Adults with Disabilities Share Pandemic Experiences Through Art and Journaling at The Salvation Army Paparella Innovative Arts Centre

by Caroline Franks

The Salvation Army is celebrating the creativity of adults with developmental disabilities who designed the large vibrant posters displayed in the windows of the Paparella Innovative Arts Centre.

The artists are part of the STRIVES Home peer support group for adults with disabilities at The Salvation Army Lawson Ministries in Hamilton.

In the summer of 2020, Lawson Ministries developed a Self-CARE project to support their clients during the pandemic.  These individuals were given customized packages containing self-care items such as masks, baking ingredients, and game books. Art and journaling materials were also included so that these individuals, severely impacted by the pandemic’s restrictions, could share their thoughts and experiences with the Hamilton community they miss.

The Self-CARE packages, along with peer and Salvation Army staff encouragement, gave these individuals the tools to express themselves. The posters in the windows feature a selection of the art and writing created. The Self-CARE project was funded by The Hamilton Community Foundation and the United Way of Hamilton-Halton, and further supported by volunteer artists and students from McMaster University.

“COVID-19 has turned everyone’s world upside down. For the adults with developmental disabilities that Lawson Ministries supports, this is especially true,” said Lisa Schumph, the Director of Operations at Lawson Ministries. “Before the pandemic, many relied on the Salvation Army’s day programs to connect with friends, community, and employment. When these supports were suspended due to COVID-19, mental health declined as social isolation increased.”

One of the artists and program participants Cody Roberts spoke about his experience with the project.  “The self-care project was motivational and encouraged me to share my message to the world so others may feel inspired by it. I felt like sharing my message might help people going through a dark time.”