The adventures of the Headway T-Shirt in Toronto!

Recently I’ve had a chance to visit England and walked through the doors of Headway Essex, an organization that provides brain injury care and support. I came in contact with Headway East through discovering their art studio website. I discovered Headway Essex through Dr. Carolyn Lemsky, Clinical Director at CHIRS introduced me to Steve Shears, Trainer and Psychotherapist at Headway Essex. Steve kindly showed me the agency and I had a chance to visit and meet the people at Headway.

Headway Essex
Headway Essex – 58b Head Street, Colchester, Essex

During my day visit, I had the opportunity to visit BounceAbility – Special Needs Trampoline Centre. Watching people of all physical abilities getting out of their wheelchairs and working on balance, coordination and stretching. There was also added “stealth benefits” (according to Andy Plowright, Service Manager) such as allowing another person to help you with your balance and relying on another person to support you on a moving surface can build trust and re-establish physical and emotional connections with another person. This supportive and trusting relationship is especially important for a person who have experienced physical trauma that have resulted in the head injury.

BounceAbility – Special Needs Trampoline Centre

Visiting the day program and meeting people at Headway was heartwarming. One person showed me his ankle foot orthosis (AFO) brace that is very well made and seems to be protective of sensitive skin areas in the lower extremities. The brace was red and the owner of this brace is proud to be a Manchester United Fan; in Toronto, our AFO brace are uniformly white.

Ankle Foot Orthosis
A Manchester United Ankle Foot Orthosis

I had a chance to talk about my meditation and art program which hopefully generated some interest in developing meditation and art programming for people at Headway. When it was time to part, I was given several information guides, newsletter and a large Headway T-Shirt. Andy Plowright, Service Manager at Headway Essex was apologetic that the T-shirt would not fit me but generous in his giving spirit and gesture of appreciation.

When I came back to Toronto, I wanted to do something special and carry on the momentum of giving. I was speaking with my colleague Amanda Muise, Behavioural Therapist about my excitement and ideas. I thought it would be cool for CHIRS and Headway to connect and a T-shirt could be a good catalyst.  We talked about who could wear this T-shirt and she suggested Mr. Rob Ashe.

Rob ordering a burger
Rob ordering a burger

When I told Rob about my idea and showed him the picture, newsletter and T-shirt, he was very excited about the idea. He eagerly put the Tshirt safely away in his backpack. When I saw Rob two days later, he had taken pictures of himself around the city with the help of his friend James.

Welcome to Toronto, Canada!
Welcome to Toronto, Canada!
Rob in front of Tim Hortons - a Canadian favourite for coffee lovers
Rob in front of Tim Hortons – a Canadian favourite for coffee lovers

Rob and I know each other through his participation in Mindful Art Workshop – Winter 2014. During the workshop, Rob learnt to meditate and try to do an art activity that was new to him. He made new friends whom he tries to keep in touch with. Rob was able to complete his art activity quickly and was ready to move on to the next task. So sitting still and waiting and listening was new to him. He is very articulate and easily shares his stories, successes and difficulties but this ability to articulate could overshadow others who had a harder time sharing their voices. As the workshop progressed, Rob learnt to sit back and listen. To reflect quietly, then use his articulate voice to deeply appreciate other people’s talents and gifts. He talked more about others and less about his stories and came to appreciate this new way of being. Below is a sample of his art work. He called this piece – Anointed.

Anointed by Rob Ashe
Anointed by Rob Ashe – art work from Mindful Art Workshop 2014
Rob in front of CHIRS - Community Head Injury Resource Services of Toronto
Rob in front of CHIRS – Community Head Injury Resource Services of Toronto

After taking a series of photographs, Rob and I sat down and I helped to upload the photographs from his phone. During the summer months in Toronto, there are several festivals and celebrations. Below are the places that Rob visited with his friends from CHIRS.

Rob at Hockey Night - a CHIRS program for persons of all abilities to have fun playing floor hockey in teams
Rob at Hockey Night – a CHIRS program for persons of all abilities to have fun playing floor hockey in teams
Rob taking the Subway Train in Toronto
Rob taking the Subway Train in Toronto
Rob with a street performer in front of Yonge/Dundas Square
Rob with a street performer at buskerfest in front of Yonge/Dundas Square
Rob with a street performer on Yonge Street in Toronto
Rob with a street performer at buskerfest
Rob in front one of his favourite places - HMV a store that sells music and movies
Rob in front one of his favourite places – HMV a store that sells music and movies

 

Rob with volunteers collecting funds to support Epilepsy Toronto
Rob with volunteers collecting funds to support Epilepsy Toronto
Rob in front of Yonge/Dundas Square holding purple balloons to support Epilepsy Awareness - a cause that is close to his heart
Rob in front of Yonge/Dundas Square holding purple balloons to support Epilepsy Awareness – a cause that is close to his heart
Rob and David Slonim, Mentor's Coordinator in front of Pape Subway Station
Rob and David Slonim, (Mentor’s Coordinator) in front of Pape Subway Station
Rob and his friend sitting outside her childhood school
Rob and his friend Jen, sitting outside her childhood school – a private school for girls
Rob at Spadina Subway Station in Toronto
Rob at Spadina Subway Station in Toronto “This shows the humanistic side to us. He was playing guitar and I waited for him to finish and I gave him some money and asked if he would like to take a picture together and he said sure”
Rob in front of the Old Mills. This is an important place as it is where he received his 25 years watch for working with the city.
Rob in front of the Old Mills. This is an important place as it is where he received his 25 years watch for working with the city.
Rob in front of David's Tea a popular place for tea drinkers to enjoy many types of teas
Rob in front of David’s Tea a popular place for tea drinkers to enjoy many types of teas
Rob taking a picture for his wife who is originally from the United Kingdom
Rob taking a picture for his wife who is originally from the United Kingdom because she loves Union Jacks or anything to do with England

When I arrived at work on Monday morning, I found a treasure inside my mailbox. When Rob and I were sharing stories and photographs, he had tears in his eyes. He said that “you couldn’t have asked for a more perfect person to do this task” as he loves to connect with people and especially people of all abilities. Rob understands that people with a brain injury may not have the same physical abilities as they did prior to the injury. Through his travels he wanted to share with people the places and events that he has access to and hopefully through these images, all persons may have access to these places and events.

Rob's Message
Rob’s Message
Rob's message
Rob’s message

This is Rob’s Message

Hi!! My name is Rob Ashe and I am a client at CHIRS (Community Head Injury Resource Services) in Toronto. When I was asked to have pictures wearing your group shirt, I took on the task because I feel strongly that groups wherever and whoever need to make contact and then we have a better understanding of each other and That is Great!!!!

I want to thank you for this opportunity and let you know that I believe that having a brain injury should not hold us back as we have much to say, much to experience and above all, much TO GIVE

Rob and his wife Amanda. “We’ve been married 19 years and she helps me a lot”
Rob and his wife Amanda. “We’ve been married 19 years and she helps me a lot”

I can’t begin to tell you how much this has touched my heart. Sometimes the work that we do can feel like work and there are good days and challenging days.  Some days are full of beautiful moments and some days are problem solving days. My motivation for doing this work is to help others, whoever comes to my door. Knowing that we can touch each other’s lives and share in meaningful moments is a good reminder for me of the goodness inside each person that I’ve met. I am sure many therapists, helpers, teachers out there will share in my experience that the work that we do is relational and it takes two to form a relationship. The support and encouragement I give to the clients that have come into my life are reciprocated in so many ways that surprises me when I need it the most. It is these moments that helps me to remember what is important to me. To help others knowing that we all have an important part in each others lives.

What happens during Mindful Art Workshop?

“So what is it that you do during the workshop?”

I’ve been asked this question several times so I’ve decided to give everyone a glimpse into what happens during the workshop.

Step 1. Meditate

Colour Outline Meditation

Step 2. Design your Print

Tobi desigining his print
Tobi desigining his print
Don designing his print
Don designing his print
Giovanni & Nicola
Giovanni & Nicola

Step 3. Start Carving

Giovanni Carving
Giovanni Carving
Giovanni Carving
Giovanni Carving

Step 4. Wash your Stamp

Tobi Washing his Stamp
Tobi Washing his Stamp

Step 5. Start Stamping

Tobi Printing his Stamp

Don using a Stamp Pad
Don using a Stamp Pad
Don printing his stamp in his journal
Don printing his stamp in his journal
Mary Ellen stamping her print
Mary Ellen stamping her print
Nicola stamping her print
Nicola stamping her print

Step 6. Ta-daa!

All Roads Lead to Him by Tobi
All Roads Lead to Him by Tobi
Striving in Life by Giovanni
Striving in Life by Giovanni
Together by Amee Le
Together by Amee Le
Move Forward, Never Backwards by Nicola
Move Forward, Never Backwards by Nicola
Love by Don
Love by Don

Step 7. Gratitude Exercise

Week 8 – Last Session: Art Exchange

Don listening to the Reflection Exercise
Don listening to the Reflection Exercise
Reflection Exercise
Reflection Exercise
Art Exchange!
Art Exchange!
Art Exchange
Art Exchange
Giovanni contemplating
Giovanni contemplating
Mary Ellen viewing the slideshow
Mary Ellen viewing the slideshow

Dappled Empire

The name of this print is Charity. I asked RB “So why charity?”

He answered ‘I’ve always thought of flowers as charitable, as a charitable thing to do.’

“As an act of giving?” I said

And he agreed.

Charity by RB
Charity by RB

Print and poetry were created by RB. Photograph by Elisheva, rehabilitation student. Graphic design and layout by Amee Le.

Green

A series by RB

Prints and poetry were created by RB. All photographs were taken by Elisheva, rehabilitation student.

Blue Spruce by RB

Fox Bay

The song is bright today

Listen
breeze, leaves, needles
combine
create soft melodies

Voice carry
forest sounds

–RB

Chorus by RB

Become a community of sound

–RB

Growth by RB
Memory by RB Remember Me I’m 41 and still 12

Market Lament

      for dad

Lost in concrete
trudging
toward grey sun
seeking warmth.

My feet find earth
between
herbalists, fishmongers
screaming
space.

While you
oblivious,
speak
islands of pine
with silence.

Lost my Green.

–RB

Thunder Bird by RB
Thunder Bird by RB

Surfacing

   for Sara

July warmth
Bathes
my morning
in delicious
humidity

Bay mist
curls
flexes
in emerging sun

Water
calm,
serene
imploring fish
“Don’t feed”

I don’t listen
and like a largemouth
shatter lake glass
for my meal

–RB

Brain Injury Awareness Month!

June is Brain Injury Awareness Month and to kick off the month the Brain Injury Society of Toronto (BIST) is launching a campaign asking if you are aware?

Are you aware that a BRAIN INJURY CAN HAPPEN TO ANYONE?

The impact of a brain injury can be devastating not only to the survivors themselves, but to their family members, caregivers, friends and their community. It can affect every aspect of their life, often resulting in loss of livelihood, isolation, and physical, emotional and behavioral challenges.

Your brain is who you are, it’s your humanity. Just as no two people are alike, no two acquired brain injuries are alike. Survivors will experience the effects of acquired brain injuries in many different ways.

http://www.areyouaware.ca/

areyouaware

After a brain injury a person may experience many of the following changes:

  • difficulties remembering new events, appointments, daily tasks
  • changes to his or her personality
  • frustration over things that used to be easily accomplished which are all of a sudden difficult tasks
  • increase in impulsive behaviours

These changes and many more can be very confusing. There is also a tremendous loss of aspects of their pre-injury life and routine – things that are no longer possible for a person to continue to do. Although on the surface, a person may look exactly the same, his or her brain has changed and this can be frustrating for brain injury survivors to convey to people.

Many people with a brain injury experience seizure activities. We talked about this in our group and most participants are able to manage the frequency of seizures with medication. When a person has a seizure, they are unsafe to drive and for a person who is used to hopping in the car daily and enjoys the experience of driving – this loss of independence is massive.

FOND MEMORIES – A Series by Inder

SONY DSC

I am very fond of driving. It gives me freedom, independence and excitement. I am very comfortable in the car. I’ve always wanted to buy a particular car.

SONY DSC

Last year, I finally bought the car – a Red Convertible.

SONY DSC

Exactly two days later, my Neurologist advised me that I shouldn’t be driving so I respected what the Doctor said and I stopped driving.

SONY DSC

I went through the Drive Again program – and passed. Then the winter came and I decided to park the car in the garage. Then spring came and I took the car out and drove for about a week or so.

SONY DSC

Then I had a seizure and the Doctor told me I shouldn’t be driving and I got a letter from the Ministry advising me to stop driving.

SONY DSC

Within a week, the car went back in the garage and I felt devastated.

SONY DSC

Then I made a decision. I felt that there was no point in keeping the car sitting in the garage, so I told my friend to help me sell my car. So he took the car two days ago.

SONY DSC

So, there’s a saying back home – if you want to do something good tomorrow, do it today. If you want to do something good today, do it now. Whatever happens, happens for the good. In spite of going through a tough last 3-4 years, medically, I met a number of very nice people who are very kind to me that I may not have met otherwise. — Inder

Inder shared his story with our group and the impact of this loss was palpable to everyone in the room. When Inder and I sat down to write this story, he look distant at times, worried, concerned, and at a loss yet the story that was very clear and visible in his mind. At the end of the story, when he sold his car, I had asked him “Is this the end of the story?” After sitting back and reflecting, he was able say “Whatever happens, happens for the good” and he had a big smile on his face as he thought about the people whom he has met due to his brain injury and although the journey is tough and arduous at times, and life gives and takes, survival is victory and reminds us that we are strong and life is a gift.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life

A series by Neil.

All photographs were taken by Fiona. The narrative was written by Neil with the help of Carrie M. who recommended Neil for the group and provides weekly encouragement and support, to help Neil through his week.

Life by Neil

This print shows the connection between family and life. The four corners represent each member of my family (me, mom, dad and brother) and shows how we are all connected to each other.

Life by Neil

 I called this print life because you cannot isolate yourself from anything. Living with an injury, you must live as normal a life as possible You have to stay connected to all things and fit in with the group.

Life 4

Life means love. Loving everything that is possible and not being scared of trying things and fitting in. Caring for the place you are living in.

LIfe by Neil

 We are all connected to each other within nature and our environment.   If you are connected with your family, you can understand their moods and what is needed to help them with their day and showing that you love them.

Life 2

This print came to mind because of the relationship with my brother and how my parents have to interfere as opposed to us all being happy together as a family. This interrelationship within my family impacts my life. When my family is connected and happy, I am happy. –Neil

 

 

 

 

 

Spring Flowers

After a long and dark winter, spring has arrived in Toronto. The flowers have arrived and we are blooming with inspiration from our new group of participants. All photographs below were artfully arranged by Fiona, our new mentor for the group. I officially would like to welcome all new participants to the group and look forward to our time together meditating, creating art, sharing stories and finding meaning.

Mindful Art Workshop - Spring 2014
Mindful Art Workshop – Spring 2014

 

Can't Stop Tomorrow by Fiona
Can’t Stop Tomorrow by Fiona

“I’m thankful for getting the opportunity to meet everyone here, it’s always a pleasure to be able to meet other people who know about brain injury and who are generous enough to share their story. Thankful to the community I have around me, my friends, family, and colleagues. I’m just thankful to be here today.” Fiona

Dedication to Amee
Dedication to Amee

“Thankful to Amee for letting me be here and attend this session and letting me get to know two other very nice people. Also thankful to the god for giving me two legs to stand on and two arms for holding other people’s hands. 2 meals a day and a roof over my head and family and friends. For everything despite the head injury I have, I’m still able to breathe and walk and talk and do many things which millions of other people are not able to do.” Inder

LIfe 5
Life by Neil

“I’m thankful this group is very, very, very relaxing, I like doing the art which I get frustrated over, it was very relaxing this group, this group is a very good group, and I am thankful I joined it. Thank you all to the leaders and the two people I met here. Thank you for such a relaxing and good group.” Neil

Storms, Strength & Wisdom

New year and we have a new group! This is our second week and the theme of the class is: storms, strength and wisdom. In Toronto, we have had a series of ice storms that have caused electrical blackouts and icy conditions. Many living in the city, especially those with a disability have had to live through days without electricity. This means limited access or no access to elevators, hot water, assistive devices that depends on electricity. So our theme for the week starts with the storm – both the ice storm and personal, emotional, traumatic storms of our lives. I read the following message of resilience to our group:

“The earth has a heartbeat. In between each beat is silence. That silence is when the life force gathers strength for the next beat. You must learn to do the same. Use the silence to gather yourself. Life can give you strength. Life gives and life takes. As it is teaching you even now. Life takes our time and everyday is one day closer to the end of our journey on this. It takes our efforts our sweat, our best intentions, our noble ideas, our dreams and sacrifices. And often demands more. Then it gives us obstacles, surprises, disappointment, indifference, confusion, doubt and heartache. Yet life does give us much more than the obvious. If we can look back on the difficulties we have know, whether old or new, then we have moved past them at least in time. That we are looking back on a tough experience from the perspective of the present moment means we have survived it. The experience may have taken a toll, as difficulties do. But whatever our losses have been, we have survived. Survival is victory, because we know or we are reminded that is it possible. Survival is victory because life has given us something along with the difficulty.”

“The experience the difficulty has taught us or reminded us that we can be strong.” by Joseph Marshall III – Keep Going from Soundstrue

I would also like to add, that through hard times, we also gain wisdom that comes from the enduring the difficulties. This can open our hearts further so we surface with more love and compassion for others who have also endured this journey. I am proud to share art work from this theme.

Remember - Forward by Micky
Remember – Forward by Micky
The Beautiful Sunshine by Maria
The Beautiful Sunshine by Maria
Storm by Roxanne
Storm by Roxanne
Break Time by Stella
Break Time by Stella
Walking on the Earth by James
Walking on the Earth by James
Rebirth by Robert
Rebirth by Robert
Ancient by Dr. L. Longo
Ancient by Dr. L. Longo
The Five Directions by Amee Le
The Five Directions by Amee Le

Mindful Art Celebration!

We would like to celebrate our first Art Sale for 2013. I’ve put together a video showcase of all the art work from our group and would like to thank all of the participants for their time, dedication, and creativity to the group enabling a safe space for everyone to express.

Mindful Art Workshop Developed by Amee Le, Occupational Therapist

Art by Chris, Micky, Orlando, WSM, Roxanne, Paul

Music Credit by Capital Cities Safe and Sound Instrumental Version

Photographs and Video by Amee Le

Mindful Art at the Holiday Party

We had our first Mindful Art Display at the CHIRS’ (cheers) holiday party (Community Head Injury Resource Services of Toronto). It was a wonderful night to celebrate this special events with friends and family and our community of persons whose lives have all been shaped by an acquired brain injury.

Mindful Art Display
Mindful Art Display by Amee Le & Dr. Carolyn Lemsky
SONY DSC
Mindful Art Display at the CHIRS Holiday Party 2013
Chris and Amanda at the Art Sale
Chris and Amanda at the Art Sale
SONY DSC
A proud artist smiling by his art!

Preparing for an Art Sale!

We are working hard to prepare for our first Art Sale, stay tuned!

SONY DSC
Tree Star by Micky

Here are the gratitude comments from the group:

“I am thankful for my friends and my co-workers who have supported me while going through a transition in my life.” Amee

“I am thankful for the CHIRS clubhouse for the people within this building who have changed my life and made everything a lot easier, also thankful for family and just community and people helping each other.” Chris

“I am thankful for getting here safely every day and it’s cold and soon I’ll be not taking the bus during the winter because it’s too cold, so I am really thankful for that. Also I am thankful that my dog is ok, hopefully, because two times this week she vomited so hopefully she’ll be alright.” Micky

“I am thankful for my health. I am very thankful for my family and all the wonderful people that I meet every day, being at CHIRS. I would like to send a very special prayers for all the people around the world suffering from disasters today.” Roxanne

“I am thankful for being here, for having you guys to support me and help me, it’s really nice. I hope that I can keep coming, for as long as this class is until, so I can get something out of it.” Paul

“I am thankful that I get to come to work every day and do things that I enjoy and I get to discover new talents that I didn’t know I had, not necessarily in this class. I do enjoy the class so I am very grateful for it too.” Amanda

“I am thankful for the blessings and knowledge.” Orlando

“I am thankful that I woke up in time to sign myself in, go out for a smoke, and make it at the right time to open the door for Amee.” WSM

Prints and Patterns

This week our group started working with Prints & Patterns. We had a lot of fun carving small and mighty 1.5″ x 3/4″ erasers.

Here are a few gratitude expressions from the Artists:

I am thankful for all the helped I’ve received in my life, all those who have thought about me and have gone out of their way to help me because that has helped me to be who I am.” Amee Le

I am thankful for all the people in this group.” WSM

I am thankful for the change in the season and inspiration from the autumn and getting ready for winter.” Amanda Muise

I am thankful for everything that we made today.” Orlando

I am thankful for having two hands. I do art with my left and work with my right and pulled a muscle with my left arm and I can still do art with my right. I am thankful for this call, and the sacrifices that I’ve made to get to where I am and the people who have helped me.” Chris

I am thankful for to share the creativity that I can make and print out to the rest of the group.” Mickey

I am thankful for my life, for being alive, thankful for all the wonderful people who have helped me, and continue to help me. I am thankful for my family and thankful that I’ve met all of you guys here. I look forward every Thursday to come here.” Roxanne

I am thankful for my new friends here and my nice home that I’ve moved to here in Toronto.” Paul Scott

Inspiration for this week:

Tents & Time by Amee Le
Tents & Time by Amee Le
Moons and Stars by Amee Le
Moons and Stars by Amee Le
Woman/Man, Man/Woman by Amee Le
Woman/Man, Man/Woman by Amee Le
My Little Blue Dress by Roxanne
My Little Blue Dress by Roxanne
Triangle by Orlando
Triangle by Orlando
Fall by Chris
Fall by Chris
Moon Set by Micky
Moon Set by Micky
Breath of Fresh Air by Amanda Muise
Breath of Fresh Air by Amanda Muise
Christmas Tree by Paul Scott
Christmas Tree by Paul Scott
Washroom Sign Looking for Donor by WSM
Washroom Sign Looking for Donor by WSM

Kihelakayo – Keep Going

The theme for this week’s Mindful Art Workshop is Kihelakayo – Keep Going

“A young man asked his Lakota grandfather what the answer was to life’s difficulties. Kihelakayo said the old man – we must keep going.”  Joseph M Marshall III

Keep Going by Amanda Muise
Keep Going by Amanda Muise
“I am thankful for a safe place to express.”
Leaves by Orlando “I am thankful for this group. I am thankful for friends.”
Leaves by Orlando
“I am thankful for this group. I am thankful for friends.”
Mauley by WSM “I am thankful for being alive.”
Mauley by WSM
“I am thankful for being alive.”
An apple a day keeps the doctor away by Roxanne “I am thankful for life. I am thankful for my tooth feeling better. I am thankful for my granddaughter coming over to dance, I am dancing even with a cane!”
An apple a day keeps the doctor away by Roxanne
“I am thankful for life. I am thankful for my tooth feeling better. I am thankful for my granddaughter coming over to dance. I am dancing even with a cane!”
Five Keys by Chris “I am thankful for being here and taking this class.”
Five Keys by Chris
“I am thankful for being here and taking this class.”
Acorns by Mickey “I am thankful for being here with people to have fun with.”
Acorns by Mickey
“I am thankful for being here with people to have fun with.”
Blanca by Orlando
Blanca by Orlando

Fall Art!

October is here and there is a new group of Artists joining Mindful Art Workshop at Community Head Injury Resource Services of Toronto. Here are a few gratitude expressions from the Artists:

I am thankful for the past two hours because I forgot all about my tooth ache” RW

I am thankful for a carving that is supposed to be a dog that turned into a raptor” WSM

I am thankful for a space to be creative” Micky

My mindfulness creation by RW
My mindfulness creation by RW
Toronto Raptor by WSM
Toronto Raptor by WSM
Fall is Here by Chris
Fall is Here by Chris
Snoop Dog by Micky
Snoop Dog by Micky
Motherhood by Amanda Muise
Motherhood by Amanda Muise

 

Brain Injury Survivors Video

Check out this video made by the drama club at Community Head Injury Resources Services of Toronto. It is a dedication to the one’s will to survive, live and thrive.