Community Conversations: Pandemic Perspectives, New Jersey’s COVID-19 Storytelling Project


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Community Conversations: Pandemic Perspectives, NJ’s COVID-19 Storytelling Project gathered, documented, and analyzed the personal accounts of more than 580 New Jersey residents during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The project captured the experiences of residents with an emphasis on those who have faced increased risk as a result of the pandemic. Stories were collected from all 21 NJ counties from August 2020 through March 2021. Submissions included individual interviews, focus groups, and creative artworks, including poetry, paintings, journals, short films, and more.

Community Conversations: Pandemic Perspectives, NJ’s COVID-19 Storytelling Project is a collaboration between the New Jersey YMCA State Alliance, the New Jersey Department of Health, and Healthy NJ 2030. Funding was generously provided by the Russell Berrie FoundationRobert Wood Johnson FoundationNew Jersey Department of Health, and NJ Health Initiatives with subsequent funding provided by Sanofi and the New Jersey Council for the Humanities in 2021.


Project Timeline

To see a larger version of this timeline, click here


Top 6 Community Themes


Mental Health: 

Isolation and stressors challenged mental health and emotional well-being.

Social & Economic Factors: 

Challenges related to loss of income and employment, education, learning new technology, and parents/caregivers acting as teachers.

Clinical Care & Healthcare: 

COVID-19-related health behaviors, barriers to health resources, and challenges related to timely access to care and quality of care, care coordination, and maternal and child health.


Difficulties fostering and maintaining relationships due to COVID-19 health behaviors and factors, as well as efforts to reconnect through acts of kindness.

Perceptions of Residents & Societal Views/Responses: 

Fears and frustrations regarding adherence to COVID-19 regulations and political polarization.

Those Left Out of the Virus Response: 

Various groups and communities that faced higher risk and experienced increased vulnerability during the pandemic.



Digital Divide

This animated video addresses the ever-widening gulf between those who had access to digital resources and those who did not--often referred to as the “digital divide”. Access to the internet became a necessity and not everyone had the technological knowledge, the resources needed to afford the devices, or the bandwidth needed to survive in this new world.

The COVID Disconnect

This video highlights the loss of human interaction and how isolation took its toll on everyone. The need to quarantine led to feelings of despair and magnified the difficulties of facing the pandemic alone.

Left Out, Trapped In

Follow a family with members that have special needs as their daily structure and family dynamics changed overnight. See how they worked to overcome struggles and challenges exacerbated by the pandemic. 

Resilient, Together

Many residents’ mental health was greatly affected as they lost their usual support and routines. People had to manage the day-to-day challenges of taking care of themselves, while often trying to support others. New routines were created as we connected with family and friends online, and realized that listening to others’ stories reminded us we weren’t alone.

It Takes a Village

New parents and caregivers share their stories of struggle and survival as they dealt with the fear and impact of social isolation. Support came in unexpected ways and people realized they weren’t alone.

We're Still Young

This video highlights how loss and uncertainty affected the mental health of children, which led to misunderstandings and frustration for young people who felt as if their perspectives and concerns were ignored.


Selected Submissions

Submissions were received from over 580 participants across the state of NJ, including students, volunteers, public servants, and essential workers.

Selected submissions are available below. To view the entire collection, visit the NJ State Library Collection (link below). 



Digital Archives

The NJ State Library will digitally archive and house selected interviews, focus groups, and creative works to ensure accessibility for future generations.

View the collection on the NJ State Library website below.



Interim Report & Final Report

All story submissions were analyzed by the Senator Walter Rand Institute for Public Affairs to identify themes and key disparities that will be used to inform recommendations for improving public health policies and future programming. Click below to download the Interim and Final Reports.

Interim Report



Final Report




NJ Spotlight News Feature


NJ Spotlight News wrote a feature about the Community Conversations: Pandemic Perspectives project. 


Community Conversations Showcase

A special Exhibit and Showcase of Community Conversations was held at the 9th Annual Building a Culture of Health Conference in Atlantic City on December 9, 2021. Check out the highlights here.

 The Building A Culture of Health Conference in NJ is the largest statewide event featuring public health professionals, academics, equity advocates, social innovators, and community leaders sharing best practices and innovative educational breakout sessions related to health equity and public health. For more information and updates about the 2022 Conference, click here.


Community Conversations Media Toolkit

To download assets such as logos, banners, posters, and more, click here.


Archived Community Conversations Page

To view the archived Community Conversations page, including information about how the project started and how submissions were gathered, click here.