Projeto Consolação (the Consolation Project) celebrates 5 years!
Sister Sheila Campbell, from Northern Ireland, is the co-ordinator of the Consolation Project in Salvador, Brazil. She explained how this undertaking has continued to respond creatively to the needs of women who have experienced great trauma and loss. Based in an area of urban violence, staff deal with problems compounded by high unemployment, illiteracy and substance abuse.
‘We stopped to celebrate and rejoice, as we do with all good things. Part of our celebration was noticing how the project has grown and developed over the years; how we have adapted different methods to respond to the needs of the women and families at various times of their grieving process.
‘Most of our mothers have come as women who have suffered the loss of a child or grandchild due to assassination. At first each family needs a listening ear, just to tell their story again and again to try to come to terms with the violence and the loss. Project staff responded to this by home visitation. In the safety of their own homes, the women could cry and tell their stories. Most found this very comforting and relied on our turning up regularly.’
Support for the next stage
‘Then we perceived the need for them to eventually return to a normal social life. How could we help them? We formed a community therapy group. For three years the mothers could meet together and share their stories. While most finished the grieving process within this group, they raised many other issues! Most of the women had very low self esteem. Some were coping as single mothers; some were in situations of domestic violence. Many were struggling as working mothers to provide for their other children.
‘In response we developed an art therapy workshop and handicraft production. Have you ever noticed how calming it is to knit or crochet? Small repetitive physical tasks free the mind, release the imagination and heal memories. I think this is why men love tinkering away with their cars! Our mothers come together once a week to learn various types of handicraft, often using recycled materials in keeping with our concern for the environment. They have learned to paint on cloth and decorate T-shirts. They have made wall plaques and trays and are currently making small statues of Our Lady of Aparecida out of coffee filter papers.
‘While some have used these skills to generate income, for others it is mainly therapeutic. So much has been destroyed though violence. To be able to build and to create gives life meaning again and encourages hope.
‘So our project has grown and developed many branches as needs have arisen. Our latest venture is into the world of young people, promoting a culture of peace, but we will leave that for another story.’