries were helpful in the sense that I could reflect on the little things I have that so many around me didn’t have. It was/is a gruesome experience for many people who have absolutely nothing. The reflections made me realise that giving back is crucial, nothing is ever set in stone.  I wish I could have said more, I wish others could get the opportunities I have’. Nicole, Lavender Hill

‘The diary project has made me responsible and take consideration of many important things around me and my community. And sharing has made me free and responsible and caring. To be honest it was the most important and privilege to my life. And you can contact me to meet you’. Patsie, Khyelitsha

Increased awareness and critical reflection

Luyolo, in Khayelitsha found that the ‘web-links you shared with me were very informative to see that how are people coping from the Covid 19 pandemic.’ The information and knowledge meant different things to different diarists: some drew lessons from other’s experiences while others developed a sense of empathy towards those who were in less privileged circumstances and felt the need to help them.

‘… [it] help myself  to read  and learn  more  about  how we can try curb  this improve  our  view  towards  new rules  set locally  and abroad  to be set as guide line of living.’ Mpho, Sea Point

‘…it forced me, on occasion, to get on top of some issues that I may not have otherwise read about, and it brought an even greater awareness and comprehension of the enormous disparities in living conditions that face our different communities. It was also good to be confronted with certain questions that forced me to form and articulate a viewpoint instead of just shrugging things off with an “I just don’t know.” Judy, Newlands

‘The lockdown diaries have been interesting and fun because they have given us opportunity to think and monitor what is happening during lockdown.’ Bonga, Khayelitsha

 ‘I have really enjoyed the process. You have made me think and actually look at where I am on matters instead of just riding through them. I have enjoyed reading the other responses too.’ Melody, Newlands

‘Some of the questions were very challenging and made me think a lot about how things are and how inequality has been magnified and that the struggle will between the have and have not is very different. I appreciate this platform because it challenged me to think about a lot of things.’ Assie, Khayelitsha

‘The lockdown diary project made me think of things and situations that I wouldn’t really necessarily have thought about on my own. With this lockdown a lot of people are thinking about themselves and not really about how other people are affected by it as well or what others are going through.’ Nessie, Elsies River

For diarists like China, in Khayelitsha, the awareness was more at a personal level. For her the process of ‘writing for lockdown diaries has given me a true sense of what I am capable of at the same time it has been a key to unlock my code of  knowing exactly where my career path is leading me. I am now determined to know exactly what life has in store for me and continue writing my book. The timing was perfect. I have learnt so much about myself, people around me and the community at large.’

Innovative, easy and enjoyable form of research

The process itself, which included regular prompts and the use of Whatsapp as a medium for sharing, and covering participants’ data costs, was appreciated by some diarists.  They described the methodology as being innovative and easy to be part of.

‘I think this has been a very clever way of collective people’s experiences of lockdown and I’ve enjoyed participating in it. It’s been very quick and easy to do.  I’m very happy to continue contributing. Thank you for involving me.’ Natalie, Newlands   

‘The experience was different from research studies I have done before and very innovative to trust people and do it via WhatsApp.’ Assie, Khayelitsha

‘The experience  has been  amazing learning  new ways  of living  and  interacting via WhatsApp  for conducting  a research  during  the  pandemic.’ Mpho AKH:

‘The time I spent writting and reading lockdown diaries has been a great deal to my journey and also a space to learn and unlearn along the way. The process has been genuine. I was writting what the world needs to know and about the challenges that we are facing under lockdown regulations. I was never under pressure or told what and what not to write. If I could be given another opportunity I would never hesitate but to grab it with both hands.’ China, khayelitsha

The stipend made a difference

Diarists’ data costs were covered through a stipend. For some, that stipend went beyond the project costs to make their lives a little bit better during the lockdown. Nosiphiwo, in Khayelitsha, for instance, counts the stipend among the good things that happened during the lockdown. In addition to ‘things [that] has been changed now we have the JoJo tanks for water n some Mshengu toilets’, she also writes, ‘…and…the stipend that pays me also helps in ma house.’ The stipend was described as being of value by the diarists who said that they were without income. As Ameena, in Salt River, reflected, ‘It’s been a great help financially as well as we were all jobless for more than 3mths.’.

Questions:

What lessons can researchers draw from the project’s data collection method?

Is the success of this research approach particular to the lockdown or will it successful at other times? 

How can this research method be honed in the future? Are there ways of making the project more inclusive? 

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