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Brain injury survivors help solve puzzle of social isolation through art

A group of brain injury survivors have lent their artistic skills to decorate puzzle pieces for a community arts project designed to raise awareness and funds in the fight to tackle loneliness.

The artwork will feature in Feros Care’s Connection Project – a collaborative arts initiative involving people from across Australia designing puzzle pieces to form a giant jigsaw representing connection and unity.

Willowbank Studio was started in 2006 by Lismore local Scott Trevelyan when he felt alone and isolated after suffering an acquired brain injury (ABI).

He now holds fortnightly workshops to bring together people who live with an ABI in a safe, creative environment, to participate in art activities designed to facilitate self-expression, self-awareness and healing targeted to their specific needs.

Lismore artist Joanne Kambourian volunteers at the Willowbank Studio and said they were very keen to be involved in The Connection Project because of the synergies with their own purpose.

“When we discovered The Connection Project we felt that it was a great opportunity to work with themes that really were aligned with the purpose of Willowbank Studio,” she said.

“Willowbank is a place where people who have suffered a brain injury can come together and experience a sense of friendship and connection whilst making art.

“Our participation in this project was a perfect fit and the participants had a great time creating their own piece of The Connection Project puzzle.”

Feros Care Community Development Coordinator June Cremin said it was a beautiful day to be part of.

“These artists have each experienced unimaginable tragedy yet can still find such love and beauty in the world, which was inspiring to see,” she said.

“Everybody in the Brain Injury Group knows what it is like to feel alone and the importance of their support networks in feeling connected.”

The Australian Loneliness Report found half of Australians feel lonely at least some of the time – a feeling that is known to have a bigger impact on health than smoking, physical inactivity and obesity.  The report also found improved social connection demonstrated a 50 per cent reduction in the risk of an individual’s early death.

Feros Care CEO Jennene Buckley said The Connection Project was one part of the organisation’s broader commitment to tackle loneliness in Australia.

“We know loneliness is a real mental and public health challenge our society is now facing that is having an impact on a significant number of people of all ages and backgrounds living in our communities,” she said.

“It’s important we create conversations and change our behavior around loneliness, and recognise what matters most in life – a sense of belonging and connection with others.

The Connection Project is one element in Feros Care’s mission to tackle loneliness – setting out to raise awareness of the issue as well as money to fund programs that will help people reconnect with others.

All ‘artists’ taking part in The Connection Project will describe their piece after creating it to the theme “I feel most loved when…”.

Feros Care is in talks with public spaces around Australia to display the 350-piece installation after it is unveiled at the grand launch of its major new initiative to tackle loneliness at the end of November in Byron Bay.

At the event, a selection of puzzle pieces will be auctioned to raise money to run programs supporting those experiencing loneliness.

For more information on The Connection Project, visit http://www.feroscare.com.au/connection-project