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Grace Before Dying

Lori Waselchuk | Louisiana, United States

Melody Eschete, left, holds Timothy Minor's hand as he grapples with the news that it is too late to restart his anti-retroviral treatment. Eschete is a registered nurse and the coordinator of the Angola Prison's hospice program. She coordinates the work of volunteers as well as counsels patients and volunteers.

A life sentence at Angola, Louisiana’s state penitentiary, means life. Because Louisiana has some of the toughest sentencing laws in the United States, about 80 percent of the 5,100 prisoners at Angola are expected to die there. In the past, prisoners died alone and unattended in the prison hospital. But, a hospice program changed that. Incarcerated volunteers, now certified as hospice caregivers, have helped create an environment inside the prison where compassion is unconditional.

In doing this work, I have focused on moments of connection between caregiver and patient, which can reveal both love and vulnerability. I am inspired by the hospice volunteers’ courage to confront their own regrets and fears in order to accept their capacity to love. The people I have met have allowed me to visualize what I believe is at the core of addressing social problems: the recognition of our shared humanity.

Louisiana - Mississippi Hospice & Paliative Care Organization (LMHPCO)

Lori Waselchuk

225-907-6698

loriwaselchuk.com

I propose to return to Liberia to reconnect with the support group, War Affected Women of Liberia. I met the group in 2003 during the last months of Liberia's 14-year conflict, after their neighborhood had become a front line during what Monrovians refer to as "The Third World War." The fighting was so fierce, most of the humanitarian and UN agencies had been evacuated. All the women and girls who joined this group survived brutal rape, pillage and violence during those final battles. They came together to try to collectively get medical help, food and supplies.

I couldn't submit the photo essay for this fellowship because the photographs were taken in 2003. So I am submitting my "Grace Before Dying" project to represent the work I do.

I haven't forgotten the brave and resourceful women in Monrovia and I would use the support of the fellowship to go back to Chocolate City to photograph their lives after ten years of peace. I would like to report on their health, quality of life, and economic situation.

I will also document other grassroots women's organizations focusing on issues of education and climate change, both of which impact women's lives in Liberia.

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