Women inmates in Kitchener to paint 700 decorative stones for mental health

Community Justice Initiatives has commission a group of women serving time at the federal prison in Kitchener to paint 700 decorative stones.

Money raised will be given to a community organization supporting mental health

Women at Grand Valley Institution for Women were commissioned to paint 700 decorative stones, similar to these Abundant Love Rocks. (Craig Norris/CBC)

A group of women serving time at the federal prison in Kitchener has been commissioned to paint 700 decorative stones by Community Justice Initiatives.

The small rocks, no bigger than the bottom of a soup spoon, will each bear the image of a heart on one side and a message of hope on the other.

The idea is one borrowed from the Abundant Love Project that was started in the United States by a woman who lost her daughter to suicide. It struck a chord with the women in prison.

"They had some personal connections, whether they were experiencing mental health [struggles] themselves or had family members or friends," said Kim Moore, a Community Justice Initiatives worker who helps run the organization's Stride program for women incarcerated at Grand Valley Institution for Women.

"It was just really important to them that they could do something that would be really small and easy, but could have a bigger impact, so that people would have an awareness about mental health."

A chance to contribute

Moore said the money the women will receive for painting the 700 rocks will be donated to a local organization that works in the community, supporting mental health.

"Women in prison, like most people in prison, are often forgotten. Once they get to prison and are behind the walls, behind the fences, they're forgotten," Moore said. 

"But even though they are forgotten and isolated, they still want to be involved in the community," she added.

"When this project was first adopted by the women, it was a chance for them to contribute to the community, to participate in the community. It was something that they saw was worthwhile."

Stones needed

However, in order to make this project possible, Moore said the women need the community to help them by donating the raw material.

Washed stones should be bagged and dropped off at one of the following locations before Oct. 15:

  • In Kitchener: go to Waterloo Crime Prevention Centre, 73 Queen St. North.
  • In Cambridge: go to the YWCA, 55 Dickson St.
  • In New Hamburg: contact Christine, email
  • In Elmira: contact Lisa, email

As of Aug. 4, Moore said 326 rocks had been donated, about half of which had already been painted.

The finished products will be given away in November during the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council's annual justice dinner and during a three day symposium called Women in Prison.