Weaving dreams

Monique Perreault-Rousseau (seated) works at her weaving loom at the MAB-Mackay site. Joining her are (from left) are Volunteer Coordinator Mireille El-Asmar and volunteers Mary Austin, Dubravka Kusmic and Danyelle Brodeur.
Monique Perreault-Rousseau (seated) works at her weaving loom at the MAB-Mackay site. Joining her are (from left) are Volunteer Coordinator Mireille El-Asmar and volunteers Mary Austin, Dubravka Kusmic and Danyelle Brodeur.

Volunteers accompany people with visual impairments to create woven treasures

Inside a workroom at MAB-Mackay, volunteers and participants are weaving magic—one strand of yarn at a time.

Amid shelves piled with multi-hued spools of reds, blues and golds, and the gentle click-clack of moving loom pedals, five clients and three volunteers are bringing handmade creations to life. The clients are all visually impaired, yet they share a vision: Demonstrating that disability is no impediment to creativity.

Rita Trozzo Greco and Maria Luz San Diego (at rear) create woven goods at the Lethbridge-Layton-Mackay Rehabilitation Centre’s Weaving Program.
Rita Trozzo Greco and Maria Luz San Diego (at rear) create woven goods at the Lethbridge-Layton-Mackay Rehabilitation Centre’s Weaving Program.

“I don’t have my eyes, but I have my hands and feet,” says Monique Perreault-Rousseau, who is blind. “And for weaving, that’s what it takes.”

Welcome to the Weaving Program at the MAB-Mackay site of the Lethbridge-Layton-Mackay Rehabilitation Centre. Every Thursday, Ms. Perreault-Rousseau and other clients come together to weave a treasure trove of dishtowels, placemats, scarves, table runners and other goods to be given as gifts or sold at fund-raising sales at MAB-Mackay.

It’s all made possible through the dedication of volunteers.

Watch participants and volunteers in action at the MAB-Mackay site Weaving Program.

Mary Austin, Danyelle Brodeur and Dubravka Kusmic devote hours each week to buying yarn, preparing looms and offering support to help participants turn their ideas into reality. In the process, they’ve woven a creative and social activity into participants’ lives, providing an opportunity to form bonds and build self-confidence.

Volunteer Mary Austin (right) assists Chander Arya with her weaving at the loom.
Volunteer Mary Austin (right) assists Chander Arya with her weaving at the loom.

“Making something useful for others makes me proud,” Ms. Perreault-Rousseau says. “When someone says that what I’ve made is beautiful, I feel valued. We can do things. We just have to do them differently.”

The activity sheds a light on the impact of volunteers in our CIUSSS—an impact that will be celebrated at a recognition event for all volunteers at the Jewish General Hospital on May 30.

Ms. Austin and Ms. Brodeur have given more than 30 years between them to the Weaving Program. Both insist that they receive as much as they give to participants.

“These women are so skilled. Spending time with them is a gift,” says Ms. Brodeur. “When I leave the workshop, I feel like I’ve taken my daily vitamins.”

Ms. Austin has been volunteering in the Weaving Program since 2007.

“When somebody completes their project, it’s rewarding for them, and it’s certainly rewarding for me as a volunteer.”

Volunteer Mary Austin

Participants find ways to adapt to their visual disabilities. Creating patterns requires pressing down on the loom pedals in a specific order; participants either commit the order to memory, or write it down in braille or in large letters (for those with partial sight) on a paper affixed to their looms.

Volunteer Danyelle Brodeur finishes a piece created by a visually impaired participant in the MAB Mackay Weaving Program.
Volunteer Danyelle Brodeur finishes a piece created by a visually impaired participant in the MAB Mackay Weaving Program.

“I can’t see the colours, but I can touch, I can feel,” says participant Rita Trozzo Greco, who has been attending the workshop for 26 years. She says the volunteers and participants have become like family. “When I’m here, I forget all my troubles. I concentrate on what I’m doing and I feel very happy.”

Mireille El-Asmar, the Volunteer Coordinator at Mount Sinai Hospital and at the Lethbridge-Layton-Mackay Rehabilitation Centre, praises volunteers who have kept the Weaving Program running since 1980. “If this program is still here, it’s thanks to volunteers’ dedication and commitment,” Ms. El-Asmar says. “They kept passing this flame from one volunteer to another throughout the years and spreading generosity through the community. It just warms my heart and makes my job so effortless and rewarding.”