Telenovelas are a staple in Latin America, and when Dylan Esquina was presented with the opportunity to make his own as part of a school project, he took advantage.
HOUSTON — What started as a school project for students at the University of Houston has morphed into a community-wide effort to help Latinos with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
The students made novelas, or TV soap operas, to help educate the community.
Telenovelas are a staple in Latin American TV, and when Dylan Esquina was presented with the opportunity to make his own as part of a school project, he took advantage of it.
“The idea of a telenovela was interesting to me so I chose to do it,” he said.
But, it wasn’t your typical novela. He wanted to make one in English and Spanish that educated viewers about Alzheimer’s and dementia and how it affects Latinos.
“If we can provide that in a way that is engaging for them, sticks with them and makes a difference … that is great,” he said.
Students were cast as writers and directors in order to turn the show into a reality. They called it “Recuerdos de my Abuelo,” or in English, “Memories of my grandfather.”
It’s about a grandfather who has Alzheimer’s and how his family lives with it. The project was spearheaded by students and an organization called Engaging Communities of Hispanics/Latinos for Aging Research. They partnered with AARP to show the novela at screenings within the community.
It’s something that those who deal with it on a daily basis said they desperately need.
“These students put a telenovela to try to get that message across. It’s genius,” Sonia Ramirez said.
Ramirez’s 92-year-old father has dementia. She said she hopes the novela will help others better navigate the difficult system to get help.
“There needs to be a better system in place so you don’t feel so alone,” she said.
It’s what Esquina hopes to accomplish — help families in a time where they feel so isolated and lost.
A free screening of the novela will be held Tuesday at 5 p.m. at the Talento Bilingue de Houston. Click here for more information. A panel of medical experts will be there to answer questions for people in Spanish and English after the screening.
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