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Art that heals

22 June 2021

Art that heals

Melanie Jai embraced art to help her move towards healing. She is now helping others do the same.

The accomplished Sydney-based artist was a special guest at the 2021 Red Shield Appeal launch in Sydney, where she donated one of her stunning artworks in recognition of the support she received from the organisation. “I wanted to give back in any way that I could,” Melanie says. The piece is up for auction, which is currently live and ends on 31 July, with proceeds going towards the work that The Salvation Army does to support those facing hardship and crisis.

Years of trauma

From a very young age, Melanie experienced severe trauma, which extended well into adulthood. A subsequent horrific trauma resulted in Melanie requiring extensive help, and was the catalyst for her wanting to regain control of her life. Desperate for support, but not knowing where to turn, she credits the Salvos for showing her the way.

“It took 40 years to break that cycle. I needed a lot of help to get my life back together. To be able to protect myself and my children from further harm. To learn the steps toward healing. This is where The Salvation Army stepped in and gave me that guidance,” she says.

“They treated me with dignity and respect. At a time that my life felt completely unravelled – they helped me make sense of it.”

The Salvos helped Melanie in various ways – from financial assistance to connecting her with supporting services, as well as helping her navigate the steps in her journey towards recovery.

Hope that heals

The painting up for auction on 30 June is titled ‘Hope’– speaking to the experience Melanie had when she first received support from the Salvos.

“When I think about the Salvos, I think dignity and hope. That is what they give to the people they help. The painting evolved as I created it into this idea of a guiding light in the darkness. I would like to think that it gives the feeling of a comforting hand, leading us out of our most difficult moments.”

Planning and creating the piece involved many weeks and countless sleepless nights. Because, Melanie says, she was so determined to do the work that the Salvos do justice.

Paper boats – a recurring theme in Melanie’s paintings – represent the duality of fragility and strength all humans possess, and that with a little help, we are never beyond repair.

Melanie and Bronwyn Bishop at the Sydney Red Shield Appeal launch event

Melanie and Bronwyn Bishop AO at the Sydney Red Shield Appeal launch event

Helping others speak up through her art

A mix of visual drawings and prose, Melanie’s art is influenced by her journey of moving towards healing, and that is something she feels resonates with others who may have had experiences similar to hers.

“I really feel that the more we can learn about what trauma does to us, the more we can move towards self-compassion and healing,” says Melanie. “Having people reach out to me to say that my work helped them gain the courage to leave a violent situation, to seek help, to feel less shame. That is everything to me.”

“To be able to help people take those little steps – because they’re little steps but they’re actually also very big steps. To be part of that, I think is very humbling. I want people to hold onto hope and hold onto that feeling that we are never beyond repair.”

Keen to give back

Melanie, immensely grateful for the help she received a few years ago, is now eager to help others.

“What I am trying to achieve through the work I’m doing now is only possible and a direct result of being able to get my life back together. The Salvation Army were a big part of that process.”

“That’s the beauty of being able to use your voice. I couldn’t do that for 40 years, but now I can. And maybe my honesty will encourage others to find their voice too. There’s a lot of freedom in being able to tell your story and be able to move forward from that.

“They helped me, and now I am trying to help others.”

To find out more about Melanie’s work, visit The Paper Boat Project.

For details of the auction, please click here.

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Hope where it's needed most

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