Self-esteem boost: blanket approach with a difference

A very special program is taking place at the St Vincent de Paul Society’s Vincentian House in inner-city Sydney.

The ‘Wrapped in Angels’ program, developed by therapist Mary Jo McVeigh, is helping young women caught in the cycle of homelessness and domestic violence.

Wrapped in Angels is a therapeutic hands-on art program.

Aimed at high-school aged young girls, the crux of the program is building confidence and self-esteem to enable young women to make better choices and work through challenges that life may throw their way.

Through art, the young women come together over a six-week period as they work together to sew blankets which include symbols and pictures of the things that are most important to them.

Family and Women’s Services case manager at Vincentian House, Sarah explains that the blankets act as a resilience tool and a symbol of focus for the young women, many of whom have experienced severe trauma.

“Working with people who have experienced trauma, you definitely see the benefits of art therapy.

“When young people are using their hands, their mind relaxes and they start to talk.”

Wrapped in Angels empowers young women by giving them individual responsibility for the art orientated tasks.

This includes selecting their own materials and accessories within an allocated budget.

There is also the important component of contributing to a team task, learning to co-operate with others as well as learn the importance of other people depending on you.

Sarah says that a safe and supportive environment is also crucial, as is knowing that when you talk or tell your story, people want to listen.

“Outside of Vincentian House the girls can be quite socially isolated,” she says.

“Even if they’re not talking, they’re still thinking and beginning to work out their issues while doing their art.

“When the girls become happy and build friendships with one another it carries out into the wider community,” says Sarah.

Importantly, by the end of the six-week program, Sarah hopes the young girls walk away with much more than a blanket.

“They have created something wonderful themselves but I hope that every time they look at it it’s a reminder of the amazing work that they have done and what a special, unique and important person they are.

“I want the girls to believe that they have the power to take control of their own future and that they have it within them to make good choices to live a great and happy life.”

Vincentian House is a crisis accommodation and case management service for families and women funded by the St Vincent de Paul Society and the NSW Department of Family and Community Services as a Specialist Homeless

Service (SHS).

For more information about Vincentian House go to www.vinnies.org.au/vincentian-house-nsw