Man starts off knitting group to help people like himself recover from drug addiction

Ben Slaney, Sean Brossard and Nelson Mendonca started knitting to overcome their addictions. Image Source: Phoenix Society

41-year-old Nelson Mendonca had been in and out of prison for his drug addiction for close to two decades.

And once, when he was in prison in British Columbia in Canada, he picked up a loom hook, which is a knitting tool, brought by one of the staff. And while being in jail and knitting do not go very well together, he took up knitting as a hobby, joined a program to learn knitting, and began making toques, or hats, for the homeless. Little did he know that this hobby would change his life.

After being released from prison in July, Mendonca joined a 90-day live-in treatment program at the Phoenix Society’s transitional housing in Surrey. To get rid of his anxiety and loneliness, he began knitting at the facility.

“The first thing that came into my head was I just wanted to go get some yarn and a loom. I started making a toque. Everybody was wondering what I was doing since it kind of looks weird at first,” explained Mendonca.

However, far from being looked down upon, Mendonca and his interesting hobby sparked the interest of the other residents, who were curious about what he was doing and expressed interest in learning this new art.

And this gave birth to Mendonca’s knitting club!

“Before I know it, on my treatment floor there are probably 10, 12 guys knitting toques. And it just went crazy. Everybody was going to Wal-Mart every day to get yarn and looms. It just became a little knitting club on our floor,” said Mendonca.

The group of men now create beautiful and intricate toques that are donated to the needy and the marginalized.

And the knitting club has created over 200 toques until now!!

“It’s the one thing in my life I can’t cheat, manipulate, cut corners, or find a loophole, because I’ve tried to make it faster and easier,” Mendonca, 41, told CNN. “But you just have to follow every step, one at a time over and over again.”

Clearly, knitting is turning out to be therapeutic for the entire group.

Sean Brossard, a resident at the facility who is part of the knitting club said, “It’s almost like meditation. It definitely takes you away from worrying about a ton of stuff or thinking about negative things, especially when you’re doing something as fun as this.”

31-year-old Michael Prokopchuk is also part of the club and has shared how knitting helped him transform his life. “After almost four years of addiction, it was time to turn my life around,” Prokopchuk told CNN. “Our knitting group has helped me by keeping my mind busy and giving me a sense of community. I’ve connected with everybody in our looming group and have learned some quality life lessons from sharing with the group during my time here.”

And why did Mendonca pursue this hobby?

“It sounds like a small thing, but to start a toque and finish it and then give it to someone, it’s sparked joy in me that I have never felt before in my life,” he says.

Truly, there is no joy greater than the joy of giving.

What do you think of this initiative by Mendonca? Let us know your views in the comments section below.

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