New Brunswick

The healing power of art

Moncton photographer Maurice Henri and the Moncton YWCA are teaming up on a project to help women recovering from trauma learn photography and heal through art.

Moncton YWCA, photographer team up for 'Images of Dignity' art therapy project

Michelle Geldart, a recovering addict, former sex trade worker and child victim of abuse, is the face of the YWCA's new Images of Dignity art therapy project. (Mandy Glinsbockel/Million Dollar Bus)

 A Moncton artist is teaming up with the YWCA on a new project for women who are dealing with trauma.

Images of Dignity is an art therapy program by photographer Maurice Henri.

"The image is a very powerful thing to start expressing or talking," said Henri, who recently did a similar project with Moncton youth.

Henri and Michèle Nadeau, the acting Moncton YWCA director, are looking for a dozen women to sign up for the class, and looking for $15,000 in a crowdfunding campaign to pay for it.

It's safe and it's OK for them to express themselves, to go through healing, to express emotions, and maybe say things that they've never said before.- Michèle   Nadeau , YWCA

They're getting help from the non-profit initiative, Million Dollar Bus, which is driving around the city like a mobile billboard, and co-ordinating fundraising efforts.

"The women are already knocking on our doors," Nadeau told Information Morning Moncton. "We need to make this happen now."

One person who plans to take part is Michelle Geldart.

Geldart said she's always had an interest in photography and thinks the class will be fun and exciting. She also hopes it will help her continue her personal recovery.

Geldart said she was abused as a child by family friends and trafficked into the sex trade at a very early age. 

Turned to drugs for years

She said she became a drug addict to deal with what had happened to her.

"I stayed in that life for many, many years, felt trapped within it and couldn't get out, not knowing my resources or programs such as this that would help me heal," she said.

Geldart said she hopes the program helps her connect with other women who are looking for support.

"If there's anything I can do to share my experience, strength and hope to help others through this program, or through any program, I'm more than willing to help," said Geldart. 

Nadeau said she hopes the program helps women who are often stigmatized feel empowered and included.

Michelle Geldart, left, Maurice Henri, and Michèle Nadeau speak with Jonna Brewer on Information Morning Moncton. (Ryan Lancaster/Million Dollar Bus)

"They have a hard time accessing programs or services because they believe they don't belong there, or they're going to be judged."

"A program such as this one … allows them to just be and be themselves. … It's safe and it's OK for them to express themselves, to go through healing, to express emotions, and maybe say things that they've never said before. That's transformational. It's huge for them. 

"It's probably one of the biggest things we can offer them for their personal growth or their healing journey."

Potential life-changer for all

Henri said he's also been contacted by a grieving mother who is very interested in taking part.

He expects it will be a life-changing experience for him, too.

"I'm really looking forward to it, but it's going to be a very emotional project. We're all going to grow from it."

Besides photography, the participants will learn about healthy meals and get physical activity in the form of nature excursions and other photography field trips.

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