One of the creations by a participant in a Heal Your Heart With Art program offered by Jackie Waugh through the Third Place Transition House. Submitted photo

TRURO – Mental peace, camaraderie and positive thinking – that’s what ‘Lauren’ speaks most about when it comes to the Heal your Heart with Art program she recently participated in.

“I was – am – in a bad situation, mentally, with some physical stuff going on,” said Lauren, who wanted to remain anonymous. “There is a lot of social isolation, and some not so great living conditions.”

It was the art program offered by Jackie Waugh through the Third Place Transition House that caught Lauren’s attention, leaving her looking forward to the program so much she begged weekly for the program to continue.

“I started painting and I realized this was the only joy I have in my life. I enjoy the mental peace, and the camaraderie of the people – they understand,” she said.

Lauren said it’s a very rare thing, to come across people who understand exactly what you’re going through, or have been through, without having to explain your story.

“I can just be me,” she said.

Through a grant from the Municipality of Colchester County, the art program was available for free to women who have experienced abuse or trauma in a relationship. Waugh is a victim herself, and knew exactly how painting helped her heal through her experience.

“The program surpassed what I thought it would be,” Waugh said. “And what these ladies would get out of it.”

Waugh said the program was initially going to be for four weeks, for a certain number of participants. The response was so overwhelmingly positive, the organizers expanded it to 11 weeks and opened it to victims whenever they wanted to drop in. Lauren was a faithful participant, attending every session.

“It was so rewarding, so fulfilling, and so therapeutic – they didn’t want it to stop,” said Waugh.

No two sessions were the same – some nights it was a quiet paint class, while other nights victims shared stories of their experiences or just how their day was going.

“It was a very caring, loving, and healing environment,” said Cinda Willigar, a women’s support counsellor with the transition house. “They made it that themselves. It was for us too – we got a lot out of it.”

With the funding from the municipality, Waugh said there is still some money left to offer more gatherings in January. Willigar said they plan on approaching the county again in the future and applying for another grant to continue offering the program.

“We can’t thank them enough for the sponsorship of this,” said Willigar.

“We definitely want to do it again,” added Waugh. “We want to show them the results of this.”