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How broken people can be ‘Peaced Together’

Angela Allen and Kim Dempsey enjoying and benefitting from the services from the project Angela Allen and Kim Dempsey enjoying and benefitting from the services from the project
By Brónach Ní Thuama

PEACED Together is a unique programme which works with women dealing with brokenness in all sorts of different ways.
Currently based in east Belfast, with plans to expand across the city, the ten-week programme addresses issues of low self-esteem, isolation, hurt and grief, using a range of craft projects to help them to address these issues and move forward.
Run by the Cinnamon Network whose aim is to bring together people most at need in communities with people and resources from local churches to make amazing things happen – this programme is making a huge difference to women across Belfast.
We met up with some of the organisers and the women who have been brought together by this remarkable experience.
Alison McMillan, a facilitator for Peaced Together, said: “There are only six people throughout Ireland trained for Peaced Together and I am delighted to be one of them. Peaced Together has really taken off, we only started in February and we are currently in our second run of classes, we have more coming up in September which are already full.
“Our programme comprises of five art projects which all have a theme which allow our women to learn about themselves, heal, develop and move forward.
“The first of these themes is ‘Broken not Rubbish’. The method behind this is that we get plates and smash them up with hammers, the ladies then put them together on a mosaic which is very therapeutic. The lesson here is that out of something broken, something beautiful evolves.”
Alison continued: “We then go into treasures after the storm, common threads, shades of me and peaced together.
“All of these projects plant seeds within our women and help them make peace with the past and enable them to look into the future, we all go on a journey together during these ten weeks and we find that at the end the women don’t want to leave, they come back as volunteers after they graduate. Every one of us has been through something and we are here to try and help these women make sense of it. It could be anything from abuse to a marriage break-up, the death of a spouse or women experience problems with their children. So we all come together and share and talk along the way.”
Hilary McClay, Cinnamon Network Advisor, said: “The reason we started doing Peaced Together is that we were struggling for something that women could do together. I saw this programme advertised and thought it seemed really interesting.
“We now have a waiting list of women wanting to take part. It’s great to see these groups of women coming together and the friendships that have grown from it are very heartening. Some of our women have been very isolated and watching them evolve is a real pleasure.”
Hilary added: “Because of the success of the programme we are now planning on opening up on the Ravenhill Road, we’ve just secured funding from Groundworks NI to carry out renovations and once that’s done we will be able to have our spin-off groups there. These will include groups doing up-cycling projects and potentially another Peaced Together.”
One of the women who attend Peaced Together said: “I love it here, it will be so hard once it’s over but I will try to sneak back in.”
Speaking of the success of Peaced Together, Matt Bird, founder of the Cinnamon Network, said: “We became a charity in 2014 and our main question was ‘How can we help churches put faith into action?’ Our next step was to make it easier for this to happen, so we sought out community projects that really worked for churches.
“And this is how Peaced Together was formed, it was during a conversation in my garden with a lady called Heidi Singleton, she started the project and we asked her to put it together in a way that she could give it to other churches and that’s what she did.
“We’ve now got 33 projects like this, replicated by three and a half thousand churches across the UK, we are thrilled at the success it has become.

For more information, or to find out how to run a course in your community, please contact: Heidi Singleton at www.peacedtogether.co.uk
Tel: 07807 297917 or email: heidi@peacedtogether.co.uk

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