Before and After targets disadvantaged English-speaking women in Montreal. Some are homeless; others have suffered domestic abuse; still others, such as single mothers and the elderly, struggle financially. Many are doubly disadvantaged, first by the circumstances that led to their hardships, and secondly because of their inability to navigate government services offered in French. In a series of day-long writing and photography workshops, participants will learn to tell their dramatic stories through words and photographs. They will also be encouraged to listen to one another’s stories. Similarly, they will use photography to document their lives and the lives of the women in their community. The “focus” of both the writing and photography workshops will be moments of challenge in the participants’ lives and the strategies they used to overcome adversity. The project will help participants regain confidence and begin “re-writing” the stories of their lives and the circumstances which led them to become marginalized and, in some cases, isolated
BEFORE & AFTER IN THE MEDIA
Interview at All in a week-end at CBC Radio One (Audio – archives january 2014- in English)
Article regarding the project in ‘’Montréal en santé’’ (Page 20 – bilingual)
Author Monique Polak talks about her experience at ‘’Femmes de la rue’’ in The Gazette (in English)
CJAD Interview (link below) with Monique Polak, Rachel Deutsh et Cindy of Native women’s shelter of Montréal (in English)
THE AUTHORS AND PHOTOGRAPHERS
COMMUNITY GROUPS INVOLVED IN THE PROJECT
Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal
Historically our people have shared teachings and legends through oral traditions. Since conquest and colonization our voice has been muted. Plagued by abuse from residential schools, our people were wounded. We have lost what we most cherished: language, ceremony, connection to the land, and the ability to transmit Indigenous culture to future generations. Through the Before and After Project, our residents are regaining the capacity to use their voice. They have learned a new way to express their wisdom and experience. Creative expression is a powerful healing tool. This project has uncovered in our residents talents they did not know they possessed. It is inspirational and moving to read their work and an honor to know them. I am very grateful that we have been a part of this project. Nakuset, Executive Director The Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal’s mission is to provide a safe and supportive environment that strengthens cultural identity, self-esteem and independence for Aboriginal women and their children.
On Our Own O3
I believe, quite strongly in second chances. I also believe in seizing opportunities when they arise. Life is complicated and messy, and success is rarely achieved on the first attempt. Most people need another try, especially if the goal is really worthwhile. Living at O3, our young parents are given an opportunity to choose a new path. They are given the support they need to achieve their goals. Living in affordable transitional housing means there is less of a struggle meeting their monthly financial needs and more time available to learn about being a parent and to get back on track with their personal goals. However, being a parent and getting back to school are made even more difficult for those struggling with literacy. We see this. Most of our parents have not completed high school. In some cases their pregnancy interrupted their schooling and in other cases they left school to start minimum wage jobs. One of the uniting hopes that our mothers share is the desire to make a better life for their kids, to set a good example and to finish their own schooling. A worthwhile goal, indeed. At O3 we have ongoing programming that tries to put an emphasis on developing a love of reading that our mothers can help their children to discover. We hope it will be a lifelong love for the children. The Before and After Project sponsored by the Blue Metropolis Foundation has allowed us to offer our mothers a creative program where they can explore self-expression with their words and photographs. Linda Babins, Director O3 is a charitable organization. O3’s mission is to help young and vulnerable families achieve their goals. We do this by providing affordable transitional housing and support services.
Herstreet/La Rue des femmes
To Write… To write, in a gesture of self-revelation, in reaching out to someone or in a moment of contemplation. I listen to my deepest, innermost feelings. One by one, I capture words that whisper, that speak, that call out in pleasure or that evoke the unspeakable. Gently or urgently, through the miracle of my pen, I lay them on the blank page. A blank page that is all ears, that never turns away, always ready to hear the reverberations that make me come alive, from the greatest joy to the greatest sorrow, from wonder to horror. To write words from the heart, words of counsel, words of meaning. Words that probe and palpate, that heal my wounds, with encircling gestures that draw you to write me and me to read you, in the rediscovered harmony of inclusion and connection, in the intimacy of our shared humanity. Léonie Couture, Director Herstreet is on non profit organization involved in helping homeless women and women in distress.
Auberge Transition is a feminist organisation whose primary mandate is to offer shelter, information counselling and follow up services to women who are currently experiencing or have experienced any form of spousal abuse. Auberge Transition serves women with or without children of all cultures and backgrounds. Through public education we inform the community about the nature and extent of the problem of spousal abuse the myths and stereotypes that often surround it, and the routes available to address abuse. As such, we aim to break the isolation and inform as many people as possible that help is available at all times for women and their children. Since 1975, Auberge Transition has been working towards the eradication of violence and has been witness to the many courageous women and children who seek shelter every year. While at the shelter women are given opportunities to verbalize their emotions; however many times this can be quite difficult. Art and music therapy has always been a part of their healing journeys, but now through an innovative program they can express themselves through creative writing and photography. The Before and After project gives them an opportunity to take visual pictures and then transform their images into written words; words that represent their emotions and their struggles with the violence they have lived, without ever having to utter a single word. Irene Jansson director L’Auberge Transition is a shelter for mothers and children who are victims of conjugal violence.
For more information: 514 481-0495
The YWCA Montreal welcomes women of all ages and traditions, many of whom are often new to Canada. They are seeking a safe and secure space to heal their pain, discover themselves and meet new friends. It often takes courage to overcome life’s difficulties, and women gather strength from breaking isolation and seeking occasions for meaningful exchange. The Before and After project, an invitation to explore the power of self-expression through the written word, coincides with our mandate of giving voice to women’s realities, aspirations and desire to build together a better future for women and girls. Lilia Goldfarb, Director, Development and Programming
Pavillon Mackenzie – Old Brewery mission
During a much-appreciated session with Blue Metropolis facilitators Angela and Carole, the “Voisines” received the gift of a blank page, an invitation to write a poem. Curious and just a little anxious, they wondered what to say, and how to find the words to say it… It had been so long since they’d put pen to paper. An image, a memory, what would it be? Gathered in the kitchen, sitting around the table, laughing, they warmed up gradually, and inspiration bubbled to the surface. A few weeks later, their hesitations and uncertainties gave way to words and images. The poems, like their authors, are charming, full of tenderness and joy; their photographs proof of their originality and extraordinary creativity. The experience has been a wonderful one, confirming the amazing power of self-confidence, and the ability of each of these women to receive and to give. Florence Portes, Chief services to women. Patricia McKenzie Pavilion is a place of accommodation for women experiencing homelessness. Our unconditional acceptance allows women who are going through difficulties arise and gain strength to regain their rightful place in the community. Convinced that there is always a solution, we support women through a positive path so that each of them can pursue the path she has chosen.
– Zeinab Haghshenas : Read the testimony (PDF)