About Strength Within
The Victoria Arts Council (VAC) and James Bay New Horizons (JBNH) are partnering community sponsors for Patrick Smith's successful Strength Within arts program, created for marginalized people in the Capital Regional District (CRD) of Greater Victoria, BC. Along with community partners, the VAC and JBNH are committed to expanding this subsidized, interactive healing arts program for people marginalized or isolated by illness, disability, poverty, or advanced age.
Strength Within programming consists primarily of singing and instrumental music, complemented by intermittent sessions of theatre, puppetry, dance — and most recently — creative writing. As a whole, the program provides opportunities for learning, self-expression, mental stimulation, enjoyment, socialization, and improved physical and emotional health for the participants.
A bit of history...
Originally created in 2004 as a response to a growing need for children with cancer to be inspired and to survive, Patrick collaborated with the BC Children's Hospital to form the Strength Within program (named by a group of childhood cancer survivors to reflect what survival gave them). The program consisted of music, theatre, dance and videography, and was sponsored by the Vancouver Sun Children's Fund. After 18 months of workshops, with 15 participants under the mentorship of 8 artists, the group performed a 35-minute stage production that reflected their journey through treatment and survival of childhood cancer. The production was presented at the International Society for Paediatric Oncology (SIOP) international cancer conference in Vancouver in 2005. The participants sang, danced, laughed, did theatre sports, told stories, and improvised. It was a hit.
You can watch the kids' video here:
This first program served as a catalyst to create summer arts camps on Pender Island, BC, the home of Ptarmigan Music Society and, at that time, was the umbrella organization for Strength Within, primarily for cancer survivors from all over western North America.
Eventually, Patrick became aware of the need for arts programming for children with other serious illnesses, as the issue of isolation predominates. The Canada Council for the Arts funded the music component during the development phase. This allowed approximately 20 bi-weekly and multidisciplinary workshops for sick kids, using Vancouver as the home base for the program. The first group consisted of 45 children. The program eventually expanded to include Camp Goodtimes and Zajac Camp, of the Specialty Camps Network. During this time of development, a strong multidisciplinary team of artists was developed in the Vancouver area.
As Strength Within continued to expand, several other components were created for other user groups. One such program was created for adults with disabilities in collaboration with the Gulf Islands Families Together Society, located on Salt Spring Island, BC. Another program was created in Vancouver in partnership between the Canadian Mental Health Association and BC Housing, to provide after-school programming for children of families with identified mental health issues. For this program, the Adler University of Psychology provided psychology student-interns to assist with the music, theatre, and dance.
In Victoria, a team was developed to deliver programming to various seniors' facilities. The core organizations of this included James Bay New Horizons, the Wellspring Support Group, the Cook Street Community Activity Centre, the James Bay Community Project, and Parry Place (as part of Beacon Community Services). This programming continues to present day under the leadership of Patrick Smith, thanks to generous grants from the Victoria Foundation, the City of Victoria and Gambling Outreach Support BC.
Strength Within is a subsidized, interactive, healing program of arts for people marginalized or isolated by illness, disability, poverty, or advanced age. The intention is to make the program accessible and available at a very reasonable cost so that nobody is denied participation.
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