A New York City-based husband and wife team is traveling across the country with their Airstream camper, interviewing and photographing dozens of COVID-19 survivors, and sharing their compelling stories with the rest of the world through a website they created.
Last year, the couple created Covid19SurvivorDiaries.com in an effort to document the personal struggles brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
For the last several days, Morgana Wingard, 37, and Jacobus Bester, 34, have been in San Diego County, meeting survivors who they found through social media.
“Sometimes, we’re the first people they’ve talked to, which is an incredible honor that they would trust us with those stories and emotions, and tell it in an accurate way, in a way they’re comfortable with,” Wingard said. “By hearing people's stories, it makes COVID real.”
Since last April, the couple has driven 18,000 miles and visited 28 states. They’ve met and interviewed approximately 140 COVID-19 survivors.
“It’s therapeutic to them,” said Bester, who added that the website is also healing for families who have had loved ones suffer through the virus. "It helps them process what they’ve gone through, and also through conversation, they get to know that they’re not alone in this."
Recently, the couple recorded an interview with Taylor Brune, 29, of Carlsbad. Brune, who is taking pre-med courses in the hopes of becoming a doctor, is still suffering from the lingering effects of the virus after contracting it last year.
“It just felt like such an honor to be able to meet two people who are going around, taking time out of their lives to be able to fulfill this beautiful purpose of sharing other people’s experiences,” said Brune, adding, "they’re putting light on it in such a dark and negative time that we are living in, is just a beacon of light.”
The couple said they're grateful that survivors are willing to open up personally and emotionally. Wingard said it’s important for her to be able to document the stories as part of the historical record of the pandemic.
“I see how important it is to document these stories, why it matters," Wingard said. "It helps change people’s attitudes and therefore changes their behaviors, which can help stop the spread and help stop this from happening again in the future."
The couple plans to visit all 50 states by the end of the year.
“The people that we’ve met on this journey have just been absolutely incredible," Bester said. "It really feels like we’ve made friends all over the country so far."
While the work is important and gratifying, the couple also says it creates financial challenges, which is why they have established a GoFundMe page to help raise money to fund the project.