The Family Story Project

The Family Story Project bridges medicine, writing, and photography as undergraduates collaborate with families at the Ronald McDonald House of Durham to create feature narratives and photographic portraits of the children staying there. The Family Story Project is a collaboration between the Ronald McDonald House of Durham, the Duke University Thompson Writing Program, and the Duke University Center for Civic Engagement. It is sponsored by a generous grant from the Josiah Charles Trent Memorial Foundation.

Family Story Project volunteers are Duke University undergraduates with expertise in writing and photography, and an investment in working with the Ronald McDonald House of Durham (RMHD). Families who participate can share their stories about how the RMHD has impacted their lives and pose for a family portrait. The Family Story Project writers will then write a 500-word feature narrative about the family and send it and the portrait to the family for suggestions. Once the family approves it, the final version of the story and portrait will be sent to the family and included in RMHD informational and promotional materials, such as the e-newsletter and website, which are sent to RMHD families, donors, and volunteers.

The Family Story Project is founded on the premise that one family’s story can make a difference for the family members themselves and others who care about the RMHD and its families. Many Family Story Project volunteers are interested in careers in medicine, and so may carry this experience forward to future patients and families. The project also includes an ongoing dinner series with guest experts from Duke University Medical Center and opportunities for interactions between project participants and third-year medical students. Some of our volunteers are also participating in a research study examining how this experience impacts their growth as writers.

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