Social Work research project weaves together women’s stories

Quilt reflects experiences in mentorship program for women dealing with substance use and trauma – By Danielle Fink
 Faculty of Social Work Associate Professor Dorothy Badry is an expert in fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and is using that knowledge for preventative programming and research. Photo by Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Research has led to many thought-provoking outcomes at the university, and a project recently completed by the women of theParent Child Assistance Programs (PCAP) of Alberta in collaboration with the Faculty of Social Work’s Dorothy Badryhas concluded, not with a traditional research poster to showcase findings, but with the creation of a visual research artifact. Badry and her team facilitated the participants depiction of their reflections on supportive mentoring using a unique template: a quilt.

PCAP is a program for women who may be facing various obstacles or challenges, including substance use disorders like fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and trauma. The women are matched with a mentor who stands alongside her to help them live a healthy lifestyle for and with their children. Mentorships create strong bonds between the woman in need and the mentor, and build relationships that can last a lifetime.

Participants from across Alberta contribute to quilt

Thirty PCAP participants from across Alberta in rural and urban communities collaborated to construct the quilt. Each square was designed and created by a woman in the program, and put together by master quilters Bev Ewan and Lin Taylor.

Badry, along with Kristin Bonot and Rhonda Delorme of the Alberta PCAP Council, designed the project inspired by a quilt created by mentors in the PCAP program four years ago.

The quilt gave women the opportunity to express how the mentorship program has impacted their lives. Workshops were organized across the province for women to come together to design a quilt square.

“As researchers and observers of the program, we expected the quilt to show elements of the struggle that our PCAP women face. Instead, the women illustrated symbols of love and hope,” says Bonot.

“The women who participated have really meaningful relationships with the mentors that work with them. These squares are very reflective of that,” adds Badry.

A tapestry of caring, commitment and support

The PCAP women's quilt reflects the positive values of the women in the program.
The Parents Child Assistance Programs women’s quilt reflects the positive value of the women in the program. Photo by Riley Brandt, University of CalgaryA tapestry of caring, commitment and support


The quilt itself has repeating themes of hand holding, children, resilience and positive change. By displaying bright colours, patterns and meaningful symbols on the quilt, it is obvious that there was a positive shift in the women’s lives through ongoing mentorship.

lt, it is obvious that there was a positive shift in the women’s lives through ongoing mentorship.

“The quilt suggests that the [PCAP] program offers safety, security and significance to women, and hope so that the participants can do what every mother wants to do for her children: provide safety, security and hope for a good future,” says Taylor.

“In many ways, the quilt is a tapestry of caring, commitment and support, particularly in relation to children and families,” Badry reflects. “It’s a collective of women’s stories who continue to carry on with their own resilience.”

The quilt will be displayed at the university’s 50th anniversary celebrations on April 29, and Badry will submit it for several upcoming conferences.

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