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VA Caribbean Healthcare System


Our Experience Made Art

Female Veteran

Nancy Aviles, Veteran participant in "Our Experience Made Art" paints for therapy relaxation; helping to heal her emotional wounds from war.

By Marizol Ruiz, Public Affairs Specialist
Monday, June 11, 2018

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Helping Veterans reach their therapeutic goals, a group of 15 Veterans from different clinics gathered weekly to paint a Muriel, displaying the tropical beauty and culture of Puerto Rico during the month of May.

In coordination with Social Work Interns and the Recreation Therapy Department of Physical Medicine and Recreation (PM&R), a special project “Our Experience Made Art” (OEMA) was introduced to convey a message of hope and strength for Veterans through art.

The project is geared toward showcasing a Veteran’s resiliency and strength amidst adversity.

“This is my baby right now,” said Nancy Aviles, Veteran participant in OEMA. “Doing this art helps to heal my emotional wounds from war, because it really helps that deep pain I carry. I am now a Craftsperson, but this type of painting I absolutely recommend it to any other Veteran.

The transformative power of being able to do art helps to create a positive impact on a veteran’s life.

Veterans collectively paint

Veterans reaching their therapeutic goals gathered weekly to paint a Muriel, displaying the tropical beauty and culture of Puerto Rico

“I am always eager and willing to explore different alternatives that can engage our veterans in pursuing projects that showcase their abilities, strength, creativity, and set aside the stigma that some of them unfortunately, are burdened with,” said Raquel Gonzalez-Hodge, Supervisory Therapist from PM&R. “It’s the first time VA Caribbean Healthcare System kicked off a project that brings lots of enthusiasm to participants, bystanders, and to the public in general. This will help to add to the whole health initiative within the hospital.”                                                           

“I just hope this is the first of many projects that we can create to continue to provide innovative treatment opportunities for our special heroes,” she added.

Through many long hours, veterans met from 8-12 noon for several weeks, working together meticulously to make the special project happen.

“Working with these different minds and characters was not easy,” said Gulf and Vietnam War Veteran Angel Rodriguez, leader and painting teacher in the veteran group.

disabled veteran

Disabled Veteran, eagerly and meticulously paints the canvas, showcasing his strength through creativity.

“This has a purpose and bringing this collective effort to display the culture and the tropical beauty of Puerto Rico is expressed differently from each one of them. They grew up and lived in different places on the island, so the way they express their art is unique, because of the individual’s experience.”                                                 

In culmination of the project during the official unveiling ceremony on June 7, 2018, a plaque was given to the 15 Veterans who participated in “Our Experience Made Art” Muriel painting.

The Veterans not only took a plaque for their talented efforts, but a common desire to contribute and make an artistic statement that is seen permanently in the hallway for years to come, was an experience of gratification amongst them.

An experience, that will pave an opportunity of therapy through art for other disabled Veterans to come.


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